As the CEO of a company, I find myself knee-deep in resumes from everyone from the local mail carrier to my second cousin twice removed. I spend countless hours on LinkedIn and I’ve interviewed, hired and screened more people than I care to count. Helping people find their calling in life is truly a great feeling and I’m going to let you in a little secret, we want you to succeed in the interview process! We really do!
Unfortunately, sometimes jobseekers shoot themselves in the foot even when the job they’re applying for is perfect for them. Here are some extremely common (and anecdotal) ways that jobseekers hurt their chances in the application and interview process.
You aren’t customizing your pitch.
Look, I know you’re special. I understand that if I had five minutes to review your resume, I would see that immediately. Unfortunately, most recruiters, and definitely very few CEOs have more than a few seconds to review any resume. In fact, conservative estimates put the number at between 6-18 seconds. So customize your cover letter and emphasize the parts of the resume that make you perfect for the job. Even the best applicant tracking system can’t read minds.
You misspell words.
Spelling poorly is not a numbskull mistake. But spelling incorrectly in an age of autocorrect, spellcheck, Grammarly and more? That tells any future boss that you don’t care all that much about attention to detail and that is a skill that most companies value quite highly. Consider 90% of hiring authorities immediately discard resumes based on quality and appearance factors, according to the authors of Expert Resumes for Military-to-Civilian Transitions.
You’re too friendly, too fast.
This one is hard to hold against a jobseeker, but know that the person interviewing you wants you to get the job based on your merit. They don’t really want to be charmed into it. Retention matters to CEOs like me, sure, but it also matters to recruiters and HR professionals, who are often scored on how long their new hire stays with the company. So, smile, but don’t laugh at my every lame joke.
You reveal too much about yourself.
Personal information is kryptonite to someone whose job depends on them being objective. If you are already talking about how many kids you have, your age, racial or political affiliation, or if you’re expecting, don’t be surprised to see a horrified look on your interviewer’s face, because you’ve essentially made them susceptible to scrutiny on about 5 levels.
You talk about pay or other benefits too soon.
Until the Millennials pry the workforce from my cold, dead hands (oh they did already?) In any case, it’s an immediate turnoff to Millennials and Gen X alike to bring up benefits and compensation too soon in the process. I invited someone to apply for a position recently (they applied in the past) and I got a two line email back. One of the lines was “Are you gonna work with me on my hours or not?” That’s not only too soon, it’s also pretty rude. That young woman could have been perfect for the job, but she jumped the gun and lost the opportunity to find out.
You aren’t honest about being over or under qualified.
We’re all coming out of a stark recession and occasionally, that means overqualified people apply for positions that seem (on paper) to be a poor fit. Conversely, many applicants tend to exaggerate results or skills they don’t have. While most HR professionals understand the need to do this, hiring managers are desperately looking for someone who can “hit the ground running” since the vacancy is in their department. Address your qualifications honestly and explain honestly, how you would overcome any obstacles that come with being under qualified or how you would work within the position even if you’re way too skilled to do the job. Here are four ways to explain why you can do the job.