FAIL! Dumb Things Job Candidates Do

When I was a career counseling intern, I heard about a student who wanted to work for a chocolate company, so he wrote his resume on a slab of chocolate and mailed it to the company. The chocolate melted, the resume disappeared, and HR was left with a mess. Obviously, he didn’t get the job.

Creativity: Career counselors will tell you to find a way to stand out, and you should, but not at the expense of your job search. Make sure your resume is easy to read. Your contact info should be at the top, not the bottom, not sideways, not on the back. You can find creative ways to list your skills and work experiences, but lying about them is not acceptable creativity. It can be very expensive to hire and train an employee, so many companies will take the time to do a background check and will discover your lies.

Research: Research the companies to which you apply BEFORE you get a call for an interview. Asking the company who they are and what they do in that first phone call is not impressive. It shows that you are not prepared to interview and that you do not know how your skills and experience can help the company. Know the salary range within which you should start beforehand. See C’mon Already! I Just Need a Job for research resources.

Practice: Work with a career counselor or a friend to do a mock interview. Pick up an interview book and rehearse the answers to questions you think you will be asked. Not preparing for an interview can trip you up at the actual interview, minimizing your chances of landing the job. In addition, interviewers may do all sorts of things to trip you up, such as the stressful things listed in my previous post.

Dress/Attitude: Once you have an interview, call the company’s main desk to find out what type of dress code they have, and follow it for your interview. If they tell you “business casual,” ask them to define that. Business casual is different at different places. Use your judgement; if you are told people there wear business suits, you need to wear a suit. Your piercings and any exposed tattoos are likely to be frowned upon, as is wearing your earbuds into the interview with your music turned on. Leave your mp3 player at home, be friendly and listen carefully to any directions given. Interviewing can be a stressful business, and not wearing the right interview clothes or having an inappropriate attitude can make you look and feel awkward.

Negotiating: Do not try to negotiate salary or benefits in the first interview. This gives the impression that you are more interested in the money than the job. Being interested in salary is fine, but let the interviewer approach you. Interviewers often use salary expectations as a way to eliminate you as a job candidate early on. Did you do your salary research beforehand? If so, great. When an interviewer asks your salary expectations, you can provide her with a wide range based on your research. If she tries lowballing you in that first interview, you may want to rethink working for the company. You can at least give her the source of your salary data — and make sure it is reputable.

Sexual Preference: Sexual preference is not an interview issue. Period. Your sexual preference is your own business, not the employer’s. They cannot and should not use it to discriminate against you, but they might use it as a reason to find something else for which to disqualify you as a candidate. Also, bringing up sexual preference in an interview can make an interviewer, even one who is not homophobic, apprehensive that you may use this job as a platform to push gay, lesbian, bi and transgender rights, taking focus away from the job. It can hurt your chances at getting the job, even if you feel this is discriminatory. If you want to be honest about who you are, save the talk for when you are offered the job.

Disability Accommodations: An employer has to make reasonable accommodations for you by law if you have a disability. However, stating your disability with a list of demands at the first interview is not appropriate. By law, you do not have to disclose your disability. However, if you wish to tell a potential employer you have a disability, then give him an idea of what you would need in order to do the job. Demanding accommodations versus educating the employer on what you would need are two very different attitudes.

Follow Through: Interviewers will often ask a candidate to do an assignment after the interview to get a better handle on the candidate’s skills and follow through abilities. Do not drop the ball on this. Follow the directions, complete the assignment, and send the completed assignment to the interviewer by the deadline. Not doing the assignment is perceived as a lack of interest in the job. Missing the deadline should be obvious — it shows you can’t work to deadline.

Even if you are not asked to complete an assignment, send a thank you note as a follow up. Reiterate your interest in the job and restate why you are the best candidate. Email follow up notes are perfectly acceptable.


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