You might be pulling your hair out wondering why you can’t get a response to your resume. Or why interviews go nowhere. Well, your recruiter doesn’t wonder. Some egregious behaviors drive headhunters and hiring managers nuts – not to mention sabotage your job search.
“In the beginning of my career I gave everyone the benefit of doubt,” says Ron Reuven, a New York financial planner who has hired hundreds of people. “But when someone lists things that are not relevant on their resume, or doesn’t pay attention to getting a professional e-mail address, that tells me a lot about a person.”
Technology Is Your Friend. Don’t Use It To Make Enemies
Adrienne Graham heads the finance diversity recruitment firm Hues Consulting & Management. She’s a big fan of social media – if used strategically and appropriately. Nothing ticks her off more than people who, instead of providing a resume and cover letter, instruct her to check out their profile on a social media site, especially a Facebook page. “I believe in using social media to brand yourself, but it does not replace a resume which shows me what you’ve accomplished in your career,” Graham says. Similarly, the online video resumes she recently received for an administrative assistant position mean a swift press of the “Delete” button.
Ruthanne Feinberg, who heads the HR practice at Glocap Search, seconds Graham’s feelings on social networking. She can’t stand when candidates send a hiring manager a friend invitation on a social media site during the interview process. “It is not appropriate,” Feinberg says. “Don’t even get me started on sending friend requests on Facebook.”
Reuven bristles when candidates list Microsoft Office as a skill. “In this day and age Word and Excel are not exactly a unique skill,” he says. “If you’re working on a farm it’s not necessary, but if you’re working in corporate America, it’s a basic requirement.”
Reuven is also quick to eliminate candidates who have grossly inappropriate e-mail addresses – those with handles like “loverboy” or “sexymama6969.” “I’ve seen some of the craziest e-mail addresses,” he says. “I cannot believe people don’t realize that is not professional.”
Interview Faux Pas
While it may seem obvious, recruiters list gum chewing, tardiness and cell phone answering during interviews as commonly observed no-nos.
So is being combative with the interviewer, says Bill Liguori, partner at Leadership Capital Group. “We don’t normally put people through to the interview who are constantly challenging the person asking questions,” Liguori says, explaining the habit as a defense mechanism in situations where the candidate doesn’t know how to respond. “It’s the ‘if you don’t have an answer, challenge the question’ syndrome,’” he says.
Recruiter Carolyn Dougherty tires of candidates repeatedly billing themselves as “strategic” – and failing to qualify it. “Their intentions are good and they’re trying to sound impressive, but it doesn’t help them at all,” she says. Instead, candidates need to qualify their accomplishments with specific examples of how they saved or made their employers money. “What is the bottom line – were you strategic because the CEO wanted it done, or because you decided ‘strategic’ is a great word and you need to use it a lot in your interview?” Dougherty says. “You’re competing with so many people these days you really need to be on your toes.”
More generally, several recruiters complained about candidates’ inability to articulate their accomplishments and goals. “It’s shouldn’t take 20 minutes to walk me through your resume,” Feinberg says. “There is an art to getting to the point. Answer the question being asked, then stop talking. Let me be in the driver’s seat in an interview.”
Feinberg has a revulsion to e-mailed resumes with non-traditional fonts and backgrounds. “I can’t stand that,” she says. “Don’t try to be different or cute with columns and small text. I want the information to be easy to find. Unless you’re applying for a job as a graphic designer, send your resume as a plain Word document or PDF.”
Catherine Palmiere, president of Adam Personnel, says she can’t stand it when candidates write “to present” on their resume and are no longer working at the firm. “It makes you question what else they are hiding,” Palmiere says. “Of course you always have more advantages when you are employed and looking for a job, but let’s face it – a lot of people today are unemployed and they are still getting interviews and jobs.”
It also irks Palmiere when candidates write their resumes in the third-person. “It shouldn’t be an obituary about your life,” she says. “Writing in the third-person makes it look like you’re making yourself sound more important than you are.”
Liguori says there is a saying in the recruiting industry: candidates are like fresh fish – they spoil after five days.
“Candidates tend to be highly engaged at the start of the process, but after a few weeks they get bored, they don’t want to travel to interviews, and their window of availability gets smaller. They need to realize they are the candidate and they have to maintain interest and flexibility.”
On the flip side, Feinberg gets irritated with hyper-aggressive candidates who send an e-mail and follow up with a phone call three minutes later. “It’s too much,” she says. “Following up and showing enthusiasm are great, but be mindful that just because you’re anxious to get a job doesn’t mean that the position is all that the other party is thinking about.”
Another deal-breaker: e-mails that start with, “Since I haven’t heard from you …” “That puts anyone on the defensive right away,” Feinberg says. “Practicing patience is important.”