should pet peeves impact a hiring decision?

A reader writes:

I am hiring for a position that I will manage. Our office is small (fewer than 20 people), so this individual and I will work together very closely.

I know selecting interviewees and employees is not truly “fair,” but how much should someone touching on my pet peeves impact the decision to interview someone? For instance, someone sent me a LinkedIn invite a week before their resume was sent to me to consider. I do not send invites to people I don’t know and I don’t accept invites from people I don’t know.

Or, I have seen some resumes that describe where the way people describe themselves as “charismatic” or “intelligent”. To me, it seems that if this is true, I will be able to figure that out when I meet you but the counter punch to that is that it doesn’t bother me when someone describes themselves as “hard-working” or “passionate”.

So far I am interviewing these folks based on their accomplishments, but I have to admit these pet peeves are in my head.

I think the key is to be rigorous in your thinking about what the pet peeve really indicates. Is it just something that irks you, or does it reflect some kind of deeper issue? And if the latter, is it part of a pattern with this candidate?

For example, I agree with you about people who describe themselves as “charismatic” (or “visionary,” which is my big pet peeve). That’s something other people can say about you, but you don’t get to say it about yourself. I’m not going to reject someone on that basis alone, but now I’m going to be watching to see if there’s other data to indicate that they’re pompous or arrogant or just kind of weird in written communication or otherwise out of sync with what I’m looking for in candidates … or if it was just a one-off.

I don’t think the LinkedIn thing is a big deal at all, but you do, so you in theory you could use the same approach. Assuming that you don’t like it because it feels overly pushy or aggressive to you, pay attention to whether or not you see other data about that candidate that indicates the same thing. Does that person seem overly schmoozy in other ways, ways that are out of sync with what you want from the person in the position? (I said “in theory” though, because I actually think you need to let this one go.  Loads of people send and accept invitations to and from people they don’t know, so it’s not really out of sync with overall norms. I’d give people the benefit of the doubt here unless you’re seeing other things from them that make you think “inappropriately pushy.”)

I also try to test my pet peeves by looking for patterns. For instance, I think the “visionary” thing is so weird that I’ve made a point of noticing the overall strength of the candidates who do it. If I noticed that really strong candidates were regularly calling themselves “visionary,” I’d want to tamp down my irritation about it since clearly it wouldn’t correlate with weak candidates.) Interestingly, you can spot a lot of patterns around this stuff; here’s a whole post about things that aren’t deal-breakers but which strong candidates never do, like having a four-page resume. (I don’t think that’s confirmation bias, either, although obviously I don’t have lab-like conditions to test this in.)

In sum: a pet peeve on its own is just a pet peeve. The right way to use it is as a flag to see whether or not there’s something bigger there.

{ 206 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Bend & Snap

    It seems silly to reject people outright based on these things, without assessing the candidates otherwise–or interviewing them with a strong bias. It’s not like these actions/words are in the job hunting book of no nos.

    Reply
    1. starsaphire

      On the other hand, though… you do have to deal with this person for the next two to five years, every single work day. It absolutely puts someone at an unfair disadvantage as a colleague if something they do constantly rubs you the wrong way, especially if it’s something they may or may not be able to control.

      I’m not saying that’s fair, but then life is intrinsically unfair.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yes — it’s reasonable to choose not to hire someone who really irritates you. That’s different than a single pet peeve, I think, but it’s worth stating.

        (And really, do you want to be hired by a boss who irrationally dislikes you?)

        Reply
      2. INTP

        I agree if things are indicative of a real personality issue. However, I don’t think that the things described in the letter are. For example, many recruiters (among others) add tons of people that they don’t know on LinkedIn, and many candidates don’t fully grasp the differences between recruiters and hiring managers and would have no idea that adding strangers might be taken differently by them. It doesn’t necessarily indicate anything about a personality – I’m not even outgoing and I’ve added strangers on LinkedIn.

        Similarly, many people have been told to list their “soft skills” on their resume, and might be wincing as they write down “charismatic” but think they have to do it. Or personality traits were even mentioned in the job description so it seems relevant.

        I think it’s totally fair to not hire someone because their personality or presence indicate something that would bug you enough to interfere with your attitude about working with you, however petty it might seem. But I don’t think that these particular things say enough about a person to be productive pet peeves to consider.

        Reply
        1. Stranger than fiction

          Good point and I think both of these things might stem from that not so great advice folks are giving job seekers these days, especially young ones.

          Reply
        2. TootsNYC

          so true that often people are relying on outside information or advice. I used to write a wedding etiquette column, and I saw it all the time. They include the registry card because the store people tell them or, or their aunt says “I hate when I have to call to get it,” or they think the groom is rude bcs he doesn’t pay for the groomsmen’s tux rental because the only 2 weddings they were ever privy to, that’s what those grooms did.

          In fact, a colleague was insulted because the wedding invitation from her partner’s best friend was addressed to Mr. His Name and Guest. Fortunately the boyfriend talked to his friend and found out that their calligrapher had been adamant that this is how you treat it when people aren’t married, despite the groom’s argument.

          So you have to be careful that your judgment is based on accurate evidence.

          Reply
          1. The Cosmic Avenger

            This really cheeses me off. Unless the calligrapher is doing it for free, after the first or maybe second time they advise the client about how they think it should be done, they need to STFU and do what their client wants, even if it sounds wrong. Or else quit. And if they’re doing it for free, the groom needs to say “Thanks, but no thanks” to their ‘help’.

            (But then, I’m biased; working in consulting, I often do things the way the client wants them, not the way I would do them. Because they’re paying, and they need to be happy with the result. Luckily for me, they do listen to what I have to say, and often take my advice. When they don’t, they always tell me why, and I try to make their priority my priority.)

            Reply
          2. Snazzy Hat

            A few years ago, two of my friends were getting married but didn’t know I had gone through a divorce the previous year. When I spoke with the woman (who had been in my wedding party) at the bridal shower, I gave her the rundown to avoid an awkward “Mr & Mrs Ex Husband” invitation. Over e-mail a few days later, she asked for the correct spelling of my s.o.’s name. I was fully expecting “Ms Snazzy Hat and Guest” since they had not yet met him, but was overjoyed when the invitation said “Ms Snazzy Hat and Mr Significant Other, Suffix”.

            As for job search old advice vs new advice, it took me forever to figure out a professional summary that didn’t contain overused words or hyperbole but was intriguing and truthful.

            Reply
    2. Bend & Snap

      But a resume really doesn’t tell you anything about their personality. It just tells you about skills and experience. So why eliminate someone who’s a strong candidate on paper based on word choice and violating non-existent social rules?

      If they put you off in person–absolutely, don’t move forward. But at least find out.

      Reply
      1. Graciosa

        I think a lot of this depends upon how many candidates you have and how much time you’re willing to invest in the interviewing process.

        If I have 100 technically qualified candidates, I may choose 6-8 for first round interviews.

        It’s not likely I’m going to pick someone who did something I found annoying in the application process, like the LinkedIn example above. There just isn’t any reason to do so when I have plenty of other good candidates who didn’t annoy me.

        I do pay attention to monitoring some potential biases, and my initial slate of 6-8 will be a fairly diverse one. A team of people who all think the same way will never challenge each other or push the boundaries.

        But I don’t feel any obligation to evaluate all 100 candidates and see if they annoy me in person. It’s a waste of my time.

        Reply
        1. Bend & Snap

          Well obviously. My point is that if you would have interviewed them without the pet peeves, you should go ahead and do it.

          Reply
          1. Kate M

            But when you have SO MANY applications to go through, something has to be the deciding factor. Especially for certain jobs (maybe like law), the resumes you get aren’t going to be that different. Or you might have 20 out of a hundred applicants that would be worth looking at, but you just don’t have that much time. So most likely, the ones that haven’t made any missteps (or haven’t triggered any pet peeves) in the hiring process are going to be the ones you call.

            It’s part of the hiring process not necessarily being completely fair. It’s always up for human interpretation. Now, if certain things were biasing you, like race/sex/religion/age, those things you would need to actively work against to be as unbiased as possible. But when I’ve got 50 applications in front of me, and I get a resume that is pretty good and probably would have been considered except for the fact that the applicant called me to ask about the status, I’m probably going to move on to the next one.

            Reply
          2. OP Here

            The role I am interviewing for is not easy to fill, so I have interviewed anyone who was qualified, even if they hit one of my pet peeves. I have to agree with Alison, the LinkedIn piece is more common than I realized so I need to get past that. (And, perhaps use LinkedIn in different ways.)

            However, I did find the ones who described themselves with high praise also thought themselves to be the end all and be all, but when asked for specifics, they struggled to articulate a plan of action.

            For the record, these are 10 to 15 year veterans of the industry, so not a young person who just got bad advice.

            Thanks for all the insight.

            Reply
      2. Rex

        A cover letter can show you a lot about personality, though. And if what it shows is, wow this person is really irritating, then I’m unlikely to give them serious consideration.

        Reply
  2. Mark Hauler

    I’ve often wondered about things like this. One example might be someone who interviews well and had all the right credentials, could clearly do the work, but perhaps someone noticed he intentionally took up two parking spaces in the lot with his expensive sports car. Something like that would rub me the wrong way from the very beginning were I the interviewer. It’s not job related, but perhaps reflects on personality.

    Reply
    1. Bookworm

      Oooh, yeah. That’s a little different though, because taking up more than the allotted space is a bit disrespectful.

      I think looking for signs that people aren’t easy to work with is different than these pet peeves (like LinkedIn) which maybe more a personal quirk.

      Reply
    2. The Cosmic Avenger

      The parking issue is very relevant to how someone generally handles interpersonal relationships. If they park in a handicapped spot without a permit, or in a fire lane, or across the ramp by the front door, then at best they act without any awareness of the impact of their actions on others; at worst, they take joy in taking a benefit meant for all and having it all to themselves.

      Of course, if they park across two spots on the empty far end of the lot, then they are being meticulous in not only taking care of themselves, but in a way that minimizes their impact on others.

      Sure, all of this is supposition, but as Alison said, these extremes are a big red flag to watch for patterns of behavior that might indicate how the person would fit in (or not).

      Reply
      1. Sunshine

        LOL…. We’re having some parking issues at my office. I’m waiting for the day someone finally snaps, and hoping it isn’t me.

        Reply
      2. LawBee

        Some dude at one of my old jobs parked his bright purple sports somethingorother car diagonally across four spaces. One day a group of people decided that they would all park that way around him – thus defeating his entire purpose. It was pretty awesome. After that, he parked his car in the farthest corner of the lot, in one space. :D

        Reply
        1. J

          I knew someone who always parked his car in the far parking spot and then it got absolutely smashed by a lawnmower. So you just can’t win and that’s why I drive a beat up Honda. Also because we’re broke.

          Reply
        2. Honeybee

          Four spaces? I don’t think I could get my car across four parking spaces even if I parked it perfectly horizontally.

          Reply
    3. INTP

      I think signs of rudeness, like intentionally taking up two spots (unless it was at the back of a mostly empty lot, in which case, who cares) or being short with the receptionist, are totally fair to consider. It’s kind of like how you wouldn’t go on a second date with someone who is perfectly charming with you but rude to the waiter – it’s a personality issue that will come up later.

      In this case, though, I think that the things described in the letter aren’t even indicative of particular personality traits, let alone bad ones. They’re easily explained by people reading poor advice about how to put together a resume or get a job.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        Taking up more than one parking space really is not a pet peeve. Many people would be annoyed by that, even passers-by (casual observers).

        To me a pet peeve is more an obscure thing that many people could not possible know intuitively or otherwise. I think one of my guidelines that helps me is “would most people find this annoying?” If no, then I try to move beyond the peeve.

        Reply
        1. AcademiaNut

          A pet peeve would be not hiring them because they own a sports car, and you think owning a sports car is stupid.

          Reply
        2. Rebecca in Dallas

          Right, I think someone being rude (taking up two parking spots, yelling at the receptionist, etc) is pretty universal. I have a pet peeve about laughs. If you have an annoying laugh, it is like nails on the chalkboard to me. I have this vision of me interviewing a stellar candidate, being ready to make an offer and then hearing their laugh and having to shred their resume.

          (I’m kidding of course, I’d deal with a laugh if they were otherwise well-qualified. But I would just avoid saying anything even remotely funny around them.)

          Reply
  3. F.

    If these things are not going to impact their day-to-day dealings with you and their coworkers and they seem like they would otherwise be a good fit with the company culture, then let the irritations go. There is a lot of bad job hunting and resume writing advice out there (and I am seeing more than ever), so the choice of language in the resume may not even have been the applicant’s idea. However, if you interview and find they send up other red flags about the cultural fit, then I would not make an offer.

    Reply
    1. addiez

      Exactly this – people get so much bad advice, and if they’re doing these things on bad advice then it’s not necessarily indicative of character.

      Reply
  4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

    This reminds me of an experience I had hiring very early in my career:

    I once interviewed a candidate for an internship – so this was a 21-year-old man – who described himself as extraordinary three times in his cover letter. He background was by far the best of our applicant pool, and in fact may have been extraordinary (for his age/level of experience/etc.), but man it turned me too.

    In the interview, he continued to use that kind of language in describing himself. He also used odd/inappropriate body language – lounging back in his chair, crossing his ankle over his knee as he did so, hands behind his head. He really came across as a tool.

    I brought in a couple of colleagues to help me evaluate him, because his experience was so good – and he was genuinely unusually smart – but I was so turned off by his presentation. The other woman I brought in reacted exactly as I did; my male colleague didn’t even register the applicant’s weird behavior and thought he was terrific.

    In the two days between the interview and making my decision, the applicant had two people call me unsolicited to encourage me to hire him. One of them – a former ED of our organization – told me that I should hire him because it would be a great loss to our state if I let him slip through my fingers, because he was so excellent that he would surely be hired away to some more happening city. That was the final straw for me; I didn’t hire him.

    After that, he asked for an explanation; I was a wimp and just told him that another candidate was better qualified (arguably true – we hired another objectively awesome person, a career changer who had years of work experience) and didn’t give him any feedback on his behavior.

    He ended up being an active member of the organization I worked for, so we became friendly and I’ve followed his career since then. The former ED who so strongly encouraged me to hire him ended up sortof becoming his patron. He set him up with a vague research job, paid for out of the ED’s own pocket, and bankrolled the intern in writing a book. The intern later did move to a bigger city to go to a very prestigious graduate school.

    Reply
    1. Michelenyc

      Ugh! I interviewed a young woman like that when I had muliple positions open. I normally wouldn’t call someone a “young woman” but she was so overly confident and arrogant that was just wanted to say you can stop talking now. My favorite is when she went on and on about being an expert at using SAP. That’s great but we didn’t use SAP. This same person rolled in 20 minutes late to the interview with no excuse was just like yeah so. Come on at least blame the subway or our crazy elevator.

      Reply
      1. Wendy Darling

        I was once late to an interview because a construction crew had parked a crane outside the door to my building’s garage. It turns out it takes a few minutes to move a crane. It also takes a few minutes to freak out hard enough to convince a construction crew to move a crane.

        The interviewer was even later than I was, though, so I didn’t even get to use my excuse. (Also it was The Worst Panel Interview Ever in which six people took turns reading questions off a sheet of paper and sitting stone-faced and silent while I answered them.)

        Reply
    2. AnotherAlison

      I have a friend from elementary school thru college who could be described like that candidate–a tool (he was my best friend growing up’s brother and we went to the same college/major). He graduated college 15 years ago. I started work with a guy who knew him in college, too. He basically gave the expected reaction – giant eyeroll, and “did that guy ever get a job?”

      Turns out my friend has climbed fairly high up the ladder at one of the US oil majors. Being a huge tool isn’t always exclusive from being extraordinary at your work, apparently.

      Reply
    3. Mando Diao

      Ugh, these Don Draper types always rub me the wrong way. They represent and take advantage of a particular kind of masculinity that isn’t checked very often.

      Reply
      1. Mando Diao

        It’s obnoxious when older men rally around younger men who have the “good ol’ boy” qualities that end up causing problems for women in the workplace.

        Reply
        1. Roscoe

          Ok, so would it be a problem with any networking, or just because it was an older man helping a younger man? Like if a woman called for a younger woman and said similar things, would it have turned you off? What about a woman calling about this same guy?

          Reply
          1. Mando Diao

            It’s because the younger man was acting in a certain way that pinged negatively for the women in the office, the men didn’t even notice, and the older ED went so far as to expressly endorse this person.

            If there was a woman interviewee who acted in ways and exuded qualities that made the men unilaterally uncomfortable (perhaps reminding them of women from their pasts who didn’t respect men, devalued them, and was unkind to them) and the women didn’t recognize what was bubbling under the surface, I’d say it was an equivalent situation. But this never, ever happens.

            Reply
      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

        Oh, that was just poor grammar/paragraph construction on my part. The fact that he rounded up people to call me unsolicited is what put me over the edge, not the ED call specifically.

        Although, yes, I did find the “old boys network” aspect deeply problematic as well.

        Reply
        1. Roscoe

          Ah, that makes more sense that it was an unsolicited call. I was thinking that you knew the guy and he happened to hear that you interviewed him.

          Reply
      3. Searching

        Why would an ED recommend someone so strongly- it will be the end of the world if you don’t hire him- for a (probably unpaid) internship? Its just very over the top and weird.

        Reply
  5. Rowan

    I think it’s also worth noting that judging candidates on minor subjective factors like these (or the more nebulous “culture fit”) makes it more likely that you’ll end up with a very homogeneous company made up mostly or solely of people just like you. That hurts your company, because you don’t have a diverse set of experiences and opinions to draw on, and it hurts society, because the people who tend to “not fit” are the people who are members of minorities or oppressed groups.

    Reply
    1. Terra

      I was coming here to say this almost exactly. Everyone has pet peeves that you can’t help but when hiring it’s your responsibility to work extra hard to make sure your pet peeves don’t primarily or solely affect a specific group of people.

      Real life example, I had a boss who hated people who wore “flowery” scents. He had allergies and occasional migraines, both of which tended to be affected more by floral scents than anything else. On the surface it seemed like a reasonable complaint, when you looked at his hiring though the result was that he hired 100% men and in the entire time I worked for him only two women ever even made it to the second interview.

      Reply
        1. starsaphire

          I don’t remember the job applicant’s name, but we all just called him “Brut.” For obvious reasons. We could smell him before he was halfway up the stairs to our office…

          This was 20 years ago, or we probably would have called him “Axe…” ;)

          Reply
          1. Wendy Darling

            I went to undergrad with a guy who really liked me but who wore so much aftershave it gave me breathing issues. He always tried to sit near me and I always had to move.

            Reply
    2. Government Worker

      This is so important. When I’ve worked with government agencies that have those irritatingly structured interview practices with set questions that everyone has to answer and very specific qualifications to be met, their workforces have been much more diverse than is typical in the private sector. Sure, some of the people in those agencies are irritating to work with, but that’s true anywhere, and I’ve run across some people who do really good work who might have been screened out on intangibles in a less structured process.

      Reply
      1. Doriana Gray

        When I’ve worked with government agencies that have those irritatingly structured interview practices with set questions that everyone has to answer and very specific qualifications to be met, their workforces have been much more diverse than is typical in the private sector.

        My private sector company does the structured STAR interview method, and by and large, still resembles a Klan rally. They do not seem to be able to relate to or want to hire anyone that doesn’t look or act like them. It can be kind of uncomfortable.

        Reply
    3. Bwmn

      100%

      I actually think that this sort of thing is incredibly relevant in the LinkedIn space. I used to work overseas, and the Linkedin norms/culture there are just different from what I see now that I’m back in the US. And part of those different trends involves sending blind invitations to people you don’t know.

      In the grand scheme of things, LinkedIn is still somewhat new in terms of how prevalent it is, what it’s used for, and how it’s professionalized overall and within sectors. So to have the insight to know that in X sector or Y hiring manager what should or shouldn’t be done in terms of LinkeIn – that’s really niche.

      Reply
  6. Technical Editor

    My pet peeve is when the candidate doesn’t bring anything to write with or on. This says to me that they believe they will hear nothing worth remembering from the conversation. If the interviewer is telling me about job duties, benefits, or team personalities, you bet I’m writing that down!

    Reply
    1. Rowan

      I have to counter that. I’m someone who has an extremely good verbal memory. I stopped taking notes in college because I found that I could remember lectures better if I just sat and listened, rather than trying to listen and also do the mental processing to figure out what to write down at the same time. Give your candidates the benefit of the doubt that they might be the same — they’re not taking notes so they can better listen to you and truly take in the info.

      Reply
      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        ^^^ THIS.

        If I start writing, I can lose the thread of the conversation. But if I sit and listen, I can usually recall every detail that was discussed, especially when they’re salient facts, like the job duties, benefits, and personalities you mentioned. I can’t do that if I’m writing. (Typing is actually less distracting for me, although that would not usually come up in an interview.)

        However, I do have a pen in the cases and nice bags that I use for work and for interviews. I just wouldn’t pull it out during an interview.

        Reply
        1. Sadsack

          What, are you people wizards? I have to write almost everything down!

          Not necessarily verbatim, but just jotting down main points helps me recall all the details later.

          Reply
          1. E F and G

            I have a habit of finding a corner to hole up in immediately after the interview.

            It is my time to unwind, review the interview, psych myself out again then calm down again and write down anything I want to remember.

            I know it isn’t the same for everybody but I am so hyper focused during the interview that trying to write would either lead to jot notes that I would stare at in abject confusion later or three quarters of the information I need and a faulty memory of the subject because I trusted my notes.

            Reply
          2. Snazzy Hat

            I’ve written in cover letters that I take detailed notes in the absence of, or as supplements to, standard operating procedures. If an interviewer had read my CL and saw me writing down her answers to my questions, I would expect her to think, “oh, there’s evidence of Snazzy’s note-taking”. Positive: “Wow, she sure takes extensive notes!” Neutral: “Hey, she wasn’t kidding.” Negative: “How neurotic.” And each of those would reflect how I would fit in. It’s like the “mention it or I won’t know” tip from How To Get A Job.

            Reply
      2. LawBee

        Also, the interviewer has many many people they’re interviewing. The candidate may only have this one interview – a lot less to remember!

        Reply
      3. LadyKelvin

        I am this way as well, a very strong “auditory” learner if there are actually such things as different learning styles. None-the-less, I rarely take notes when people are talking, except sometimes at the end of the conversation just as a memory jog for the future. But then it’s just a few words or sentences to give me the jist, my memory does the rest. If I took notes during the meeting, I would miss most of what you said. That being said, I always bring something to write with and on at an interview, just in case I need to write down phone numbers, dates/times, or email addresses.

        Reply
      4. TootsNYC

        This is actually a commonly taught tactic. To actively listen to learn, and not listen to summarize.

        And then to immediately write down the important things you might need to remember–after, in quit.

        Reply
    2. Dangerfield

      I have an excellent memory and a terrible tendency to fiddle – believe me, you don’t want me bringing a notepad and pen to an interview!

      Reply
      1. Technical Editor

        I get that! I know people with excellent memories. But it’s about being empty handed says about you. Bring something to write with anyway, and bring copies of your resume, business cards, whatever else. It’s just weird if you don’t bring anything.

        Reply
        1. SL #2

          True– I don’t write notes at all during interviews, but I always bring the fancy leather portfolio anyway (with a notepad, pen, and copies of my resume). To me, it’s more of a “completes the outfit” accessory than anything else. I don’t remember ever actually using it during an interview…

          Reply
          1. Kelly L.

            Yes! This is me too! It hardly ever comes up, because like BRR says, there usually isn’t anything to write down. They ask me questions, they tell me they’ll get back to me. Contact info is the only thing I can think of that I’ve really had to write down, but usually they have a card instead. I have the leather folder, and it has all that stuff, and it’s mostly for looks.

            Reply
            1. SL #2

              Yeah, contact info, or maybe a “please send us X by COB tomorrow” note that I’ll jot down really quickly so I don’t forget it before I have the chance to set up a phone reminder or get back to my computer. But really, I like the polished look of the portfolio, and even if I don’t ever open it during the interview, it just looks nicer.

              Reply
              1. Kelly L.

                And it’s a way to carry the resume without it getting dinged up on the way there, or coffee spilled on it if I have to kill time in Starbucks.

                But then, I have this theory that anything can look official if you put it in a folder :)

                Reply
            2. ThatGirl

              Yeah, I always bring a pen and notebook to interviews, sometimes with generic notes for myself as a reminder of things I want to say — but I barely ever write anything down – and I’m a person who learns by writing! But at interviews I usually get copies of the job description, contact info, benefits info, things like that that I would want are already written down.

              Reply
      2. Wendy Darling

        If you want 17 doodles of weird cats you should definitely give me a pen and paper. If you want me to focus on what you’re saying, though, better skip it…

        I do bring a pen and paper to interviews but I leave them in my bag unless and until I actually need them because otherwise I will get distracted. (I also have a very good memory and a good ability to identify things I WON’T remember so I can write them down.)

        Reply
        1. fposte

          I do want 17 doodles of weird cats! Now I’m going to make sure all my interviewees get paper and hand in their drawings at the end.

          Reply
    3. BRR

      I’m echoing others (sorry for piling on). I’ve never had an interview where so much information was given that I couldn’t remember. I know others though who would absolutely write everything down. I think this is much more of a personal preference where there’s not a general society opinion on it (like texting the hiring manager).

      That being said, I come with paper and a pen in case.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        I can be a heavy note taker in some instances. However, I agree with BRR that I have never had need to take notes in an interview. In order to look like I am taking notes I might write down a question or two so as not to interrupt the interviewer and to circle back to the particular subtopic once she is done speaking.

        I found it kind of amusing when an interviewer feels I need to take notes, as they basically tell me the same thing the ad or job description already said. There is just not that much to write down.

        Reply
    4. Oryx

      Not writing anything doesn’t doesn’t equal not hearing anything worth remembering (or not remembering anything that was told). It seems a little short-sighted to use that as a reason to not take a candidate seriously.

      Reply
      1. Technical Editor

        Never said I don’t take them seriously. It’s noticeable and a data point when evaluating the candidate as a whole, nothing more.

        Reply
          1. TFS

            To me, it signals being prepared. I always bring a pen, paper, copies of my resume, and a copy of the job description, even though I almost never write anything down or need the other things. If the interviewer gives me info I’ll need later that I might not remember, like a phone number or benefits details, I certainly don’t want to have to ask to borrow a pen and paper.

            Reply
            1. Wendy Darling

              I always bring a pen, paper, copies of my resume, and a list of references, but the vast majority of interviewers are never going to find out I have those things because they stay in my bag unless I need them. Which I typically don’t.

              Reply
    5. Allison

      Huh, I’ve actually never taken notes during an interview. Never really heard that that was something everyone expected so it’s never occurred to me. I knew questions were expected, but I figured the interviewer was the one who should be making notes. I generally remember the important stuff.

      Reply
    6. h.cowl

      Really?! I’ve never brought, or seen anyone bring, a pen and paper to an interview. My impression was that it’s Not Done.

      Reply
      1. SL #2

        I’ve never seen anyone bring just a pen and a notebook to an interview, but I’ve seen plenty of leather portfolios that have a legal pad and a pen inside… if you’ve seen those, then that’s someone bringing a pen and paper to an interview. They might not use it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

        Reply
        1. Kelly L.

          So for managers who use this to evaluate people–do you have secret rules about what you want to see written down? Like, will you look down on them if they don’t jot notes at particular points? Or is it just the sight of the pad that does the trick?

          Reply
          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            No, no, no — don’t mess with your mind this way. Take notes if something seems important to you, but otherwise listen attentively and don’t worry about trying to manipulate how people view this. It doesn’t make sense to try to customize your behavior for individual manager’s preferences; they’re all over the map when you’re talking about micro details like this.

            Reply
      2. ThatGirl

        I used to work in journalism, so it was second nature for me to always have a pen and notepad — now along with a folder with my resume and any work samples I want to bring. I rarely end up taking many notes, but I always have it…

        Reply
      3. Doriana Gray

        Oh, it’s done. At my company, if you want to get hired by our corporate office, you will bring a portfolio and pen to the interview and jot things down. Some of the more…eccentric interviewers may even try to pop quiz you on what you wrote, which drives HR crazy because STAR, people!

        Reply
        1. Mike C.

          The last time it came up here (and it’s been a long while), folks seemed pretty split between “of course I take notes” and “that’s so weird, I’ve never heard of that before”.

          Reply
          1. AnotherAlison

            Seconding. . .but exclusive to candidates who take “copious notes” (to quote a former coworker). You want to jot down a few sentence fragments, fine, but I’ve come across a couple random candidates who act like they’re taking dictation. One was hired, did not work out, partly because she couldn’t do a damn thing without consulting her notes. (I mean that she literally could not follow the steps of her weekly job tasks, after 3 months there, without looking at notes.)

            Reply
                1. Liz L

                  Oh god, this extensive note-taking for everything drives me nuts. To bring it back to the original topic of pet peeves — I once had a coworker who wrote everything that the boss ever said, even one liner conversations, and she could never work without these notes. Half of her day was spent looking for notes, flipping through the notes, pointing out errors PER THE GODDAMN NOTES. I would have quit to get away from this if she hadn’t left first. (There’s a lot more to the story, but this is all I can share for now because thinking about it makes me so angry.)

            1. Kelly L.

              Yeah, I think it might have been about bringing canned answers to the interview and reading them, if memory serves.

              Reply
        2. Brooklyn Esq.

          In law school, I was specifically instructed not to take notes during interviews. Admittedly, this was by a school career office so I took the advice for what it’s worth. But I wouldn’t be surprised if this were advice generally given to lawyers. I graduated 5 years ago.
          (But once you start your legal career, you should never be caught dead in any work-related meeting without a pen and paper.)

          Reply
          1. Doriana Gray

            It may be. One woman who graduated with her JD in 2012 interviewed at my company in our corporate office as a trainee and didn’t bring a padfolio or a pen to take notes. She was interviewing with an older attorney, and assistant VP of one group in this office, who hated candidates who didn’t bring padfolios to interviews. My manager at tje time liked this woman so much and wanted her boss, the AVP, to hire her that she actually ran over to my desk and asked to borrow a notepad and pen, and then ran it into the room for this woman, lol.

            Reply
    7. Roscoe

      Wow. You must be a peach to work with. That is one of the most misguided, judgmental things I’ve read on this site. And that says a lot. If you tell me job duties (which are usually in the description which I probably have somewhere ) benefits, and team style, thats not a lot to remember. But the fact that you will judge them for that says more about you.

      Reply
        1. Roscoe

          That’s fair. I guess I read it as though she was saying she wouldn’t hire them, but its not explicity said, just implied. I can give the benefit of the doubt

          Reply
          1. Technical Editor

            I understand how you would think that, but I certainly didn’t mean to imply it’s a deal breaker. There are lots of reasons why we don’t hire candidates, but not bringing a pen and paper to the interview is certainly NOT one of them. In our interviews, we provide a lot information about the job that is sensitive and much too long to be listed in the job description, and in our industry, that’s pretty normal for interviews. But clearly a lot of people have bear trap memories for this kind of stuff, so this discussion has been educational for me.

            Reply
            1. TootsNYC

              Or, they don’t expect this to be the only time they will hear that info. They hear it, decide if it’s a bad thing, and good thing, or neutral, and if it’s neutral, they don’t bother to retain it. If they get the job, they’ll ask for more detail again.

              I think it’s weird for an employer to expect you to retain that much detail from your job interview. The only reason you’re giving the info now is so the candidate can decide if they want the job. It’s not training.

              Reply
              1. Rowan

                I was going to say something very similar to this. In fact, I see that kind of calculus — how much detail about this do I need to retain right now? — as an essential skill in my profession (curriculum development, something of a sister profession to technical writing). In my job, I’m inundated with technical details about myriad products on a daily basis. It’s essential that I quickly parse how much I need to remember about each data dump.

                And in a job interview, my judgement is usually “very little detail”. It’s not that what my interviewer is saying isn’t important. It’s just that what’s needed in that moment is for me to get the gist, form an initial impression, and identify areas where I need to ask questions. I don’t need to be taking notes on the team personalities like “Arya is a go-getter, but sometimes her enthusiasm can lead to issues” or “Sansa is reliable but can get hung up on process and tradition”.

                Reply
            2. Not So NewReader

              It’s not that I have a bear trap memory. I consider my memory decent and nothing extraordinary. BUT, put me in a situation that is super important to me and I get a verrry sharp focus. I can repeat good size portions of the conversation verbatim.

              Nervous/concerned people can get a level of focus that is like a hyper-focus, that they do not use under ordinary circumstances. Talk to someone who escaped a burning building, that fear/worry/determination caused their mind to be super aware of everything around them.

              Reply
  7. Michelenyc

    I agree with everything Allison said about LinkedIn I don’t that it is really that big of deal either. So many people use it as a networking tool that you really could be losing out on a great candidate. I know that for my industry it is very common to have people you don’t know reach out to connect. I know not every industry is the same, my stepmom for example does not necessarily connect with everyone that reaches out to her which I get for accounting.

    Reply
    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      I tend to send invitations to interviewers after the interview, as oftentimes I come out of the interview liking them, and respecting what I know of them professionally. Most have accepted my invitations, so I guess I’m not doing anything too out there. I see it as an opportunity for them to do a little more research on me professionally, if they like. I have a lot more information on LinkedIn than I can fit on a resume, and I’ve posted some links and commentary on LinkedIn regarding the kind of work I do.

      So I can see someone taking that approach, but pushing the boundary a bit more and sending the invitation before the interview, on the thought that the interviewer and the interviewee could get to know a few more basics about each other’s professional lives first. Maybe a little pushier than what I do, but not really over-the-line stalker-y.

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        I don’t like it when candidates send me an invite right after the interview. But maybe I have a much more Facebook model, and others don’t.

        Bcs we don’t need to be linked for you to be able to see all my info (unlike Facebook).

        Reply
  8. Anonymous Educator

    I think, also, to a certain extent, you have to let the market decide. In other words, let’s say you have to hire someone within the next four months (preferably in the next two months, but you can manage to stretch it out to four if you have to). Well, if all the candidates you interview for the next four months annoy you in small ways one way or another, you still have to hire someone. You hire the best person you can find. If the best person you can find doesn’t annoy you in any small way, awesome. If the best person you can find annoys you… that’s the best person you can find.

    Reply
  9. Bookworm

    Like others have said, none of the pet peeves you’re describing should be part of the whole package.

    Especially with more entry-level candidates (or those who have held positions for a long time and thus, have limited job searching experience) they could be following the misguided advice of others.

    Reply
  10. BRR

    I agree that I don’t see top candidates doing these things which makes this a little easier. I would try and remember that many people are clueless about job hunting and their behavior isn’t a clear indicator of their personality or working style.

    To answer your letter directly though, I would want to see how these things fit into the bigger picture. How they interview and their behavior if they contact you before and after an interview. Finding the right applicant includes how they fit in to the existing office and how you want the position to fit into the existing office thought so you can and should take these things into account. You want the applicant to be happy and you don’t want to hire the person who can person the technical duties of the job the best but bugs the living day lights out of you. That would likely just make you extremely frustrated with them which has other implications for you, the other person, and everyone’s work.

    Reply
  11. Artemesia

    One of my peeves is childish email handles, particularly in people past entry level. When someone uses one, it makes me much more sensitive to any other signs of ickiness. I will say that when it comes to behavior like that exhibited by Mr. Wonderful in an earlier post here, every single time I have hired someone who had a worrisome, but not fatal, behavior that has been magnified on the job. The well qualified guy who never shut up in the interview — he may still be talking — he just never shut up in meetings. The super qualified woman who was abrasive (and not abrasive versus confident or whatever from the sexism wars) proved to be a disaster. Along with her rudeness was a tendency to undermine our department in dealings with other departments in the organization; she was so intent on proving she was above us all. Awful hire. Super well qualified on other dimensions. They show you who they are during the interview process; believe them.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I will say that when it comes to behavior like that exhibited by Mr. Wonderful in an earlier post here, every single time I have hired someone who had a worrisome, but not fatal, behavior that has been magnified on the job.

      Yes! I have found this too. When I was newer to hiring, I would have what felt like a small concern about someone but I would brush it off because it felt petty to not hire someone over such a small thing. And every time, that small thing would become a major thing once they were on the job. Now I let myself put more weight on some of those things because of that experience. Doesn’t mean I’ll definitely reject them over it, but I will take it a lot more seriously.

      Reply
      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        That’s definitely a good example of how hiring and dating can have parallels! You want to heed signs that someone gets on your nerves before you commit to them, whether you find a way to work it out or decide that it’s a dealbreaker.

        Reply
        1. Allison

          Ooof, that hit a nerve. I just had someone break it off after about 7 weeks because he felt like our energies didn’t match up and I was stressing him out. It was probably the right thing to do, now that I really think about it, but man did it hurt.

          Reply
          1. The Cosmic Avenger

            Sorry Allison….I just hope that in the long run you both will be much happier. Job-related breakups also aren’t necessarily easier just because you know that you weren’t right for each other in the long run.

            Reply
          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            Perfect parallel though — the person isn’t as right for you as you’d earlier thought if they aren’t super excited to be around you. (This always worked really well for me in dating; part of “this person is right for me” should include “this person thinks I am the best” and if they don’t, my interest in them would basically go away. Very handy.)

            Reply
            1. Elizabeth West

              That does help. I try to tell myself I don’t want someone with whom I’m not well-matched. I want someone who is puppy-level excited to be with me, and I should feel the same exact way about him. (And isn’t full of deal breakers like rudeness, etc., obviously.)

              If you think about it like “He’s not right for me,” instead of “I’m not right for him,” it takes some of the sting away. It works for job stuff too.

              Reply
            2. Allison

              Yup. He was very excited about me in the first month, seemed like I was his #1 choice and it seemed like we clicked on a very deep level. So I think we were both disappointed when he realized there was a chemistry mismatch, we both thought we were in for the long run at first.

              But in that same vein, we’ve had candidates come through who were perfect on paper, nailed the first few rounds of interviews, we thought they were the one for the job, only to reject them because some members of the interview panel didn’t like the vibe they got from the candidate. Such a bummer. You just never know when something’s gonna fall through.

              Reply
              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                For what it’s worth, I actually consider it kind of a danger sign when someone is super excited about you the first month (in dating, not hiring). They really don’t know you well enough at that point to feel that way — interested and intrigued, yes, but they shouldn’t be confident about anything more than that. People who get that way very early on are usually filling in the blanks about you in their own minds (often inaccurately) or have unrealistic ideas about relationships. And really, the stuff that indicates lack of long-term compatibility often comes out slowly over time.

                Sorry, I know this isn’t Ask a Dating Advisor.

                Reply
                1. Allison

                  (sorry if this is going on too much of a tangent)

                  Yeah, I get that. He’d had a crush on me for almost a year and I finally realized he was cute, I was worried he’d have high hopes of me and then run away screaming when he realized I was not, in fact, a goddess. Happened a lot in college with the guys in anime club too – “a hot chick who likes comics? omg unicorn!” and then “human with feelings! not unicorn! scary thing! run!” I think he also has unrealistic expectations of relationships since he admitted he’s always the one to end it.

                2. The Cosmic Avenger

                  No, but this is still a great parallel! If someone is making lifetime plans before they really know if being with that partner makes them really happy every day, then it’s very possible that they’re happy about the idea of being partnered, and the actual, real-life partner will probably not live up to that dream of Happily Ever After. It’s a sign that the person may be more concerned with a dream of what could be, rather than the actual day-to-day partnership.

                3. Allison

                  Wait, maybe there is a parallel! Wouldn’t it be a bad sign if someone’s convinced the job they’re applying to is a perfect match? Any time someone applies and thinks “I’m a perfect fit for the this job” I almost always want to respond with “Ehhh, no you’re not.” (I don’t actually do it though)

                  Isn’t it also a bad sign if someone wants to hire you on the spot after, like, one interview? Not always the case, but so many scams hire on the spot that I’d be worried they just need a body, not me specifically.

                4. LQ

                  Excited seems perfectly reasonable. Excited to know someone better. Excited that you might have found someone compatible. Excited for Adult Things.

                  Committed or planning I can see being a problem. If after a month they are going lets get married…..mmm. But if after a month they are excited to see you when you go on a date? I guess I kind of want that, I don’t really want someone to be like, well I’m intrigued, but I’m not excited (and also since excited has other connotations in a personal relationship, I’m pro excited).

                5. Kelly L.

                  To me, “excited” is one thing, “making concrete plans already” is another. Like…I like a new dating partner to be obviously psyched to be dating me–I’m probably feeling the same way, and there’s even a phrase for it, New Relationship Energy. However! And this is a big however. I do not want them to propose, try to move me in, declare they must be with me for all eternity, etc. Because then I think they’re just trying to fill the wife-shaped hole in their life plans.

                6. Ask a Manager Post author

                  Yeah, I guess it’s more accurate to say that they can be excited, but they shouldn’t be imbuing that with greater meaning about long-term prospects.

                7. TootsNYC

                  It’s like “my dream job,” which I notice few people use after they’ve been in a role for a couple of years. It focuses on the dream, not on the real-life job.

                8. Wendy Darling

                  “Yeah, I guess it’s more accurate to say that they can be excited, but they shouldn’t be imbuing that with greater meaning about long-term prospects.”

                  Oh lawd, I had a guy on OKCupid tell me after talking ONLINE for like a week and a half (he was out of town so we hadn’t met yet) that his best friend thought we were going to get married.

                  I should have noped out right there but instead I went on a first date with him and it was horrible and cringey, and THEN I noped outta there.

    2. BethRA

      +1. I’ve certainly missed my share of red flags, but every time I’ve ignored one and either hired someone anyway or not pushed hard enough about my concerns, I’ve regretted it.

      Reply
      1. F.

        We have an outstanding offer to a candidate who is sending up all sorts of red flags, but the owner made the offer, not I. I actually want to rescind the offer but probably will not. I am hoping that he self-selects out instead. Otherwise, he is going to be an HR manager’s nightmare. (sigh)

        Reply
    3. Stephanie (HR)

      I agree completely! It’s the same with anything that I hear when I call for references. If they say, “Gee, she’s a little slow, doesn’t do anything fast. But she’s good at what she does and she’s a great person!” It means they move at a snails pace. All. The. Time. If they say, “You know, she loves to chat with her coworkers. I think she’s gotten better about it. She was so good at her job! I loved working with her!” It means she never. EVER. stops talking.

      Reply
  12. Tuckerman

    When I interview candidates, my goal is to try to tease out that person’s best side. Of course, I’m on the lookout for red flags and incompatibilities, but I want to get a good picture of what this person is capable of when she’s not nervous or behaving how her career advisor suggested. Sometimes just getting candidates to talk about a project or experience they really enjoyed can give me a better picture of their “true” persona.

    Reply
  13. Allison

    I agree with AAM, it’s fine to look for red flags and indicators or patterns of problematic behavior, and that can be tough when you have so few data points, but if someone does something slightly annoying during the application stage, but they’re otherwise qualified for the job, I’d at least talk to them and maybe even bring them in (depending on how much time I have to evaluate candidates) to really suss out whether this is an annoying person or just someone who made an annoying mistake.

    That said, I’ve definitely had managers gush about how great a candidate was, and bring them in with total enthusiasm, and then they would seriously get on my nerves. Disrespect or talk down to me, or what have you, but the manager who hired them would refuse to listen because they were just so happy to have this highly skilled person who “really gets things done.” So while I don’t think you should be totally biased against someone based on something small, I also don’t think you should be so blinded by their awesomeness that you don’t notice a problem.

    Reply
    1. Margali

      Yes, we had an engineer come in for a first interview, who just wowed the interviewing engineers with his breadth of knowledge. When he came in for the second interview though, the hiring team was unanimous in their reaction, “That arrogant ass would drive the entire department insane within a month.”

      Reply
      1. Allison

        In the scenarios I mentioned above, I’ve never been on the interview panel. I think that needs to change, going forward I’m gonna push to at least chat with someone being considered for a role where they’d interact with me, and I should have some input. If they talk to me with respect, awesome, but if have that “awwww you’re so cute, I’m gonna take you under my wing and teach you everything I know” attitude toward me, I want to voice that concern.

        Reply
        1. Windchime

          Ha, we actually interviewed this person once. He was very excited about coming on to a new team and how he would be able to mentor and teach us all so much. Uh, yeah, thanks but no thanks.

          It’s always good to get someone with different experiences. We recently hired a couple of people from a totally different industry and they have brought a freshness and a new perspective that has been really valuable to our team. But they didn’t come in with chests puffed out, telling us how they were totally going to teach us all about it.

          Reply
  14. Ang

    Is there a rule of thumb for determining if a word or phrase crosses the line in a cover letter? Example: “passionate” being a good descriptor, but “visionary” being irksome. Is it that one describes your attitude towards your work, and the other describes you?

    I agree that there are some things that are better said about you than by you, but when trying to build yourself up in a cover letter (something that doesn’t necessarily come naturally), how do you keep the balance between bragging on your achievements, but not sounding cocky?

    I would be mortified if I came across as arrogant, but I want a hiring manager to know the things I’m proud of! :)

    Reply
    1. Sunshine

      Then you should focus on the things you’re proud of. Avoid vague, subjective descriptors if you can. What did you do that you would describe as “visionary”? How do you demonstrate that you’re “hard-working”? Etc…

      Reply
    2. OriginalYup

      I think it’s more about context and tone than the presence of specific words. “I am an amazing Teapots designer.” Nope. “This role provided me with an amazing opportunity to develop my Teapot design skills for the high-end special order market.” Excellent.

      Certain words become red flaggy because they’re standardly used in an obnoxious way that is zero percent helpful in gauging someone’s skill level or suitability. And the particular words change over time — Innovator is the new Visionary in my industry right now. As long as you’re demonstrating *why* and *how* that descriptor is applicable, the word itself doesn’t matter too much. (Unless it’s, like, “predator” or “overlord.”)

      Reply
    3. Artemesia

      I don’t like mush like ‘passionate’ either, but someone can at least honestly say that they are ‘passionate about the aesthetics of rice sculpture’ and be honest. To say you are ‘visionary’ or ‘charismatic’ is grating precisely because it really isn’t something you can judge about yourself; ‘I am charming’ — can anyone really say that and BE charming? I am sure it is the same about ‘charismatic’; no one who is would say they are. There is a lot of current leadership twaddle about ‘visioning skills’ and being ‘visionary’ so I would be slightly less put off by that in a junior person although it is icky.

      Reply
      1. Ama

        I like “committed” or “dedicated” in place of passionate, because I feel like “passionate” gets particularly overused in the nonprofit sector in which I work (and often used by people who are trying to sell their enthusiasm for an org’s mission in place of being a truly good match for the job description).

        Also I think my cover letter and resume do a good job of backing up my commitment to non-profit administration as a career — not as easy to back up a claim of passion without being more effusive than I am personally comfortable with.

        Reply
      2. Not So NewReader

        Truly charismatic people very seldom say they are charismatic. Likewise with truly visionary people. To me the common thread is that they are so into how they do what they do that they have no clue how others view them. They often do not know they are so likable or so respected for their ability to build big plans.

        For example, the charismatic person would describe themselves as simply concerned for others. The visionary is so busy working out the steps or details of her idea that she has little clue others think she is extraordinary. She’d be more apt to point out a weakness in her current vision and dwell on that.

        Reply
    4. Ang

      So, pretty much:

      If you can quantify the statement (back it up with an achievement), you’re good to go.

      If you can’t quantify it, it’s subjective and entirely possible you’re the only one who believes that about yourself.

      Thanks!

      (OriginalYup, I so badly want to find a way to fit “predator” into my cover letter now…)

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        And to be clear, if you can back it up, then just present that evidence; don’t characterize it with subjective terms (like “visionary” or “amazing”). “I won first prize at the International Rice Sculpting Competition two years in a row” is much more compelling than “I’m an amazing rice sculptor who won first prize at the International Rice Sculpting Competition two years in a row.”

        Reply
      2. AVP

        That’s a perfect way of looking at it.

        And if you do have the achievement to back up a statement, I want to hear what it is! It’s not bragging, it’s just informing.

        Reply
    5. Sunflower

      I read the cover letter outloud. If it doesn’t sound like something I would say in person, to another person, I change the wording or take it out.

      Reply
    6. TootsNYC

      “I am passionate about processes” is something you can decide about yourself without being arrogant–its your emotion; who better to know what it is?

      “I am a visionary” is not something you should be deciding about yourself; it’s an accolade, and praising yourself is something we’re generally encouraged not to do.

      Reply
    7. Searching

      My biggest pet peeve about these kinds of words? They are in so many job descriptions, especially “passionate” in the non profit world. As I generally try to mirror what they’re looking for in my cover letter, I sometimes feel pressured- like if I am not using strong enough or flowery enough language they won’t hire me. But I feel like its the jobseekers who get dinged for this if they carry it through. And I have a sneaking suspicion that some people who don’t like it for applicants use those words to describe the role/ their company when they’re hiring.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        I think we are better off just being ourselves. I refuse to say I am passionate about anything because I just don’t like the word used in that context. But I can list off what I have done regarding X or Y and show that I put my all into it. What more can they ask for, really?

        I will say that if an ad uses the word passionate, I think twice before applying.

        Reply
  15. Hiring Mgr

    Yeah, i think it comes down to how you define pet peeve. If your pet peeve is rude and obnoxious people, then that’s a legitimate thing to use in evaluating candidates. On the other hand if your pet peeve is someone who parts their hair on the left..well maybe overlook it..

    As an aside, I don’t see what’s wrong with sending a LinkedIn request to someone at a company you might be interviewing with…It’s pretty standard actually, at least in my world. It’s just a form of networking

    Reply
    1. BRR

      The LinkedIn thing might be industry specific then. In my world it would be seen as trying to gain an advantage in the hiring process and would likely be unsuccessful in doing that. Doing it after an interview would be fine as the candidate and hiring manager are likely in the same industry.

      Reply
  16. Sigrid

    The mention of “visionary” made me think of the classic AAM letter where someone wrote in to Alison complaining that no company would hire him to be their “ideas man”…even though he was fresh out of college with zero track record in, well, anything.

    Reply
  17. Temperance

    Counterpoints: I think it’s completely reasonable to choose not to interview or hire someone based on things you find annoying or irritating. You’re going to have to work with the person.

    Using your examples, I’ve never met a person who was intelligent who felt the need to tell you that she was intelligent. Same with hard-working, innovative, Innovator, etc. If you need to tell me those things about yourself, it means that you can’t show me those things because they do not apply except in your own mind.

    My husband used to do hiring, and any person who described themselves as “Forward Thinking” went into the round file, because, more often than not, they were sent by failed salespeople who were trying to rebrand themselves as project managers after unsuccessful job hunts in other careers.

    Reply
  18. INTP

    Everyone has pretty much said what I came here to say, but my point of view:

    It’s perfectly fair to judge by significant pet peeves that really indicate an ongoing personality trait or other issue that will compromise your ability to work with this person. This could be objectively bad behavior, like being rude to the receptionist, or completely subjective pet peeves. For example, there’s a certain benevolently overbearing personality type that I do not get along with, and I can usually tell by small mannerisms and patterns of speech that I’m going to clash with a person pretty soon after meeting them. I wouldn’t hire such a person though I wouldn’t necessarily consider them a bad hire for someone else. And I have so many environmental allergies that I’ll often have allergic reactions to people due to perfume, cigarettes, pet cats, etc, and I wouldn’t hire someone without being sure that we could resolve the allergy issue successfully.

    That said, I don’t think that the peeves mentioned in the letter are indicative of personality issues or anything else that will be ongoing. It could easily come down to some candidates reading that you need to list your “soft skills” on your resume or proactively contact hiring managers – they might even think it’s ridiculous, but be convinced that they have to do it. So I agree with Alison to really examine whether a pet peeve is indicative of a real, ongoing issue that will genuinely impair your ability to work with this person, or just an isolated instance of behavior that you found annoying.

    Reply
    1. Temperance

      At a previous job, we had to fire a temp because she was a heavy smoker who had the habit of slathering herself in overly scented, fruity smelling lotion after each cigarette. She was our receptionist, and she honestly smelled so bad that it was getting complaints.

      If someone comes to an interview reeking of smoke, I’m not going to hire them because of my allergies. I’m not going to feel bad about it, either, because I don’t deserve to get sick at a job that I already have.

      Reply
      1. INTP

        Yeah, I think these days it is well-known enough that people find the smell of smoke (even if third-hand) offputting and physically irritating that the onus is on people who don’t want their employment prospects limited to not smoke or find a way to minimize the smell, rather than on other people to suffer for their convenience. (Yes, quitting is hard, but it’s a lot easier than making my asthma disappear.)

        In other situations it’s a little more gray – like there’s definitely nothing wrong with playing with your pets before work, and I don’t think anyone needs to wear any perfume in the office but I know a modest amount is generally considered okay. At the same time, I don’t want to hire someone already knowing that there’s going to be an awkward allergy accommodation situation. And even if you disclose it, someone might be willing to take precautions to get a job that they aren’t going to happily adhere to for years on end.

        Reply
        1. Except in ....

          New Hampshire! Believe it or not. It’s not California for once. You can’t discriminate against someone in hiring on their basis of being a smoker in New Hampshire. You can prohibit them from smoking during work hours and on work property but that is it. Live free or die baby.

          Reply
      2. Roscoe

        I get it, it just seems unfair in some ways. Like if you live with a smoker, and they smoke in the house, you will smell like it. No matter what you do. I think it sucks that people wouldn’t hire you because of someone else’s choices. However, if you have a serious allergy (not just find it annoying) I understand it

        Reply
  19. Argh!

    From the headline I did not expect those minor issues to be “pet peeves.” The job search process is a different job from the one the candidate is being considered for. People regularly follow bad advice about those things. Someone who pesters the hiring official with constant e-mails while the job is open is sending a red flag, but a few words you don’t like or a LinkdIn invitation don’t really mean anything.

    What I expected to read about were things that would come up in an interview. I have a hard time if people play with their hair, or wear perfume/cologne, or laugh at their own jokes. Those things don’t usually affect whether the person is a good candidate for the job, yet I would have a hard time setting them aside because they bug me. If someone behaves in a way that seems habitual rather than from nerves, and it’s the kind of thing that our workplace would frown on, then that’s different. Then there are people who seem to have a tic, which would be an ADA type thing. I have known two people who stick their fingers in their noses as a kind of tic. I have to look away. I hate it, but I know they can’t help it. I wouldn’t hire them for a food or medical job, but in an office it’s just “Well, they have Tourrettes, OCPD, OCD (or whatever) so we accommodate”

    Reply
  20. Workfromhome

    If you have an obvious negative reaction during the interview, of course, you can exclude that person. But I think prescreening people on “random” pet peeves” is counterproductive heck I’d say it’s unreasonable. You are essentially penalizing someone for violating a rule that they were not aware of and can’t even be chalked up to “common sense”.

    If you have a pet peeve about blue pens and the candidate has a red and blue pen then hands you the blue one when you ask to borrow a pen would you exclude them? How would it look to try to explain this to someone? Hey, you are out because I hate blue pens!”

    Candidate:”Sorry did you tell me not to bring blue pens in the invite..did I miss an email?”
    You “no I just hate blue pens”
    Candidate:”Uhmmm how was I supposed to know that?”
    You:”Everyone should know blue pens are stupid…now begone”

    Reply
    1. Temperance

      I don’t think that your analogy works here, because cultural fit is so important. Someone who calls themselves a Visionary is probably going to be an asset in some marketing jobs, but would really not fit in well in my industry. It’s not a blue pen issue so much as a flag about who they are as a person.

      Reply
      1. Workfromhome

        Disagree I think you are reading far too much into word choice on a resume that may be no more carefully considered than what color pen you out in your pocket.
        Sure if they done on about being a visionary during the interview you have a an issue but to exclude someone simply because they choose the word visionary to put on their resume instead of “proven to implement forward-thinking ideas”? I honestly think that is about the same level as a pen.

        Heck your example reinforces my point. If Visionary is acceptable on a marketing resume its certainly not a taboo word that anyone would assume automatically excludes them from a job. Having secret rules doesn’t make sense.

        Reply
        1. Temperance

          It’s not a “secret rule”. Calling yourself a visionary has a specific meaning – and FWIW, I’m a pro bono program employee (attorney), so if I’m hiring someone to work with me, I know that a person who identifies as a “visionary” will not be a good fit for my job.

          Reply
  21. Anonymouss

    Now I feel super guilty for having put charismatic in my cover letter when I was job searching.

    though to be honest, the only reason I even considered doing it was because I had a number of people as I finished school tell me I should have no problem getting a job because I was so charismatic.

    Reply
    1. LQ

      I think this is part of why it is a good idea to not judge people too harshly for these things. Sometimes they get bad advice and might be great candidates for the part.
      If you say you are charismatic but when you interview you talk about how you rallied a neighborhood well known for NIMBYism to get on board with a very controversial project and managed to get unanimous approval at the city council for it? I will give you a pass on using a pet peeve word. (But you’re better off explaining that in your cover letter than just using the word.)

      Reply
  22. Super Smart & Charismatic

    Yea, one person’s pet peeve might be another’s red flag.
    I do like the idea of just being on the look out for more and not totally dismissing the candidate because of a minor pet peeve.
    Just like I don’t totally dismiss AAM’s column because of ads that lock up my browser ;)

    Reply
  23. Rubyrose

    A shameful story concerning pre-judging.
    I worked somewhere once where we had a petite woman with chin length blonde hair who was horrible to work with. She caused so many problems that the company brought in an EAP psychologist to meet with our work group as a whole, then with each of us individually, then with her and the manager together and separately, for about a three month period, hoping to resolve the issues.

    They did not resolve. The company moved her to a one year contract position in another department and she promptly quit.

    So we were looking for someone new. We saw one of the applicants as she crossed the parking lot to come to our building. Petite, chin length blond hair. We all just looked at each other and shook our heads. Even though none of us had hiring authority, she did not have a chance.

    Reply
    1. Roscoe

      Thats pretty bad. So because of her body and hair color, you disqualified her. Would hate to see what happened if the problem person was a woman of color.

      Reply
      1. Rubyrose

        Hmmm… good point. Actually, I think the applicant of color would not have been totally out of the running, but there would have been residual resentment, perhaps about 70%, instead of 100%.

        The group I was in (10 people) was the most diverse of the company of 130 people. There were only two people of color in the entire company (neither in my group). My group had the only two Jews in the company, along with a Muslim lady who wore a hijab with modest clothing. So this group was more sensitive to issues of discrimination than the norm. And because of that I think the person of color would have been given more of a break. But potentially having to explain this to others — yes, this would not fly.

        Reply
    2. Not So NewReader

      This happens. And this is why we have to constantly examine our motives and our thinking. A friend hired one employee and the hire went GREAT. So he hired a second employee because the second employee reminded him of the GREAT employee, their appearances had some similarities. Well, employee number two was a nightmare, she was the total opposite of number one. The whole department was in meltdown before it was over.

      My friend is a very smart person… but in this case my friend learned something new for them.

      Reply
      1. Wendy Darling

        The really insidious thing is your brain does this AUTOMATICALLY a lot of the time, so you have to actively watch out for it. It sort of makes sense in a general way — “the last time I saw something that looked like that it was DEEPLY UNPLEASANT” is a pretty adaptive conclusion to draw in a lot of cases, e.g. not standing in the poison ivy more than one time. But it leads to problems when we start applying it uncritically to people.

        Reply
        1. Honeybee

          Yeah, this was going to be my comment. The problem is not that it happens; the problem is that people don’t catch themselves and examine their motivations when it does happen.

          Reply
  24. Jaya

    I think the best approach is to keep an open mind and forgive what you can, trying to remember that many people are probably following bad advice in good faith.

    One of my pet peeves is soft skills sections on resumes. “Works well with others | Excellent communicator | Writes well.” Really? Please find me someone, anyone who wouldn’t say that to get a job. I’d love to see a resume that says “Tolerates co-workers in afternoons only | Communicates okay | Writes quickly but transposes letters frequently” But I understand that there are coaches, college, universities, and blogs out there telling people to put this in there. So I let it go every time.

    But another pet peeve is candidates coming off as aggressively charismatic or visionary in interviews. I try to ask follow-up questions to figure out if the candidate is (1) just trying to earnestly sell him or herself as an energetic go-getter or (2) the kind of person that, when you ask them to take board minutes, comes back having rewritten the bylaws. #1, I can let go. #2, I can’t.

    Not everyone reads AAM, so I try to cut them some slack. ;)

    Reply
    1. Bowserkitty

      I am honest to a fault and I would love to put that on my resume. But as they say, know your audience…haha.

      Reply
      1. Windchime

        I expect people I work with to be honest. If I read “honest to a fault” on a resume, I would be looking for signs that the applicant was overly blunt and untactful, but was one of those people who take pride in “being a straight-shooter, and some people can’t handle my honesty”. So I think your instincts are correct to not put that on a resume.

        Reply
    2. Wendy Darling

      My Radical Honesty Resume would be like:

      Works well with others after 10am and after coffee, touch and go before that | Excellent writing skills | Communicates well via cat macro, so-so via other methods, but writes a damn fine report to make up for silence during project progress | no seriously I’m working stop bothering me

      I would never get hired with that one.

      Reply
  25. Hiring Mgr

    Some of this is also dependent upon the position…If I’m hiring a cashier at Burger King, putting “Visionary” as a descriptor would be kind of silly. However if I’m hiring a head of strategy for an innovative software company, perhaps it’s appropriate.

    Reply
    1. Wendy Darling

      If someone describes themselves as “visionary” they had better have some incredibly impressive achievements to back that up. Personally I think that’s the kind of label you don’t get to use on yourself period, but the reason I suck at writing resumes is that I have cultural issues with talking myself up, so take that with a grain of salt.

      Reply
    2. Anonymous Educator

      I don’t think a head of strategy should describe herself as “visionary.” She should list her accomplishments instead.

      Reply

Leave a Comment

You can find the site's commenting guidelines here. You can report an ad, tech, or typo issue here.

Subscribe to all comments on this post by RSS