I came across a recent survey that supports anecdotal evidence that I have often heard from my vantage point at Joblink. Some 1,500 recruiters and hiring managers were asked anonymously to list their pet peeves in dealing with job seekers. Interestingly, and perhaps not astonishingly, some recruiters are actually so turned off by certain job-seeker behaviors that 43 percent indicated that they would go so far as to blacklist such candidates and suppress their names from future resume searches. Now, if you’re a job seeker, that’s not a good thing.
Here are the findings, together with my commentary:
1. Applying for irrelevant jobs: 31 percent of recruiters noted that their biggest turnoff was candidates who apply to irrelevant jobs (jobs for which they are clearly unqualified). Sometimes referred to as serial job applicants, frequently seen names will start to look familiar to recruiters. In most cases, the person’s background will not match the position or its requirements. There are a few reasons why an applicant might apply frequently. One is to show openness and flexibility. However, from the recruiter’s perspective, applying broadly will earn you the reputation of not being a serious job seeker, even relative to those jobs for which you might objectively be qualified.
2. Exaggerating qualifications on a resume: 21 percent of recruiters say it’s a big pet peeve. A good resume will capture your skills, experience and accomplishments. But you also need to be truthful and objective. This applies to the wording you use to describe yourself. It also relates to that for which you take credit, as well as the job titles that you ascribe to yourself. Of course, claiming to have a nonexistent master’s degree is wrong. But some applicants will list a senior job title, yet the duties performed are akin to a clerical role. Also, savvy recruiters will figure out that being the CEO of an unknown company might merely be a proxy for self-employment.
3. Focusing on salary above all other job factors: 15 percent don’t want to work with candidates who think that salary is the most important factor in a new job. I have had many occasions where I will circulate a job that crosses my desk and the first question I get is, “What’s the salary?” In many cases, it becomes clear that the person may not have read anything beyond the job title and location. People who are actively in the job market are understandably anxious about their situation. Furthermore, they might not want to waste their time if the salary is clearly a nonstarter. Focusing on salary and inquiring about it directly at the very beginning of a recruitment process will convey a certain wrong message about you.
4. Responding to a job posting that is way beyond an applicant’s level of experience: 13 percent of recruiters indicate these unrealistic applications waste their time. The motivation of doing this is similar to No. 1. Then again, so is the reaction by the recruiters.
5. Calling/emailing more than once a week for status updates: 11 percent do not want to hear from candidates that often unless actively discussing a specific opportunity. While it is a good idea to check in and to express continued interest in a particular position, this needs to be done in a patient and measured way. Most recruiters today have phones with caller ID, and too much persistence in your communication will come across as stalking.
Elliot D. Lasson, Ph.D., is executive director of Joblink of Maryland, Inc.