Job search mistakes: Read before your next big interview

By Robert Half on 17 February 2015

The biggest job search mistakes

“A job applicant tried to bribe me during the interview. She really wanted the job and asked how much she could pay me for it.” 
This is just one of the amusing stories told to us when we asked hiring managers to recount the biggest job search mistakes they have heard of or witnessed first-hand. These bloopers range from one-of-a-kind mistakes like the example above, to smaller unintentional ones that any job applicant might make.

Here are some examples of some job search mistakes that actually happened, and suggestions on how you can avoid making similar blunders.

“One gentleman submitted a resume that contained misspelled words and an orange juice stain.”
The importance of carefully proofreading your job-application materials cannot be overstated. Submitting a resume or cover letter with spelling or typographical errors is a sure-fire way to make a bad impression on a prospective employer. On the other hand, by crafting well-written and stain-free documents, you send the positive message that being meticulous is in your nature.

“A job seeker wrote on her application, ‘My boss was a jerk so I quit.’”
Badmouthing former employers, colleagues or clients in an application or during a job interview is always dangerous. For one, it’s a small world – your former boss just might be the hiring manager’s golf partner. In addition, being negative or critical will make you seem bitter or petty. It’s far better to show some tact when discussing past workplace challenges.

“An applicant treated the administrative support staff badly.”
When visiting a company for a job interview, be respectful, polite and friendly to those you encounter – from the department head to the receptionist or intern. Hiring managers look for insights into your character by paying close attention to how you treat everyone, not just the higher-ups. Being rude or dismissive to a receptionist has come back to haunt many a job applicant. After all, you never know who may weigh in on hiring decisions.

“Applicants have shown up for interviews in torn shirts, blue jeans and flip-flops.”
You will never get a second chance to make a first impression. Surveys have shown that personal attire is closely linked to professional image. Even though dress codes have become more relaxed in many workplaces, a job interview is not the appropriate venue to showcase your creative sense of style. Wear clean and neatly ironed business attire, keep your jewellery simple, and go easy on the perfume or cologne.

“I interviewed someone who had a piece of gum in her mouth during the entire interview.”
Interviewers can learn a lot about a job applicant even when words aren’t being spoken. Non-verbal cues that you’re unconscious of can indicate a lack of interest or failure to properly prepare for the meeting, so it’s crucial you pay attention to your body language. Exhibiting poor posture, crossing your arms, chewing gum or having a tense look on your face are all body cues that send a negative message. Appearing restless by checking your watch on the sly or playing with your hand phone are also definite no-nos. While it’s understandable to be nervous, try to relax and focus on maintaining eye contact and a pleasant smile.

“One woman immediately mentioned the days she would need to take off.”
When interviewing for a job, you need to clearly and succinctly define what you can do for the prospective employer – not what you can’t. Nor should you tell them what they should do for you. For example, don’t go into an initial interview and make demands about salary, perks or annual leave. To increase your chances of employment, discuss sensitive issues like money, benefits and time off only when a job offer is extended.

When asked what he had been doing while unemployed, the applicant said, ‘Staying at home and watching TV.’”
How you spend your time when you’re out of a job speaks volumes about your work ethic. In addition to applying for jobs, you should continue to build your professional skills. For instance, you could take a computer course or get more involved with an industry association. Show prospective employers that you were working hard to expand or improve your skill set and remain at the forefront of your industry.

Hitting the right notes during the employment application and interview process is key, but the evaluation doesn’t end even after you’ve met with a company representative. Prospective employers noted that “failing to follow up” after an employment interview or “constantly calling to see if they got the job” were also major job search mistakes. Job search etiquette matters to some employers, so remember to send a handwritten note or email to the hiring manager thanking him or her for the time and reasserting your interest in the job soon after the interview.

More From the Blog...

How to say no to your boss

Does the thought of saying no to your superior fill you with dread? Here are 5 ways you can confidently say no to your boss without feeling like you’re...

Read More