10 ways to annoy a hiring manager

In the mood to annoy a hiring manager and lose out on a job? Here are 10 ways to do it.

1. Ignore the application instructions. Employers give specific instructions for a reason and you ignore them at your peril. Don’t send your resume through postal mail rather than applying online as instructed, ignore the request for a cover letter, or call to follow up when the ad says “no calls.” Showing that you don’t pay attention to or don’t care about directions is a good way to take yourself out of the running.

2. Call to “schedule an interview.” Some job applicants end their cover letters by noting that they’ll call within a few days to “schedule an interview.” This is not a good idea – because job-seekers don’t get to decide to schedule the interview; employers do, and it’s overly pushy to pretend otherwise.

3. Be difficult to schedule a conversation with. Taking days to respond to an email or phone message or being inflexible about what times you can meet will make an employer wonder why they’re bothering, when there are plenty of other well-qualified candidates who will make themselves available. and If an employer is trying to hire you, don’t put up roadblocks.

4. Follow up repeatedly. They have your application; if they’re interested, they’ll contact you. Follow-up calls, especially repeated ones, are the bane of many hiring managers and HR reps. With hundreds of applications for a single position, there’s just not enough time to respond to these inquiries, which are unnecessary to boot.

5. Be late for your interview. Hiring managers assume that candidates are on their best behavior during the hiring process. If you can’t get to the interview on time, they’ll assume that you’ll be unreliable once on the job.

6. Be early for your interview. It’s good to plan to arrive early so you have a buffer against being late, but kill those last 20 minutes at a nearby coffee shop, not in the company’s reception area. Many interviewers are annoyed when candidates show up more than five or ten minutes early, since they may feel obligated to interrupt what they’re doing and go out to greet the person, and/or feel guilty leaving someone sitting in their reception area that long. Aim to walk in five minutes early, but no more than that.

7. Be unprepared for your interview. The interview isn’t the time for the hiring manager is explain the basics of the job description or what the company does; you’re expected to show up already knowing that.

8. Ask questions that focus solely on salary and benefits. It signals that you’re interested only in compensation and aren’t putting any thought into the details of the job and the company.

9. Call repeatedly and hang up when you get voicemail. Calling, hanging up when you get voice mail, and then trying again half an hour later, and repeating this cycle over and over in the hopes of getting a live person on the other end of the phone is a bad idea.. We have caller ID; we’re not answering because we’re in the middle of something else.

10. Angrily challenge their decision not to hire you. It’s frustrating to get rejected for a job you thought you were perfect for. But don’t show your frustration – or worse, anger – to the employer, or you guarantee that you won’t be considered for future openings there.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 25 comments… read them below }

  1. Your friendly happy web dev unless you don't follow standards*

    Another great article, thanks! However, and this is totally not your fault, but I loathe websites that autoplay something when you first come to the page. I get an annoying rant from some guy when I open the page up, and I can’t see anyplace to stop it. As a web dev. that is a total pet peeve of mine. I would never ever do that, though it is tempting at times. (“Scooby Do” theme?…..hmmm.)

    I suppose that is how to annoy a web dev! :)

  2. Lynn*

    I know you’re right about not arriving too early, but that one really irks me. Are people — any people, not just hiring managers — really that unable to deal with the idea that someone is sitting in the reception area for 15 freaking minutes? As an interviewer, I don’t care if someone is there 30 minutes early or 2 minutes early – I’m still doing the interview at the same time so why on earth would it matter? I certainly haven’t ever been irritated with a candidate who showed up early. Reception calls and lets me know the person has arrived and I say “Great, I’ll be out at 2pm”. Not really that difficult. Again, I know you’re right, it’s just a mystery to me how this could ever be a problem. But when I have gone on interviews in the past few years, I dutifully sit in my car if I arrive early so as not to upset anyone’s delicate equilibrium!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The idea is that it’s kind of an imposition. If I’m expecting you at 2:00 and you show up at 1:30, I feel obligated to go out and at least greet you, which interrupts whatever I’m doing. And then I’m going to tell you “we’re running right on time, so I’ll be back out in half an hour,” but I feel vaguely guilty leaving you just sitting there for half an hour. If the appointment is at 2:00, it makes sense to show up at 2:00 or just before, just like you wouldn’t show up at someone’s house a half hour before they expected you.

    2. Freida*

      Also, not every office has a formal receptionist or reception area. In my office, if you showed up 30 minutes early to an interview and I didn’t have time to see you right away you’d just be standing awkwardly outside of the elevator.

      1. wits*

        Speaking as a former receptionist, it’s also really annoying to her/him when interviewees do this. Ever been stuck in public somewhere, like on a bus or in line at the grocery store, and you have someone staring at you the whole time? That’s what happens to the receptionist when you show up that early. Even worse when the interviewee wants to fish for info about their chances.

        1. alex*

          Agreed! I completely understand arriving 5 or 10 minutes early, but honestly, anything more than that is totally annoying. As someone who currently sits at the front desk of a busy office, I can honestly say that I often judge people based on how uncomfortable I am while they sit and stare at me. There is also the guilt of not being a gracious host and paying for attention to the candidate, as I feel I should, but I also have work to do.

  3. Clobbered*

    And when you go to that coffee shop to kill time, drink water. This isn’t the time to drip cappuccino on your shirt. :-)

  4. Mike C.*

    Regarding “#3, Being Difficult to Schedule”.

    I wish hiring managers would understand that if they are interviewing an employed person they shouldn’t give 24-48 hours of notice before an interview. Seriously, if we’re trying to leave a bad job, give us a chance to hide it rather than making us look suspicious at work.

    Right now employers are more than happy to make folks do the work of two or three people and sometimes it’s difficult to simply be told, “you’ll show up tomorrow at 10:30am”. It’s not that we’re not interested, it’s that we’re adult enough to know that the chances of landing the new job are small and we still have bills to pay.

  5. Tami*

    How about apply for jobs for which you are not in any way, shape, or form qualified, or calling to ask if you really need those qualifications, when they are listed as “required” in the ad. I have ads that list very specific qualifications, such as a Class A CDL with two-years minimum driving experience, previous experience with dump trailers, and X T endorsements with previous doubles experience REQUIRED; or Diesel Mechanics that must be ASE certified with minimum two-years experience working on Class 8, heavy-duty trucks. It never fails, I will have at least 3 people per day call me or come to our office to fill out an application and they do not have any of the requirements listed in the ad. I am frequently tempted to ask them if they know how to read.

    Don’t bother applying for a job for which you are in no way qualified. Don’t bother to call me about the job if you do not have the REQUIRED qualifications. There are reasons that we list REQUIRED qualifications in the ad. In my case it is usually due to federal regulations or insurance requirements.

    I frequently get asked “how am I supposed to get experience if no one will hire me?” I don’t mean to be cold, but that is not my problem. My job is to find qualified people that meet the requirements we set forth. It is your job to obtain those qualifications in order to be a candidate for a job in our organization so that may consider you for employment.

    1. Mike C.*

      Then maybe hiring managers shouldn’t have such ridiculous requirements for jobs. When the Java language first came out, do you know how many programming jobs asked for five years experience in that language? Do you know how many times I’ve seen “entry level” positions requiring anything from two years experience to professional certifications requiring years of management experience?

      Guess what? It is your problem, and you are a cold person for saying otherwise. It’s your problem because years ago companies had no problem training people for their position. Instead companies like yours have decided to foist the cost of training on society at large.

      If you want qualified applicants, then maybe your business needs to either train people for the work or support education when that budget comes up for cuts.

      Sorry you were inconvenienced by a bunch of hard working folks looking for a way to afford food and basic healthcare.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think what Tami was saying is that when they have plenty of qualified applicants (as most employers do these days), they don’t have any business incentive to consider people who don’t meet their listed qualifications.

        I agree that employers sometimes post poorly-thought-out requirements when they’re advertising a job, but we don’t know if that’s the case with Tami’s organization or not.

        1. Mike C.*

          You’re correct that we don’t know this, and with specific requirements related to insurance or regulatory issues that is fine. What many need to understand is that many requirements simply aren’t, and many times the real requirements aren’t even listed.

      2. Tami*

        There are certain jobs that have certain requirements due to federal regulations, such as in our case. Additionally, our insurance company is requiring at least two-years experience because of the nature of our business. Do you really want someone who just got their CDL and has never driven commercially before hauling 160,000 lbs in doubles trailers, driving beside you on the road? Or someone without ASE certifications and having been properly trained on DOT inspection and repair procedures working on that vehicle that shares the highway with your loved ones? I think not. There are huge liability issues here, and we have requirements for a reason. You wouldn’t want to hear “Sorry you were inconvenienced by our driver totalling your vehicle and causing serious injury to you, but hey, he needed to get experience somehow!”

        And for the record, we have trained people that work within our company and promote them into various positions that have more stringent requirements, once they have proven themselves to be reliable, safety-conscious, and a good investment. I have no problem with doing that. However, I am not going to put someone with no experience in a semi-truck driving double trailers on the road to endanger their lives and the lives of others. You’re welcome.

        There are certain jobs that require experience, education, and training for a reason.

        1. Anonymous*

          Absolutely, some requirements are required in the dictionary sense of the word and for good reason. But some requirements aren’t really requirements, or you might be able to fudge on the exact details if you really like a candidate. From the candidate’s perspective, how do I know which kind of requirement it is? If you require two years’ experience, I don’t know if that’s because you can’t insure me without it, or because you’ve decided that’s a good number but you’d take someone with a year and eleven months’ experience if they were otherwise qualified. I can’t tell the difference unless I call and ask about it or just apply even though I’m not technically qualified.
          In a perfect world, requirements would only be things that were actually required, and I wouldn’t bother applying with my year and eleven months of experience, but once someone muddies the water by requiring things that aren’t really required, you have ambiguity for everyone forever after.
          So be annoyed by the people are wildly unqualified and apply anyway, but don’t be annoyed by the people who almost meet them and wonder if that’s close enough.

        2. John*

          Tami: While it is true that there are jobs that require experience and certification due to their safety-critical nature, I am frustrated at job listings that require unreasonable experience of qualifications for the job. It annoys me when someone responds to a qualification complaint with something along the lines of “Wouldn’t you want the best heart-surgeon for your procedure?” Yes, I would, but not all jobs, in fact relatively few jobs are that safety-critical. It’s absurd for an entry-level position to require a couple years of experience.

          For that matter, there needs to be more opportunities for entry-level candidates, and the opportunities that are entry-level need not include a laundry list of “qualifications”.

          1. Tami*

            Agreed. To have a laundry list of qualifications for an entry-level position does seem absurd.

            I think most people know which jobs are safety-sensitive in nature, and which aren’t.

            And for the record, if the requirements aren’t really requirements, then the people doing the posting should NOT be listing them as requirements. It does muddy the waters and makes it confusing for those applying for positions, and frustrating for those of us who really have legitimate requirements.

            1. John*

              [quote]And for the record, if the requirements aren’t really requirements, then the people doing the posting should NOT be listing them as requirements. It does muddy the waters and makes it confusing for those applying for positions, and frustrating for those of us who really have legitimate requirements.[/quote]

              Excellent point, and I think that answers your question of why unqualified applicants apply for jobs like yours. I keep reading on job advice boards and sites that applicants should apply for jobs even if they don’t think that they’re qualified through the listings. I think the reason that career coaches say this is exactly because of what you said about employers who post “requirements” that shouldn’t be actual requirements. Therefore, when someone like yourself posts accurate and reasonable requirements due to federal and insurance requirements, these seekers apply anyway, because of the advice they are given on how to handle the positions with “muddy” requirements.

  6. wits*

    Don’t forget: when you come to an interview, if you aren’t offered water or coffee, don’t ask for it.

    1. Natalie*

      Really? I get not asking for coffee – they might not have it – but certainly everyone has water?

      1. wits*

        When I worked for the government, the building was old and it was recommended that we NOT drink tap water b/c of the condition of the pipes. Employees had to pay for a water cooler AND coffee service out of their own pockets, brought their own, or in the case of water, drank tap water at their own risk.

        1. Joe*

          I’ve got to agree with Natalie on this one. A workplace that won’t provide safe, free, potable water for their employees is not somewhere I would want to work. It indicates a wanton disregard for the basic needs of their employees. I agree that coffee can be a bit much to ask if not offered, but water should never be an imposition.

          1. wits*

            I understand what you are saying, but it was a government department, and we were funded by tax dollars. There was actually an ordinance barring food & beverages to be provided to employees in the organization, so it wasn’t about management trying to be jerks.

      2. Heather*

        I have asked for water at interviews and gotten the job. It was more of the fact that the search committee had forgotten that they should provide water (there was a presentation involved), not that I shouldn’t ask for it.

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