How NOT to get hired if you are a candidate

I have worked in the talent acquisition world for many years.  I got started while working as a manager in the manufacturing world and then shifted my focus to the HR generalist side in the non profit and professional services space.  Over 8 years ago I moved to the Executive Search world where I work with candidates every week, if not every day. 

I have so many stories I could tell.  Most candidates have their heads “screwed on straight”, but there are times I meet with or talk with candidates and I come away just shaking my head.  My intent with today’s post is to share a few things I would not recommend if you are a candidate in the search for a new role.  These suggestions will apply whether you are out of work or in the greatest job in the world right now.

No names will be assigned and I intend no malice in the things I discuss in this post.  My only intent is to help others who are looking to position themselves in the best possible manner to be considered for a new role.

  • Have an out of date resume with or one with no dates at all
    • When I see a resume that is not updated I immediately think that the candidate is not that serious about their search.  It reminds me of the person who shows up for an interview with the wrong clothes or totally inappropriate attire.  Your resume represents you; take the time to get it up to date.  Having a resume without dates is also a no-no.  If you are a more experienced candidate you need not go back more than 15-20 years unless that older experience is relevant to the roles you are pursuing.  I would even advise that you have several versions of your resume if you are pursuing differing types of roles.  Last point is this; have no misspelled words and make sure the words you have are the correct words.  Don’t describe yourself as a “Project Manger” unless you recently worked on a sheep farm or worked in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago.  Spell check is the worst and best ally you will ever have.
  • Don’t return calls promptly or put off interviews with prospective firms who have interest in you
    • When I call a candidate, the client typically has an immediate need.  The easy roles don’t end up in my lap, but the difficult, time-sensitive ones do.  Candidates I work with need to know that time kills all deals.  I tell my clients the same thing.  When a candidate does not return my call quickly, it sends a message, even if unintended.  I communicate by phone, text, email and even social network.  If you are a serious candidate you need to have all of your antennae up and working.  Another pet peeve is putting off interview opportunities for reasons that are not valid.  When a client wants to see you next week, you better be ready, packed and able to go unless there is a serious life event that interferes.  Time waits for no man and most good jobs will not either.
  • Conceal information about other roles you are pursuing
    • If you are a good candidate I will expect you to have other opportunities that are knocking on your door.  My job is somewhat like a series of sprints.  I sprint to get the word out.  I then sprint to assemble a set of qualified candidates.  While doing those sprints I also sprint to get the client set up to interview candidates when “they come out of the oven.”  Things move fast and I need to know the total picture.  If another firm or search firm is working with you I would encourage you to make me aware of that.  I don’t need to know the names, but I do need to know where you are.  If you have an offer, please let me know.  That will signal to me that you are a “hot” candidate and if the client likes you I can turn up the heat on their end.  Not being open with me or with other search firms will only cost you in the long run.  I am here to help-tell me what I need to know.

I could go on and on, but these three things are enough for today.  If you avoid these three items listed above your experience as a candidate should be a fairly pleasant one.  I would also encourage you to follow up, but maintain a balance.  I don’t need to hear from you every day and do ask how to best communicate with me or with any firm you might be working with.  All of us are different and some like phone calls, some emails, some text and others will have different methods.  Ask for the right frequency of follow up and the best method.

Good luck in your search!