The 5 Things Candidates Do To Foul Up Their Hiring Chances


Searching for a job can be difficult, and even though the market is improving, it still doesn't take much for a candidate to knock themselves out of the running for a promising position.

Recruiters and hiring managers know this to be true, so it's interesting to see this latest survey from CareerBuilder that listed mistakes that details the biggest mistakes that candidates make when applying and interviewing for a job.

As Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer for CareerBuilder pointed out:

Workers realize that the job market is stronger than it has been over the last eight years, and technology is allowing them to pursue new opportunities faster and more efficiently than ever. But, just because they are able to submit an application easier doesn’t mean candidates can skip basic steps – or requirements – like submitting a cover letter or customizing their resumes. These items get the attention of recruiters and hiring managers, and leaving them out of the process can hurt a job seeker’s chances of securing a new job.”

Most common job seeker mistakes

Candidates need to take extra care when it comes to all aspects of the hiring process, but many don't do this and it ends up costing them. According to Haefner, these mistakes are what recruiters and hiring managers say they see the most from job candidates;

  1. 84 percent of job seekers don’t find out the hiring manager’s name and personalize the application – Applying directly to the hiring managers increases a candidate's chance of getting noticed and shows that they have gone that extra step and invested time in getting to know the company.
  2. 57 percent of job seekers don’t send thank-you notes after an interview – This can be one of the most important steps in a candidate’s pre-hire journey as it enables them to reiterate exactly why they're the best fit for the job. Most recruiters and hiring managers expect a thank-you note in some form or another (email or handwritten), so neglecting this action will make a candidate stick out -- and not in a good way. In fact, thank-you notes should also be sent after phone screening calls as well.
  3. 54 percent of job seekers don’t customize their resume for each employer – All-purpose resumes can kill a candidate's chances, and talent management pros can spot from a mile away. Haefner urges candidates to tailor their resume to match the job description by inserting key words used in the job posting that match their experience. Not only will this catch the eye of the hiring manager, she says, but it can move a resume to the top of the pile if an automated tracking system is scanning resumes for potential candidates
  4. 45 percent of job seekers don’t include a cover letter with their resume – Although there is a growing school of thought that cover letters are passé, they still help a candidate the opportunity to sell themselves beyond the typical listing of work experience and skills in a resume. Yes, cover letters allow job seekers to introduce themselves and showcase their credentials in a relatable way.
  5. 37 percent of job seekers don’t follow up with an employer after they applied – Recruiters can sometimes be overwhelmed by candidate applications for certain open jobs, so circling back with the recruiter or hiring manager after submitting a cover letter and resume can really help job seekers stand out among the competition

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder among 3,244 employees ages 18 and over (employed full-time, not self-employed, non-government) between May 11 and June 7, 2016. With a pure probability sample of 3,244, one could say with a 95 percent probability that the overall results have a sampling error of +/- 1.72 percentage points.

My take: Hiring is tough for everyone involved, both talent managers and job seekers alike. But what jumps out at me the most from these mistakes that hiring managers see from candidates is the lack of attention to detail.

Like so many things in life, the little things are frequently what separates the people who are landing jobs (or at least getting deep into the hiring process) from those who don't. Personalized resumes and finding out the hiring manager's name should be a given if you're a serious job seeker, but when more than 8 in 10 talent managers say it's a problem, it tells me that a lot of people hunting for jobs need to take their game up a notch or two.

I was also struck by the fact that the hiring managers mentioned things like the lack of a cover letter or a thank you note after an interview as issues for them. Cover letters (and resumes too) are held up by a lot of so-called experts as a waste of time, but I think this survey shows that they still do have value in the minds of a great many people.

Thank you notes fall into that same category, and as I have argued in the past, are the sign of good manners -- and good manners never go out of style.

Yes, details matter in a great many things in life, hiring included. Serious job candidates need to be serious about the details, too.