things top job candidates never do — which aren’t deal-breakers but which don’t reflect well on you

We talk a lot here about hiring deal-breakers — things that will on their own ruin your chances with an employer.

There’s another category of things that aren’t deal-breakers in and of themselves but which are never done by anyone who ends up being a top candidate. As a result, for managers who have done enough hiring, they end up being sort of markers that a candidate is likely to be mediocre (or worse). They might not be the thing you reject someone over — but they’re a flag that the candidate is going to end up not being good for other reasons.

Here are some of the things that fall in that category:

* Having a four-page resume.  Strong candidates just don’t write overly long resumes. They know how to edit and they know what matters and what doesn’t. (There’s a small handful of fields where long resumes are normal, where this of course wouldn’t apply.) It’s not a deal-breaker in and of itself, but top candidates never do it — so when an experienced hiring manager sees a long resume, they’re instantly primed to expect a weaker candidate.

* Showing up for an interview really early.  I’m not talking about 10 minutes; I’m talking about 30 minutes or more. Candidates with good judgement and a sense of how offices work don’t do this; they might arrive early, but they wait in the parking lot or in a coffee shop rather than showing up and expecting to be dealt with that early. Again, it’s not a deal-breaker, but I never see it done by the best candidates.

* Dropping off your resume in-person for a professional, office job.  Candidates who do this tend not to have a good sense of how most offices work and why and the fact that a hiring manager isn’t likely to have time or the inclination to meet with them on the spot. And again, no one is going to reject you for this (probably), but it’ll associate you with a weaker group of candidates right off the bat.

* FedExing your resume or sending a hard copy when the instructions call for electronic submissions, or any other gimmick done in the service of “standing out.”  I’ve ranted plenty in other posts about why doing this is a bad idea — but it’s on this particular list because I’ve literally never seen strong candidates do it.

* Using high-pressure, salesy tactics, like calling to follow up to “schedule an interview” or making unsupported statements like “I’m the best person for the job.”  This is another one where it’s annoying on its own merits, but on top of that it immediately associates you with a weaker group of candidates, because they’re the ones who typically do this.

{ 223 comments… read them below }

  1. Allison

    I got into an argument about mailing resumes on Twitter the other day. A staffing professional insisted it was a good idea and it shouldn’t reflect badly on candidates, even go so far as to say it’s how people should apply instead of e-mail because a physical resume is harder to ignore than an e-mail. I tried to explain that while no one should be rejected for it, it makes candidates look dated, which can really reflect poorly on them. To me, mailing a resume when you’re instructed to send one electronically (and not given an address as an option) says “sorry, I’m too stuck in the 80’s to follow your instructions.” He was having none of it. If he doesn’t count it against candidates, fine, but I work in an industry where innovation is embraced, and we need people who are willing to keep up with changes in technology.

    1. Matthew Soffen

      This isn’t even a “changes in technology” thing. Its a following basic instructions thing.

      If I say “Submit your resume electronically, I mean SUBMIT YOUR RESUME ELECTRONICALLY.

      You can’t follow THAT simple instruction ? What else are you not going to do when instructed to do it ?

      1. tt

        Matthew, that’s exactly what I was thinking. Do you really want the first impression you make to be that you can’t follow instructions?

        1. Elizabeth

          Exactly! In my company, if instructions aren’t followed then projects don’t go correctly. We need people who can follow instructions and understand the importance of why instructions are in place.

      2. Bryce

        I once received an interview for a position (that ended up unfortunately not being what I wanted) because I was one of a few people who followed the instructions explicitly laid out in the want ad. Specifically, they wanted a cover letter in the form of an email and a resume in plain text format.

      3. AnonyMouse

        Yeah, if a job posting includes any instructions for how the application should be submitted, that is definitely how you have to do it…ignoring the instructions makes you stand out, sure, but not in a good way.

      4. Liane

        Am really late to this party, but here goes.
        THIS!
        It *is* all about following instructions. And potential employers deciding not to waste time on an applicant who won’t follow instructions, goes back a long time. My first post-college job was at a small laboratory, not a dozen people. When our manager placed a newspaper ad, it said to call after 5pm (when we were closed) and leave a message with your phone number. People who contacted us any other way, including daytime calls, went into the Reject Pile right then, because they hadn’t followed instructions.

      5. nep

        +1
        It’s about following directions, plain and simple. Says a hell of a lot when you can’t, or won’t, no matter what the reason or intent.

      6. Kaylee

        I have trouble explaining this to my well meaning Dad who says ‘if you want to stand out, make the effort to go hand in your resume and cover letter in person’. Dad. They say to submit it electronically. That means they WANT IT ELECTRONICALLY. I’m not going to impress them delivering it in person, they’re going to think I’m a special snowflake who can’t follow directions.

        1. Ceb

          They will definitely think you are a special snowflake!

          I recently fielded applicants for my boss and had to tell one forlorn-looking girl that the manager was not available to speak with her, despite the fact that she had climbed the stairs to drop off her buff-coloured-card folded resume in person. When she repeated her request I promised that I would pass on her application and reiterated that my boss was not available to speak with her. Resumes were requested electronically for a reason- we work to tight deadlines, and have regular phone conferences. Neither of us have time to chit-chat with buff-coloured resume-holders. I can’t even remember what she looked like, but I certainly remember the resume, and the delivery, and neither helped her cause. (Although I did pass it on).

        2. Annonymouse

          Also sounds like dad isn’t keeping up with the times.

          For at least the past 10 years (probably closer to 15) people have done things electronically.

          Everyone has the internet now. Everyone uses emails and has access to them across multiple devices. Every work database I’ve used is internet based.

          Paper resumes just can’t do that.

    2. Lizzy May

      Besides why would you send it in the mail and have it arrive days later when you can email something and have it there right away? Hiring managers are all different but for the ones who cull applications as they arrive why set yourself up for a delay? Why risk your application coming in late? Follow the instructions. There is no positive to doing something else.

      1. Amy

        I hate when people mail in their resumes. It just makes more work for me, as now I have to scan it into my computer, to keep it with all the other resumes. That’s not a lot of work, but that’s still 2 more minutes than I had to do with everyone else – who emailed me their resumes, like I said to in the ad.

    3. sjw

      I frequently don’t open / review my “snail mail” inbox for days at a time. If it’s not obviously something time sensitive I may just let it sit for awhile, especially if I’m quite busy.

      1. Natalie

        Same in my office. I’m the only one who has to deal with their USPS pile daily because I do payables. Everyone else may well let it sit, or be working remotely, or have other things literally piled on top of it.

    4. BRR

      If the process asks for email and you send it snail mail the only reason I’ll look at your resume is to take note of your name so I can remember who tried to circumvent the rules.

    5. HR Manager

      This must be the same person who believes that calling the recruiter to check if they’ve received your resume is a good idea.

      1. Jazzy Red

        Candidates wouldn’t do that if recruiters would acknowledge that the resume has been received.

        It’s not rocket science.

    6. Mephyle

      Isn’t a person involved in hiring going to need to search through the stack of applications electronically at some point? I can imagine your hold-out receiving a paper application and scanning it to put it in the electronic pile with the rest – NOT. If they hold on to that view, perhaps they do the opposite – print out all the applications and work with paper copies from that point on.

    1. Joey

      Yep. Me two.

      Fed exing and dropping off a hard résumé.

      Another no no for me. Putting “see résumé” on your online app.

      If you can’t follow basic directions you probably either suck or you’re a diva.

          1. Joey

            I’ve seen some say “mutual decision.” Okay right. To me that means you agreed that they needed to fire you or they agreed that you needed to quit. Not good.

        1. Sunshine

          Or the “objective” section on the resume that isn’t pertinent to the job you’re applying for. If the opening is for Chocolate Teapot Engineer, it’s silly to tell me your life goal is to “find a challenging position in the medical transcription field”.

        2. Marcy

          Yes, I got one of these. I ended up scheduling him for a phone interview anyway because I noticed several people from his company had applied so I thought it might be that it was a bad employer and possibly nothing wrong with the candidate. I asked him for an explanation and got “let’s just say it was a mutual decision”. That’s not an explanation! He didn’t make it to the in-person interview.

        3. Esly

          Also, per the “will explain”… though I agree that this is not worded in the best way, again for consultants and contractors, we are stumped when an online application wants us to indicate if we quit, resigned, got laid off or were fired, with no option to indicate that we successfully completed our term of consultancy or professional tasks as outlined in our contract. If you make sure that your company allows for other options or enough space to write-in a single coherent sentence to that effect at least… much better.

      1. Esly

        To commentor Joey:

        For many professionals who work as consultants or contractors, we are FORCED by porly designed online applications to write “see résumé” because the app is no configured to present our work history in terms of client lists, overlapping advisory roles, etc.—or even to note that they were consultant/contractor positions. Without the ability to indicate this clearly, a solid, thriving career is instead conveyed as a mess of job-hopping with no rhyme or reason—due completely to the rigid, useless one-size-fits-all of too many online application systems. If your company uses one like this, and you automatically discount or dismiss the “see résumé” applicants, you may be missing out on more than a few top-level applicants. Something to consider.

        1. aglaia761

          As a former contractor I found that the best way to complete online job applications was to put all of my job duties under My Company Name Inc. This way it showed that I had been employed for several years (me) and had many job duties under that.

          Once people saw my resume, they would be able to see the breadth of my skills and contracts.

  2. iBex

    Most of this list makes me cringe because these are things that I have been told to do by people that I trust.

    Examples:
    Pre-interview — “Stop by the office to drop off a hard copy of your resume in person. Dress professionally because the hiring manager may want to interview you right then and there!”
    Post-interview — “You need to follow up with the HR person every week to find out whether they’ve made a decision.”

    1. Courtney

      Any time I’ve been given that “advice,” it has only come from people who a) have not been active in the workforce for a while (meaning, haven’t looked for a new job in at least a decade) or b) are 55+ and just don’t get it. That whole “squeaky wheel gets the grease” line is so outdated and so wrong for the current workforce that it’s almost kind of heartbreaking that people do this and expect great results.

      It sucks that that kind of information is out there and is touted as the gospel for applying to jobs – and while I can’t necessarily say that it’s an absolute deal-breaker across the board – it just looks so bad and, like Alison said, immediately gives off the impression that they have absolutely no idea how an office works in 2014.

      1. Mabel

        I don’t think your “55+” argument is necessarily age related. I’m 51, and I’m in a tech field (and I read AAM!), and I definitely “get it.”

        1. AnonyMouse

          Yeah, I think it can also depend how active people have been in hiring/the job market recently. I know some people who are definitely 55+ and know far better than most how these things really work – because they’re in management now and they’ve been dealing with job candidates for the past 10+ years!

    2. some1

      See, I used to get that advice when looking for retail and cashiering jobs when I was in high school in the 90s. Even then, the store manager rarely had time to talk when you dropped off your application.

      1. K

        I got this advice too and I think it doesn’t work very well for retail either. Any time I tried calling to follow up the manager could never speak on the phone and they never returned my calls. I think there’s a point when they get annoyed by you dropping by the store or calling and they just throw your application away.

      2. tt

        In the early 2000’s, my then teenage brother went into a retail store to pick up an application. At the time he was a baseball umpire, and had just come from a game, so he was in uniform. I don’t remember what kind of store it was, but the staff gave him all sorts of attitude for not dressing up. He was only picking up an application, he wasn’t expecting anyone to stop and interview him, which is why he just stopped by on his way home from the game. I thought, do you seriously think people are going to dress up just to pick up an application?

        1. Not So NewReader

          A hold over from the old days. Yeah, you did dress to pick up an app. Heaven forbid, the manager figure out that you actually had a life going on.

          That rule still holds with some retailers around here.

        2. James M

          Retail is a different world. Although I have actually worked as a cashier, I still don’t have words to describe the oddities that pervade retail culture.

        3. SilverRadicand

          Yeah, this seems to be a major difference between blue-collar/high-turnover jobs vs white collar/office-y jobs. All the “Dress nice to pick up an application” and “Call the hiring manager if you haven’t heard anything for a week” can actually help you for a server/retail job, while for a office job they would seem totally out of touch. I think this really has a lot to do with the turnover rates and how much the manager’s desire could change in a week etc.

          I hire valets for a hospital and I wince a little every time I actually scheduled an interview after someone calls to check on their application, but that’s the business sometimes.

    3. Kelly L.

      My department is in the process of hiring a grad assistant right now, and so far I’ve had 4 or 5 people drop in “to check the status of my application,” and at least one who both called and came in on the same day. I give them the information I have about the process, but I kind of get the sense they want me to check off a little ticky box next to their names that says “Followed up. Gumption!”

      Back in my food service days, we’d have people sometimes who wanted to not only pick up an app, but to talk to someone right then…at high noon. What that really showed was that they had no idea about restaurants and hadn’t given it much thought! LOL

    4. B

      When I was at Reception and functioning as Recruiting Coordinator, I once had a candidate show up half an hour early. I joked (but not really) about it and he said “Oh I thought you were supposed to show up early.” Early, yes, but not 30 minutes. I came back with “Why, so you can sit out here with me for half an hour.” .. That was in my head though.

      Still doesn’t beat the candidate who showed up in an old band tee, jeans, and Converse.

    5. FD

      There *are* fields where you still pick up an application and where you can get interviewed on the stop. In the hospitality field and food service, I’ve had it happen for entry-level positions. (I’ve heard of it happening in retail too).

    6. Annonymouse

      We are about to advertise for a position at my work.
      I’d love to try and see someone try and drop it off in person because as a sports club:
      1) Generally no one is in before 2:30pm
      2) from 3:30pm onwards I am always busy. You will not get me or one of my bosses. I can barely get a hold of them and I’m here all the time.

  3. Lizzy May

    I come from a family of early birds and I have to fight my habits of being early when it’s an interview. I now aim for 10 minutes early but if I listened to my gut I’d easily be a half hour or more. I have done the hang out in a nearby coffee shop thing a lot because I always leave with time to spare just in case something goes wrong but I don’t want to walk in super early. I know how big a hassle that can be on the other end.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      I usually show up way early but, as Alison said, I don’t present myself at reception until about 10 minutes before the scheduled time. Even though you hope your potential new employer is reasonable, I leave time for delays that could double the travel time instead of trying to explain afterwards that I was late because the only major road between X and Y was closed down. Besides, chances are it’s in a neighborhood I don’t know, so I could have trouble finding the building or suite. Not all of them are well marked where I live.

      And to address one of the other points, if an RFP says the proposal should be submitted electronically to this email address in this format, along with 3 print copies delivered to this physical address, you follow the instructions or you do not get the contract. If a potential hire can’t follow simple directions, they could lose us millions of dollars in work and get dozens of their coworkers fired.

    2. hayling

      I am terrified of being late for an interview so I always give myself so much time that I arrive 30+ minutes early. I scope out the nearest coffee shop ahead of time and hang out there until 10 minutes before the interview. Also gives me a chance for a last minute pee break and mirror check in the bathroom.

      1. Michele

        I hate being late too. I am always very early but I do live in NYC. You never know what could happen on the subway so I to would rather be early and sit somewhere for a bit.

        1. Frances

          Yeah, I always hope for nice weather when I have an interview so I can work off my nerves by walking around the block a time or two.

          1. Elysian

            I love the idea of walking around the block but I never want to do it in my interview heels because… heels in DC and grates and ugh. But I also don’t want to do it in my commuting flip flop because what if someone sees me!!1! So I’m a coffee shop wait-er.

            1. Squirrel!

              What about getting a pid of those folding flats to keep in your purse for these occasions? You can comfortably walk around and tuck your heels in your purse (if possible), adn then change into the heels right before you enter the building (or in the bathroom of a local coffee shop / eatery).

              1. Mabel

                When I first moved to NYC, I would stand around the corner on the street and change my shoes. So many weird things happen in NYC, no one even bothers to look at you.

                1. Michele

                  That is exactly what I do and I have lived here for 12 years. I have even changed my shoes in the lobby next to the doorman before heading upstairs. Plus everyone does it so it really isn’t weird.

                2. voluptuousfire

                  Yep. In NYC, no one thinks twice about you changing your shoes in the middle of the sidewalk.

                  Bonus hint: if you use those tshirt jersey sheets on your bed and they came in a little pouch the same material as the sheets that cinch closed, hold onto them. They make great shoe bags. I use them for my heels in my interview bag.

        2. voluptuousfire

          This is why I’m thankful for a Starbucks on every other corner in Manhattan. Even better if it’s one of the locations with a bathroom and no line for it!

          1. voluptuousfire

            @ Michele and Mabel…same here. Commute in flats/flip flops and change into heels outside the building or in the lobby. Generally as soon as I’m in the lobby, my other shoes go on.

    3. Courtney

      I’m the same way. To me, being super early is always better than being super late, but I know well enough to not arrive for an interview more than 10-15 minutes early.

      I just interviewed someone for a job and he was 40 minutes early. My co-interviewer and I were actually stepping out to lunch when he arrived and it was just like, uh………………….

    4. Artemesia

      It is a good idea to aim to be 30 min early because stuff can happen — traffic jams, bus breakdowns etc etc that would make you late and THAT is a potential disaster. But then it is important to find someplace to cool your heels until about 5-10 minutes before the appointment time. If it has to be in the parking lot — fine — if there is a coffee shop, also fine.

      1. Turanga Leela

        I broke this rule once when I was just starting out. I left plenty of time to get to an interview, so I was early, but the interview was in the evening (like, 7 pm) in a downtown urban area that was completely deserted. No open shops, no places to sit where I felt comfortable, and not even a general lobby for the building—the first floor was just security. I ended up waiting in an empty upstairs lobby and apologizing for being so early.

        1. Case of the Mondays

          I bet you could have told security what was up and they would have let you hang out down there with them.

        2. Kelly L.

          This happened to me once too, in this sort of warehouse area outside of town. It was actually one of the initial flags that I probably wouldn’t like working there–there was NO coffee shop for miles, NO real lobby, I’d taken the bus so couldn’t sit in a car, just nothing but sun-baked concrete outside (it was August or so) and a tiny, dirty little vestibule inside that had one chair in it. I just started thinking about how bleak the whole setup was, and I was just coming off a job at a college, and you know how colleges are–they’re kind of their own little town, and there are trees and coffee and ponds and fluffy chairs and stuff. I would have hated going there every day. And then the interview revealed that the actual work sucked, too, and as for the inside of the office, imagine the bleakest, dingiest beige office you can envision with a few cliche posters of “motivational” jargon. Eeeeuuurrrrrrgh. I suppose somebody’s got to work there, but I’m glad it didn’t end up being me.

    5. Recruiter

      Oh, I absolutely loathe the fact that interviewees think it is acceptable to show up 30+ minutes early for an interview. 1-I scheduled you a certain time due to the fact that the hiring manager has other things he needs to do that day, and 2-it speaks to your time management skills. I understand leaving early and making sure you’re not delayed by traffic, construction, etc., but stay out in your car until about 10 minutes before your interview!

      Last week, I scheduled an interview for an applicant for 10:30am. No joke, he showed up to the office at 9am, an hour and a half early, wanting to know if he could be interviewed then! It was really difficult for me to respond without a snarky comeback.

      1. tt

        I assume you told him no?

        That would drive me crazy. Last year, a candidate showed up an hour early and sat in our lobby, checking out everything. I think he wanted to get a feel for the flow of the place, the students going in and out, etc, but every time one of us had to go through the lobby and see him, it made us feel like we should start the interview right away so he didn’t have to sit there.

      1. Sarah G

        I power-posed before my job interview too, and I got the job! And they interviewed 36 people for 2 positions… LOVE that TED talk — it’s probably my all-time favorite! Not to mention I was a long-distance candidate. I truly believe the power-posing made a difference. :)

    6. meesh

      I’m always early for interviews in NYC and always searched for a coffee shop around the corner etc to hang out until about 10 mins before.

      Only one time did this cause an issue: I had 2 interviews in a day about 2 hours apart from one another. After the first, I headed uptown for the second interview but had about 45 minutes to kill. I went to the nearest bodega. At 3:45, I left the bodega and noticed a ton of police presence and a barricade around the street that I needed to get to.

      Apparently President Obama was having a date night with Michelle after his speech at the hotel adjacent to my office. No one was allowed in or out for about 4 hours. That was an interesting call to my HR contact who was in California.

      My voicemail went something like ” oh hi there! This is meesh. I just wanted to let you know that President Obama is in New York and they’ve barricaded the office and I am unable to come in for the interview. Please call me back as soon as you can”

      That was interesting. I wound up getting the job though :)

  4. Stick Tech Drone

    … making unsupported statements like “I’m the best person for the job.” This is another one where it’s annoying on its own merits, but on top of that it immediately associates you with a weaker group of candidates, because they’re the ones who typically do this.

    I actually have a job application in the works that wants to know just that: Why I am the best person for the job?
    How in the world can anyone themselves know the answer to it?

    I frankly have no idea how to answer it so the application has been backburnered; everything I’ve come up with so far is pretentious and reeks of bull behind.

    Other than the fact I really should get cracking on this app, it’s disheartening that they seem to be casting the net for needlessly aggressive and arrogant candidates.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Just assume what they’re really asking is: “Tell us why you’d be great at the job.” That’s what you should answer; forget the part that seems to be asking you to compare yourself to other candidates.

    2. Annonymouse

      I think the only time you can say something like this is if, like me, you work in a niche field where people with your level of experience and/or skills is literally one in a million. (Specific sports industry where the sports skills aren’t easily transferable)

      I normally say highly or uniquely qualified … Because it is true.

      I would never say best or uniquely qualified if I was applying for any other industry though. That is arrogant and you really have no way of knowing.

  5. Annamaison

    related to arriving early: I’ve had many new hires show up 1/2 hr early on their first day. I know they’re only trying to show a spirit of go-getting-ness, but it sure throws a monkey wrench into my day. I was using that half-hour to get things ready for the new hire! I’ve taken to being direct and saying to people “Do not arrive early on your first day.”

    1. Gwen

      That’s so strange! It would never occur to me to show up early for my first day…they told me when they wanted me there, so…that’s when I will appear. (I will, in all likelihood, get TO the office 15-20 minutes early, just in case, and sit in my car fiddling on my phone until it’s appropriate to go in)

      1. Jamie

        I am hopelessly bad at directions and when nervous need to be early, or I’ll stress about what is up ahead that will make me late so I do two things.

        1. Always do a dry run before so I know the location.
        2. Scout out a nearby parking lot where I can unobtrusively park when I get there early. That way I can show up 30 minutes early so I’m calm, but I walk in 5 minutes early so I’m not annoying.

    2. BRR

      At my first job they told me when to show up which I did but HR didn’t bother to prepare at all so I had to sit in her office while she checked her email and got her coffee.

    3. Addiez

      We tell people to arrive at 10AM on their first day – gives us time to be settled/ready and eliminates any space for confusion.

      1. Beancounter in Texas

        Ditto. My new hires tend to start on a Monday & I’m there just at 8am, so I want a little time to make sure I’ve got my training materials lined up!

    4. Mints

      Maybe you could give them a window like 9-9:30? That way they could get there earlier at 9, but there’s still clear directions.
      I’m not sure, though, this definitely seems like you should sit in the car or cafe, just like the interview advice

    5. Lily in NYC

      Ugh, I know! Same thing happens here. I’ve started telling people not to come in until 10:00 on their first day so I will have time to settle in and answer some emails before they arrive.

    6. JoAnna

      I showed up half an hour early to my first day at my current job, but that’s because the route and traffic patterns were unfamiliar so I wanted to give myself plenty of time. However, I hung out in the communal lobby outside the office until the appointed time and then went in.

    7. Connie-Lynne

      We tell new hires to show up at 9am for their first day, and let them know we are a jeans-and-T-shirts kind of office.

      HR does 3 hours of orientation before releasing them to their hiring managers, so while a manager might see you sitting in the lobby as they arrive and give a hearty welcome-I’ll-see-you-after-orientation, we all get plenty of time to get prepped for the first day.

  6. Bend & Snap

    Also re: follow up, don’t try to get sneaky. I can’t even tell you how many candidates have tried to get past the receptionist by telling her they’re “returning my call.”

    I know who you are. I know I didn’t call you. And I don’t appreciate your lying to get our receptionist to break our policy of not connecting candidates directly to hiring managers via phone.

    1. John

      Oh, good one. I also love the people who track you down by calling around to other employees and then they use the name of the person who identified you as the hiring manager and say, “Maria asked me to call you,” as if she is endorsing their candidacy. No, she gave you a factual answer.

      1. tt

        I wonder if these people think you won’t talk to each other and find out, or if they just think you’ll be so impressed with them, it won’t matter?

        1. John

          The thing is, it’s always so darned obvious. I have vendors who do that all the time, too. “Bob told me to give you a call.” Yeah, because Bob wants my time wasted with sales pitches. It immediately gets my back up.

  7. sam

    I’m always an obsessively early/punctual person, so I will actually scout out coffee shops before I go places (not just interviews) so that I know I have somewhere to sit and chill, and I bring something to read. If it’s an interview, it’s always a handy spot to brush up on company information or even re-review my own resume.

    Worst arriving early story (non-job interview related) – i spent six months working for my old law firm’s Milan, Italy office. As much as I hate to stereotype, everything you have heard about Italians and being late is true. Meetings routinely started an hour to 2 hours late. Our christmas party was scheduled to start at 8pm. Knowing that no one would show up on time, I deliberately didn’t even call to order a taxi to my apartment waaaay across town until after 8 (even though I was basically sitting around my apartment twitching because I was “late”). Got to the restaurant/party space venue after 9. Not only was I the first one there, the lights weren’t even on and the doors were locked. I had to sit outside until the office manager finally showed up at 9:30.

    1. AnonyMouse

      I do this too! For interviews, I typically pick a convenient coffee shop, and for other stuff, just something cool in the area I want to check out. Fortunately, I live in a very interesting city. But to bring it back on topic, I really recommend this for interviews. Plan to get to the area 30+ minutes early, but having already identified a nearby coffee shop to sit and review your notes one last time.

    2. KerryOwl

      If that’s the case, why were they so concerned with getting the trains to run on time? They were just going to miss them anyway!

      1. SC in SC

        I think they’ve given-up on the trains as well. A friend and colleague from Milan told me that when it comes to transferring trains, it’s not a connection but a coincidence.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger

      Holy cow that would drive me into a murderous rage! I’d just stop showing up for meetings. How the hell do they get anything done if a meeting can take most of the day (assuming the last person shows up 2-3 hours late)?

      1. Kai

        Right? I know it’s just part of the culture but I don’t think I would function in an environment like that very well at all. The chance of being late always makes me break out in a sweat.

        1. the gold digger

          I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile and the women I worked with (indigenous women) were always late. I could live with that, but they weren’t the same late, so newcomers were always straggling into the meetings. Again, I could live with that – but then the director would start the meeting over again from the beginning, which made me crazy.

          I did not manage to change that part of the culture and I never was able to convince anyone to write down phone messages instead of waiting until they saw me in person two days later to tell me that my boss from the Peace Corps had called and I needed to call her back right away.

        2. Beancounter in Texas

          Culture differences make things interesting. When I lived in the Middle East for a couple of years, a wedding I attended with a bride from Eritrea (small country in Africa), the wedding party didn’t show up until an hour and a half later for the ceremony and not learning our lesson, we waited a full three hours for them to show at the reception that evening, even after arriving an hour “late.” Can you imagine showing up for an interview late and still being “too early”?

    4. BRR

      My worst early story is I had an interview in DC near DuPont circle at 9am. I stayed with the only person I know who lives in Lorton (pretty far away). So I leave at 7am to be safe. Guess which day DC decided to have no traffic. I parked at 7:30.

      1. Annie

        Always- I’m DC area too and every time I’ve had to go farther south than Rockville for an interview its either a jack-knifed tractor trailer on 270 or the day everyone decided to stay home… never able to predict it either…

      2. Shortie

        DC is a killer. I was late for an interview once because I gave myself an hour and a half for a drive that usually took 45 minutes during rush hour, but there was an accident, so it took me 2 hours. The hiring manager was quite gracious and I actually still got the job because there is nothing one can do about DC traffic.

    5. ConstructionHR

      Re coffee shops: remember to treat the server well, because the person behind you might be the hiring manager.

      1. Beancounter in Texas

        A coworker of mine had a road rage incident on her way to an interview. She said she rolled her window down, shouted at the other woman and flipped her off. She sped off & didn’t pay attention. Nervous for the interview, she starts sweating bullets when the other driver walks past her into the office suite. Yep, she was the hiring manager! No, she didn’t get the job.

    6. Lily in NYC

      Ha, I’m also always ridiculously early and used to live in Italy. It was maddening. I forced myself to be an hour late to a party once and was still the first one there.

      1. Michele

        My Italian vendors drive me crazy. My first meeting with them was scheduled for 6:00pm they arrived at 8:30pm.

      2. Sam

        Italy is an absolutely lovely place to spend time if you don’t have any actual obligations to be anywhere or do anything. The minute you try to conduct business though… (Common refrain amongst the expats – “first world culture, third world economic system”)

        It was the psychological downfall of more than one colleague.

    7. Connie-Lynne

      Oh, Italy! My traveling companion in Florence was having a devil of a time adjusting to jetlag, and would get hungry for dinner around 6pm every evening. Because she kept falling asleep around 9:30pm, she wasn’t OK just having a snack and then dinner later.

      She’d fidget until 7:30pm and then bust out the door to whatever restaurant we were eating at, often beating the proprietors to opening. It never failed that they’d ask us “so where in the USA are you from?”

    8. Amanda

      Same sort of thing happened when I was in the Peace Corps in Africa. “African Time” is pretty much the same thing as “Italian Time.” I remember being reallllly late to a meeting once ( like an hour). When I arrived there was no one there and I thought I had missed the meeting. I was the first one there.

      1. the gold digger

        As I mentioned, I was a PCV in Chile. A friend was a PCV in Kenya. We had an RPCV event – a cooking class given by two Ethiopian women who lived in our city in the US. The plan was for them to start cooking at 11 and for us to eat at 12. Megan showed up at 11:30, took one look at the kitchen, where the women were busy with doro wat and injera and other potentially delicious things, and said, “Yeah this won’t be happening any time soon – I’ll be back in a few hours.”

        She was right. The food was not ready until 5.

  8. Mallorie, the recruiter

    One that I would add to this list is mentioning that you are looking for something different than the job applied to. While it is not an absolute deal breaker (and I’ve hired people who have done this), it automatically knocks them down a peg or two and they must REALLY impress me to regain that footing.

    Examples:
    “I’m ok with part-time, but I’d really like a full-time job” — the job applied to was part time (I hear this from about 50% of people applying to PT jobs)
    “I’m ok with that location, but I’d really like something closer to my house”
    “I’m looking to get experience, because I’ve been unable to find work in (insert completely unrelated field here)”

    Again, I don’t fault people for having these thoughts, but I guess it’s the need to articulate them during an interview that turns me off. Tell me why you want THIS JOB, not why this job will do for now.

    Also – prepare for your interview. Again, I’ve hired for people who were clearly winging it, but the ones that are prepared generally interview so much better, even with less experience. (Side bar, most of my hiring was in relatively entry level positions, so maybe the unprepared thing happens less with more seasoned professionals).

    1. Anx

      I totally understand why alluding to wanting full-time work can hurt you in an interview.

      If you DO want full-time work and can only find part-time postings, or mostly part-time postings, would it be ethical to take the job and start looking for a full-time job after a few months or weeks? Of course the best fit for the job would be someone for whom part-time work is a bonus. But part-time jobs still sometimes expect full-time availability. With so many jobs moving toward part-time, what IS the best way to approach an increasingly part-time job market when you’re trying to earn a living?

      1. Mallorie, the recruiter

        Yeah it can be hard, and I personally think the instances of people working 2 or more PT jobs is going to be far greater than in the past (I don’t love this, its just what is happening). I think candidates have to be careful about accepting PT work if they KNOW they will leave for the first FT opportunity for the same reasons you wouldn’t want to accept ANY work when you KNOW you will be leaving the first chance you get – it can ruin your reputation. While many candidates want and need full time, I also get that many candidates NEED SOMETHING ANYTHING when the going gets rough. I think a lot of candidates want to either be honest or hope that they can parlay it into something else when interviewing for PT, but know going in that you are potentially hurting your chances in the interview by even bringing it up. I think the biggest thing I can recommend is: if you are seeing nothing but a lot of PT opportunities, see if you can make 2 PT jobs work for at least 6 months – 1 year… and if you are the bomb at one (or both) of those PT jobs, I think you drastically increase your ability to potentially move up or gain more hours without ruining your credibility by jumping ship ASAP.

    2. AnonyMouse

      +1.
      I feel like some people may do this because they’ve been given advice along the lines of “well, just go to the interview anyway, and even if this position isn’t the right fit, if they like you they may call you back for something else down the line.” I understand that advice, and have actually been part of a hiring process in which we had a wonderful candidate who just wasn’t a fit for our role, so we passed her information on to a few other hiring managers. But we did this because she had an impressive resume AND gave it her all in the interview stage, not because she came in and told us she really didn’t want that job and was much more interested in XYZ!

      1. Mallorie, the recruiter

        Yes this is a good point. And I think in a rough job market, candidates are trying anything to get “their foot in the door” …. which that saying is my own personal pet peeve! But with such a huge influx of candidates (another symptom of the rough job market) recruiters and hiring managers rightly or wrongly get irritated when it seems their time is being wasted. When a candidate gives the impression nearly off the bat that they are not really interested in the job they just applied to, but were instead hoping to use that job to get a different job, I feel like that backfires on them more times than not.

        1. AnonyMouse

          “Get your foot in the door” as a saying has always grated on me, too! I think it’s at least partly because it conjures up a silly image in my mind of a foot in interview-appropriate shoes wedged in between a door and its frame :). But you’re right about this usually backfiring. If people are interested in making a connection to a hiring manager or recruiter, even if the job isn’t their ideal role, they do need to avoid coming across as a time-waster.

  9. Coelura

    I have a new one after this past week. When told to call the interviewer when you arrive in the office – do it! Don’t just sit in the foyer & assume that the interviewer will eventually come see if you are there. The candidate actually, said “well, I figured you’d just assume that I would be here on time & come get me.” ARGH!

    It was her last interview & was with a senior leader. It hurt her badly.

    1. ZSD

      Wait, you asked her to call from her cell phone once she was in the building? That actually strikes me as an odd request. Why wasn’t there a receptionist for her to check in with? And what would you have told a candidate who didn’t have a cell phone to do?

      1. Michele

        Actually a lot of offices in NYC and a big shoe company in Beaverton, OR have a phone right outside the locked door or in the lobby with everyone’s extension listed you just ring them for there, you don’t have to use your cell phone.

        1. ZSD

          Oh, I see. So it’s not a matter of not being able to check in; it’s a matter of security and getting into the office in the first place. That makes sense.

      2. chewbecca

        People here sometimes schedule interviews during my lunch break (I’m front desk). I always let them know and they usually make arrangements with the interviewee, and sometimes the easiest thing for them is to give them their phone number.

  10. Mike B.

    I think I’m part of a dying breed, but I really prefer to see a one-page resume. Even though it can be challenging to provide your background so succinctly, the impact of the condensed information is higher. And really, once they hit two pages the details start to get a lot less salient–it’s nice that you’ve been consistently employed for a decade, but I really want to see whether you’ve done something comparable to the job we’re hiring for, not what you accomplished in your first job out of college.

    Four pages is in a different class, though. That’s perhaps someone from academia who’s accustomed to creating CVs, but more likely someone who just doesn’t know what the hiring manager wants to see.

    1. Relosa

      I like one-page resumes that are well-thought out because if it’s done right, creates a lot of room for discussion during the interview, but leaves no uneasy questions like employment gaps.

    2. Dee

      Currently employed, but I’m thinking my next resumee will be 1 page. Most recently I’ve used 2-pages. If they want to see more, they can see everything on LinkedIn.

    3. BRR

      I’m only 27 but I feel the same way about a resume (minus certain industries where multiple pages is more the norm).We just hired for a position and one candidate had 20 years of work history on her two page resume including a four month stint in a position she clearly took because she moved and was out of our field with no relevant experience. People cut it down to a page for years, they can keep doing it.

    4. Artemesia

      Yeah in Academia you expect to see a 30 page Vita from senior people listing every dang thing they ever published.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        That’s how my boss’s academic CV is — I think it’s about 25 – 30 pages long and lists everything ever published by him or by others about his work; every lecture he has ever given at any campus or professional organization; and I-don’t-know-what-all else . . .

        1. jag

          In the US word CV means work life – so comprehensive and long is appropriate. The word resume means summary, so brief makes sense. A CV and resume are not the same thing.

          The appropriate length of a resume for most people depends on how much work experience they have. New person just out of school: about 3/4 of a page. Very senior person with long history of accomplishments: two full pages.

        2. Sara

          Yes, but this is the expected norm in that field. If you tried to apply for a job with a condensed 1 or 2 page resume, you would be laughed at–people do want to see every single publication on there. In academia, the cover letter is where you would boil it down to the important details and summarize.

    5. Turanga Leela

      I’m with you, Mike B. Even the two-page resumes I’ve seen get pretty flabby. From younger candidates, I see a lot of “jobs” that could really just be bullet points in their education section (e.g. research assistant work, editing the student paper). Kids, don’t do this to yourselves! Keep things succinct.

      1. Erin

        Ooh…this is a good idea. It’s something I’ve struggled with that the “job” most relevant to the work I want to go into is the internships I did in college, not the admin work I’ve been doing since I graduated.

        1. Turanga Leela

          I’d actually put your most relevant experience in your work/experience section, regardless of whether it’s an internship or longer-term job. I’m talking about resumes that are two pages long because the candidate lists all experience (student clubs, volunteer work, etc.) as separate jobs. What I encounter is really an editing problem: there’s nothing wrong with putting internships or extracurricular work in your experience section and really fleshing them out, but if a new graduate has ten jobs listed with 2-3 bullet points on each, she’s not highlighting the most important information about herself. The important jobs get lost.

          A quick example from my hiring: I hire entry-level attorneys, so plenty of them list internships or clinics as professional experience, and that’s fine. But if someone was a TA for three classes, I don’t need to see a separate list of duties and accomplishments for each one. A bullet point under the person’s law school saying “Teaching Assistant for Civil Procedure, Constitutional Rights, and Race & the Law courses” is plenty, and I can always ask for more information if I need it.

    6. Lora

      Depends on field. If I got a one-page resume from a candidate for a scientific research position, they had better be fresh out of college. I prefer to see a CV, especially if your last name is something common and I won’t be able to look it up easily on PubMed without getting a zillion people who aren’t you. I need to know publications, presentations, professional associations and what status you have in them (e.g. if you’re the chair of Committee X for ISPE, then you must know Ron at OldJob, you probably aren’t a total idiot and you have good connections who might be able to speak to your abilities and personality). If you do community outreach and education in the field as well, I want to know about that too.

      1. Purr purr purr

        I was going to suggest similar. My dad is an engineer who works on defense and aeronautical projects and his resume is more than 10 pages long with very little detail for each job (usually just dates, job title, company and a one sentence description of the work). I think it’s different based on the industry/field a person is in and whether they’ve usually had staff positions or they’re a contractor. As a contractor, having a two-page long resume is almost impossible. In my profession (science and petroleum-based and usually staff positions), two pages is difficult because I have to include the things you mentioned, e.g. publications, professional associations, etc.

    7. De Minimis

      My wife has a very long resume. I think she should cut it down, but each job does usually have some kind of relevance to what she’s applying for. I guess it works, she generally gets interviews. I still wouldn’t recommend it. I think too in her case a lot of her positions are borderline academia [not as faculty, but assisting with research studies] so it may make a bit more sense.

    8. CoffeeLover

      In my industry, you need a really good reason to go above 1page. I’m talking senior executive at a firm with years of experience and a plethora of accomplishments. Even then, 2 would be absolute maximum.

  11. BeckyinDuluth

    I have been thinking a lot about your advice in this regard lately. The company I was working for closed, so I’m currently unemployed and looking for work. As part of my unemployment, I’m required to do a set number of activities in my job search. Several of them are clearly aimed at retail/non-office work (apply in person with a company; call or email employers about jobs). It is so frustrating to see the people who are supposed to be helping people get jobs (our local workforce center) give out such bad advice, at least for the kind of job I want. They should hire me to go over their advice to candidates and update it! ;)

    1. Nichole

      I was in workforce development for a while, and while I’d say my state is getting it right in a lot of ways, it was frustrating that a one-size-fits-all geared toward entry level workers was kind of the default with our job search resources. I could easily direct to resources for entry level and low paying jobs, but for people with any significant workforce experience, the advice I could offer was minimal. We just weren’t well prepared to help them. I can see the POV that someone who has more workforce experience would need less help with the job hunting process itself, but we are in an economically depressed area where people of all socioeconomic statuses are facing unemployment, some for the first time in 20-30 years. I was an avid reader of this blog, so I was able to adjust my approach more effectively when a client came in with more experience, but we never received any formal training on the differences when you’re job hunting for retail/food service/factory work vs. jobs beyond entry level and how those differences impact our clients.

    2. Anx

      Don’t get me started on workforce development.

      I have been un- and underemployed for years and have had a very difficult time getting any sort of assistance because they insisted I had no barriers to employment because I had a bachelor’s degree. It’s mind boggling.

    3. JoAnna

      My husband finally got a month’s worth of unemployment on Wednesday. They suspended his benefits for a month because they insisted that he’d been rehired by his old company, and every time he’d fill out and mail their stupid form, they’d lose and insist that he’d never sent it in. It took him a solid month to get in touch with a live person and insist that they figure out what the heck was going on. It’s maddening. We have no idea why they would think he was rehired by his old company.

  12. TheExchequer

    Interestingly, I got zapped by one interviewer for “showing up too early” when I arrived between five-ten minutes early. You just can’t win with some people.

    1. hayling

      5-10 minutes early is just fine! Says something about the interviewer’s rigidity – probably not someone you want to work for!

    2. Chriama

      That’s odd. Does this interview expect people to be “perfectly” timely? How does that make sense. You always need a buffer — to go to the washroom, find your desk, turn on your computer, etc. Unless the instructions said “show up at 9am” instead of “your interview is at 9am”, what was his reasoning/explanation?

    3. Lizzie

      I had the same thing happen to me. I came early because I was told (by someone who worked there, although not the interviewer himself) that I might have to fill out an application before the interview. So I came in 10 minutes before my appointment. The receptionist who I checked in with was friendly and did not comment on my arrival time, but the interviewer walked through the office and commented in a very annoyed tone, “You’re really early.”

      I did not get the job, but between that comment and the disorganization of the rest of the process, I’m not broken up about it.

  13. Seal

    I work in academia where submitting a curriculum vitae (a longer, more detailed resume) is the norm when applying for positions, but that still doesn’t give you license to submit a novel. For entry level positions it is not uncommon to receive several ridiculously long CVs (in the 20-25 page range) that include details about every job held going back to HS, lists of every class taken in graduate school with summaries, and long lists of references with paragraphs for each entry describing their relationship with the candidate. Long CVs that contain more filler than actual relevant content are definitely deal-breakers for me and most of my colleagues.

    1. fposte

      Yeah, CV length should come from presentations and publications, not granularity about pre-graduation activity.

    2. jag

      Right. Don’t hire someone because their CV is full of fluff. Eliminate them from consideration. If they make an error like that in the application process, just imagine how terrible their research or teaching ability must be. For sure.

    3. EB

      This, so much this. We discarded so many CVs that were filled with things like classes in graduate school, or programs I can use (programs you wrote, sure, but don’t tell me you can use basic stats software). Also, while telling us about your research assistantships doesn’t hurt, it really doesn’t help (your discipline may vary) because we don’t care that you were an RA, we care that you published articles as an RA, that you ran your own subproject that you designed as an RA (which can go in your research agenda document), and that your PI will write a recommendation letter.

  14. BRR

    I see the last two on LinkdIn articles all the time and everybody always comments how it’s great advice to stand out. I need to take advil from face palming too hard.

  15. Bee

    My boss is the HR manager, and in the midst of a spike in recruiting. Earlier this week she had 4-6 interviews scheduled back-to-back on the same day. One individual showed up and asked to be interviewed at the same time without warning (she had been called and asked to schedule an interview, but a time had not yet been set) and another individual got his times mixed up and showed up two hours(!!) early. I ended up having to perform both interviews because both my boss and the hiring manager were tied up in the interviews that had been actually scheduled. She was very annoyed, and even though both candidates were very strong it put them both in a negative place right from the get-go.

    1. straws

      I’d be very annoyed too! I once had a candidate show up a week early and was instructed to interview him anyway. I very much wanted to make up an important meeting so that I couldn’t. The hiring manager hated recruiting and ended up hiring the guy anyway. Surprise! He was awful!

    2. Zillah

      The person who just showed up clearly has problems. Getting the time wrong is a major oversight, but one that I can sort of see being a really unfortunate but one-off mistake. If it was me, though, I’d be mortified once I realized the mistake and come back in two hours.

  16. Sales Professional

    I will disagree on your last point and say that using these tactics will work to your benefit if you are interviewing for a high level professional sales position.

    I work in medical device sales and if I can’t “close the deal” in an interview with a direct close, there’s no chance I’ll ever move to the next round.

    Similarly, when I was a manager and interviewed candidates, I expected this type of behavior.

    Also, FexExing a resume in this line of work would get you pretty far in the interview process. You’d look aggressive and would stand out from the pack – which is what we are looking for in this job.

      1. Sales Professional

        You know, I find this so interesting because some of the feedback you’ve received is just not the norm (from what I find) in a high-pressure, high stakes sales environment.

        Maybe the managers who don’t seek an aggressive closer in an interview are few and far between and happen to post on your site. As someone who is at the top of my field, and has successfully interviewed for and been offered many sought after positions, I have found it’s important to be direct and aggressive during any high-level sales interview. My performance and sales numbers speak for themselves when I’m interviewing, but the ability to demonstrate that I can connect with my interviewer and “close the deal” are just as important as my track record.

        And I’ll disagree with Joey below. I’m in medical device sales and with a very well established company and “grilling the cheesiness” is part of the interview process. It’s part of the interview culture. Is it expected once the applicant is hired? No. But it is expected that the applicant can jump through the hoops before they move on to the next round.
        Just my 2 cents.

    1. Chriama

      Haha! Alison used to add the “only in sales” caveat and several commenters disagreed. Maybe it depends on the kind of sales you do?

    2. Joey

      It really depends. My wife does medical sales and everyone told her to be super aggressive and salesy. Guess how she got her current job? By listening to me telling her to cut out all of that crap and treat the hiring manager like a person instead of someone with a checklist of cheesy hiring practices. Best job she’s had, best managers she’s had, and best company reputation. But you’re right, some of the companies younger, less established companies grill the cheesiness.

      1. Joey

        What’s interesting is the people she initially lost out to were 20somethings with little to no experience. In the job she got hired at her 10+yrs of experience made her the junior person.

    3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      We’ll disagree on this one. I’ve been in sales for, lord god look at that, close to thirty years, and in a hiring position for a good portion of that. I don’t like a sales person who steps away from the norms and around the box to get in my face anymore than the next person.

      What does impress me is a candidate who uses best consultative sales practices during the interview. Nothing impresses me more than someone driving, subtly, to determine my pain points, for example.

      Not impressive: asking what they can do to get me in that car, I mean get me to hire them that day.

      To the topic at hand, I definitely do not want an aggressive “the rules don’t belong to me, pay attention to me now” dude representing my brand.

    4. LBK

      I imagine it depends on whether the company itself uses hard selling techniques – lots of direct consumer sales don’t do that anymore because it’s extremely off-putting to most customers, especially younger ones. Individual customers now are generally more well-informed and prefer personal conversations where the rep treats them like a person instead of a target, which fits more with the interview and application style Alison outlines.

  17. Michele

    I would also like to add not bringing copies of your resume to the interview. I had a candidate that when I asked her if she brought a copy of her resume her response to me was I just emailed to you again this morning. Why didn’t you print it out? Excuse me. On top of that she was 20 minutes late for no reason. I even gave her an out. We had an elevator in the building that would sometimes get stuck. HR would actually tell candidates to be a bit early because of the elevator situation. I asked her if she got stuck in the elevator and she said no I live 2 blocks away.

    1. Mallorie, the recruiter

      While her response to the resume question is what would have thrown me off (“Why didn’t you print it?” – yikes!), I would not necessarily fault someone for not bringing a printed copy, especially if they had freshly emailed me one that morning. I do, however, instruct candidates to always bring copies to their in person interviews!

    2. Chriama

      I don’t think you should expect someone to bring a hard copy of their resume if they just emailed it to you that same morning. And in general, I wouldn’t advise a hiring manager to penalize someone for not bringing a hard copy if not instructed (and in principle I feel the company should incur that expense and not pass it along to candidates, although I know the cost is minimal).

      To a candidate though, I would always recommend being overprepared — notepad, extra pens, breath mints/gum, and additional copies of your resume. That’s just because if you don’t get flustered by being unprepared for something, you’re likely to interview better.

      1. Kelly L.

        I always brought at least one–if nothing else, just to “cram” off it myself while I waited at the aforementioned coffee shop. I mean, obviously I remembered where I’d worked, but reading it over beforehand helped me collect my thoughts and mentally rehearse things they might ask me about the resume. I don’t remember if I had extras, though if the employer wanted one, they could have mine.

    3. Artemesia

      Her not having printed it? Well I can imagine that she thought Emailing was enough and that is a little thing. Her telling me ‘why didn’t you print it if you wanted it.’ She is out the door; who wants to hire someone who is already snotting at you in the interview?

    4. Joey

      This is one I disagree with. If I’m a hiring manager I want that candidate to know that everyone she talks to is prepared (ie has reviewed her résumé and is ready to discuss it). Asking a candidate for copies of resumes to me gives the impression that that you think the candidate isn’t all that important.

      1. AnonyMouse

        I generally agree, but it’s probably a good idea for candidates to bring copies of their resume anyway…one time an interviewer had me meet with her boss when I had just gone in to meet her, because it was going well, he’d need to sign off anyway, and he happened to have some time. She had a copy of my resume already, but he didn’t since our meeting was last minute. I’m sure they could have printed one for me, but I think it helped slightly that I had them on hand already (I did end up getting an offer, FWIW).

        1. Michele

          Exactly. In my interviews if I thought someone would be a good fit with the team I would bring in a couple of team members to give them an idea of what their day to day would be like These extra interviews were always last minute. The extra resume was for the team member to quickly review before heading in.

      2. nyxalinth

        I had an interview last year where my printer had broken down, and couldn’t print out more copies. I figured “Well, the interviewer surely has a copy, it would have been passed on to him by the person who called me.” But sure enough, nope. I didn’t get that job, nor the job in which it had happened a second time (same scenario). Now I always have at least ten copies ready to go. Interestingly, both interviewers without copies printed out were both in construction related fields. But I didn’t get snippy about it! Also, Law of Perversity dictates that any time you bring a copy, they already have one of their own :P

    5. Lizzie

      I would never go to an interview without hard copies of my resume – I absolutely expect my interviewers to be familiar with it and prepared to discuss my experience (as I have similarly prepared), but I also realize that in the K-12 public schools where I interview, printers and photocopiers are not always our friends. I went on 10 interviews this summer and was asked for hard copies of my resume at 4 of them.

      1. JM in England

        Hard copies of the resume are part of my standard interview kit too. Like yourself, Lizzie, I’ve been asked for them at some interviews when not all of the panel had copies.

  18. Turanga Leela

    I have another one I’ve encountered: calling the office to “ask a quick question” about a job posting that turns into the candidate talking about herself and her qualifications. It’s another way of trying to stand out that generally backfires.
    Note that I’m not talking about people who have an actual quick question about the posting—sometimes people want to know details about the location or hours before applying, and that’s fine.

  19. some1

    Candidates who arrived way too early used to bug me back in my receptionist days. We were not set up to have visitors wait more than 10 minutes and I wasn’t supposed to leave my desk if there was a visitor. One guy I even told him two places a block away where he could get coffee and he didn’t take the hint.

    1. ryn

      I’m not a receptionist, but I work in the front office and do back up stuff for the receptionist and omg, this. Unfortunately, I also work at a place that encourages every single bad piece of advice you could get. Randomly stop in? Why yes! We will talk to you! Continually call/stop by the shop to check up on your resume for three months straight? Oh, look, we finally have an opening! Brought your girlfriend, small child, and dog with you? Yes, they can sit in the front office!

      I’m never sure if this is something that’s industry wide or just something that happens here cause we’re still in the stone age.

    2. Waiting Patiently

      Yeah, two interviews I went on made me feel weird about even sitting in the parking lot after arriving early. I was given instruction on where to park (secured parking) but not much info after that. Each time the security guards just sort of paced the parking lot, I guess waiting for me to get out…and when I finally got out they escorted me to a back entrance to check in. It would have been helpful if the hr person had told me I would need to check in with security, then maybe I would have just sat across street or not arrived that early.

  20. Clincial Social Worker

    I’ve shown up very early for some interviews and here is why: They share a building with several other organizations and it’s not clear whose space is whose or where my interviewer is at. I’m worried I won’t find the right secretary.

    Every other time I sit in the car because it’s the org’s building and well, there’s only one front desk person. But any time I am really unsure of how to actually “check in” I go in early. Does this really reflect that poorly on me?

    1. Case of the Mondays

      In that situation I think you can go in and say “I’m going to be interviewing here in an hour. I just want to make sure I found the right place.” Once confirmed, then just say “okay, see you then” and leave.

      1. Chriama

        That’s fine. If it’s 20-ish minutes instead of an hour (where it would seem weird to say “see you then”) you can also just say “I know I’m early, but I was worried I might have a hard time finding your office. I’ll come back when it’s time for my interview”. A bit more of an explanation so you show you’re aware of the norm.

  21. Brett

    I think on #4, the “instructions” part is the most critical aspect. Our application may be a stupid long manual form, but it is a stupidly long manual form for extremely specific legal reasons that require us to have an original signed handwritten copy on file. A surprising number of applicants just email us a cover email and resume and ask to be considered for the position. Or send us a signed blank application and a copy of their resume.

    1. Chriama

      As long as your instructions emphasize that the application needs to be completely filled out, they are in the wrong. You don’t even need to explain the ‘why’ — just a sentence at the top that says “applications that are incomplete or incorrectly filled in will not be considered” is enough to show who’s paying attention and who’s resume-bombing.

    2. Student

      I am very curious what you’re doing or where you are that legally requires this.

      Are you sure it’s actually a legal requirement?

      Further, are you sure it’s necessary or appropriate requirement at the initial job applicant stage? Could it wait until you’ve gotten past initial resume screening, or even after you’ve made a hiring decision?

      I mean, I work in a job that requires a security clearance, which is full of lots of extra job-related paperwork. I didn’t need to do anything like that. I was able to email signed, scanned copies of initial paperwork for everything – or I was able to electronically sign things. Anything that I had to sign for legal obligations came later in the process after the initial screening, with clear resources to ask about what I was signing. Really serious documents were only signed after I was hired. Even then, they really don’t care if it’s a scanned copy or the original.

      Frankly, your stuff just sounds like a lot of red tape that no one thought hard about before implementing. It’d drive off anyone who considers it as such, unless you’re much clearer about why it is really absolutely required. At minimum, it is extremely odd.

        1. De Minimis

          From reading Bret’s other posts, yes, that’s the case.

          It really varies, the application process for many federal agencies is to the point where it is not any worse than the process for a larger private sector company.

          Easiest of course is always the smaller company where you just attach your resume to an e-mailed cover letter….

          1. Waiting Patiently

            I don’t mind their application process at all because it is all about reading and doing exactly as instructed. I rarely see discrepancies in their listings because every application packet is pretty much done the same way.

      1. Brett

        Yep, because of our state record retention requirements. Parts of our application can be photocopied, scanned, computer filled,etc and it says on those parts that you can do it. The main application itself though needs to be a paper record with original signature in black ink. I think, in theory, you could fill it out with a typewriter if you really wanted to do that.

        1. Waiting Patiently

          So glad my state allows us to “sign” by typing our name, but there is boldface disclosure about it being deemed your signature.

  22. Waiting Patiently

    I’m all about doing my part when it comes to following instructions but what I’m noticing is some companies don’t really know how they want you to submit your stuff or what stuff they need you to submit. Companies need to make sure ALL their submission requirements are the same whether the listing is on their website or indeed or whatever. One place here is notorious for a convoluted submission process. On one of their hyperlinks(job listing) it say so submit resume xyz to jobs@company. Then under their own human resources hyperlink they request you to download an application that must accompany the resume.

  23. Beancounter in Texas

    I hired for a position once that was regular business hours and offered $10/hr. One questionably qualified candidate emailed me saying that he could only work from home part-time, required $25/hr and listed a demand of benefits. Easiest choice ever.

  24. CS7

    I once had someone from the employment department suggest I look for an office job door to door and another “employment specialist” elsewhere give me poor help with my resume. This town get a D for job help.

    1. Stevie Wonders

      Funny you mention that. Some EDD’s used to require several personal contacts per unemployment insurance claim, including white collar/professional jobs. Even 35 years ago that was wildly inappropriate.

  25. MollyG

    I think that this post represents what is wrong about hiring. Take for example an engineer or computer programmer. Few of these listed things have anything to do with the actual job. So what is they have a long resume and show up early! Hiring managers should know what skills the job needs and be able to see past mistakes or flaws that do not affect the job. I have no doubt that companies who judge their applicants on superficial stuff have lost out on great employees.

    1. In progress

      True, but since many people likely have those skills, employers can be choosy and “read between the lines” about what these actions say about priorities, professionalism, being high-maintenance, etc. The person might not know any better, but it isn’t a hiring manager’s job to tease that out. Also, Alison is telling us so we won’t do that! But this is why it says these generally aren’t deal-breakers. They’re part of a bigger picture that a hiring manager might be concerned about.

    2. Sidra

      Personality always matter, and a lot of these things are about that. I have always worked with engineers, and the best have decent people skills AND technical skills. The ones who don’t have those soft skills have a very hard time working with others, focusing on business priorities, and are generally a big pain to deal with.

      Nobody wants to work with someone so out of touch with real life because it leaks into how they are as an employee. Having 4 page resume and showing up an hour early shouts “I have a huge ego and no respect for your time. I will not be able to understand that I’m part of a team, and will be fussy to manage.”

    3. Anonymous Educator

      I think you may have misread the post. There is nothing in the original post that said “I will not hire you if you do the following” or “You are not capable of doing the job if you do the following when applying.” Alison specifically said these are things top job candidates never do (in her experience and with some possible exceptions).

      That said, these aren’t really superficial at all. If you can’t pare down your résumé below four pages (academic CVs and other exceptions mentioned before in the comments) and are super pushy during the interview job, that says a lot about who you are as a person and as a professional.

      Even when you are a computer programmer, you still need to interact with others, understand what’s being asked of you, and turn in your work in a suitable form. Computer programming isn’t just “I’m a L33t hacker and write super code by myself and people pay me.” If someone is paying you for code, you’re writing the code they’re paying you to write.

    4. jag

      Excellent point. The comments about discarding candidates with excessively long CVs made by several people above is an example of this problem.

      1. Elsajeni

        Really? That stands out to me as the item on this list most associated with work skills — a super-long resume, in a field where that isn’t the norm, suggests that you have trouble identifying the relevant stuff when you’re faced with a large amount of information. (Of course, there are also other possible explanations — you come from an industry where the super-long CV is common and didn’t do enough research to realize this field was different, you don’t know enough about this position to judge what’s relevant so you panicked and included everything, you know perfectly well that your resume is abnormally long but are convinced you’re important and impressive enough to justify it, etc. — but none of those are particularly flattering, either.)

        1. jag

          “[T]he item on this list most associated with work skills ”

          That depends on the nature of the work. In some, or even many, cases yes. In some not all all, or very little.

  26. nyxalinth

    The showing up too early thing…

    Not all job are conveniently located downtown, or even near a place to sit and wait a while. Couple this with being transit dependent, and it’s a pain. I tell the receptionist why I’m early and that I’ll just wait, but sometimes they call the interviewer and tell them I’m there anyway. I just always explain I’m on the bus, that there’s nothing convenient on foot nearby to wait at, and that I’d rather be early than late, but will wait a while

    1. Anonymous Educator

      So show up early but don’t go inside. Sit outside the building (but not lingering at the entrance) or across the street. It doesn’t have to be a downtown with a coffee shop.

      1. Zillah

        But I think that what nyxalinth is saying is that it isn’t always that simple. If it’s quiet or just not a great neighborhood, you may not want to linger outside for awhile. And, there may not be a place to sit even if the neighborhood is fine – I mean, if there’s not a coffee shop or a park, what are the chances that there will be benches?

        I think that this a situation where what’s ideal and what’s realistic aren’t always the same thing. If there’s nowhere in the area to reasonably sit, I’d assume that they’re used to interviewees being on the earlier side and wouldn’t blink if you approached it in the way nyxalinth is describing.

    2. Sarah

      That sometimes happens to me. I take a book with me and try to find a coffee shop to wait in, but even if I can’t find somewhere to sit, I usually just stand somewhere across the street or at the end of the block. It’s a pain, but t’s even more awkward being more than 10 minutes early, as much as I’d just prefer to wait inside their air conditioned building during summer/heated building during the winter. The only exception I made was during the polar vortex, and I said I came early to make sure I got there and would rather not wait outside in -22 weather and they completely understood.

  27. Curious

    If the contact in HR for an upcoming interview specifies that the candidate should be ten minutes early, is that more likely done to prevent the person from being too early (as covered in this post), to ensure he/she is prompt, or both? And does that generally mean arriving to the reception area, not the building entrance (if on a different floor)?

    Maybe I’m overthinking this, but although ten minutes early is the general protocol, I’m concerned the hiring company will pay more attention to it than when unstated; it seems like a small window making the difference between following instructions properly and arriving inconsiderately early. Thoughts?

    1. Kelly L.

      It may mean that there’s some other procedural thing they want to do before the actual interview starts.

  28. PD

    Funny how most self-help type job hunting books still talk about “hitting the streets” and showing up in person or mailing hard copies. Here’s my question: Do HR people pay any attention to the formatting of emailed cover letters? I always try to find the name of either a hiring manager or the person I would ultimately be working for and address the letter to them. I also try to include the actual mailing address in the letter header bc it’s proper business letter format, but that always feels strange. I’m not physically mailing, so I don’t need the address. BUT it looks odd (to me) to just list the name of the company/org without an address.

  29. Klesuo

    I would just like to mention an observation that so many of these comments sound incredibly condescending and judgmental. If many job seekers are guilty of these faux pas, then there is obviously misinformation out there. This blog is a great tool for job seekers to learn the best practices in job hunting. But it seems that recruiters and managers use this website as a platform to vent their frustrations and trade criticisms.

  30. Jenna

    Okay, but honestly the HR lady where I’m applying is awful. I know this because my husband works there (and we’ve had a TON of issues on here even getting his paycheck right. It took her weeks to get me added to his insurance because she “lost” the paperwork.) I’ve applied twice for positions, and not only has the hiring manager not seen MY resume, she hasn’t seen a SINGLE resume from the online process. One of these jobs has been open since January and they desperately need to fill it (according to the hiring manager.) She specifically asked for me to send it/bring it to her in person. Now, I’m wondering If I should just drop by resumes for all the jobs I applied for there, I don’t need to speak to the hiring manager, I just want to drop off the envelope for them at the front desk. I did follow the instructions exactly for the online application . . . but this seems like an excception. On the other hand I don’t want to come off like a weirdo, but I really need a job.

    1. Jacket

      Jenna — if the hiring manager has specifically requested you stop by and bring your resume, do! That’s not the same thing as showing up uninvited.

      I would also try finding other places to apply, though… sounds like a pretty disorganized nightmare!

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