should pet peeves influence hiring decisions?

A reader writes:

I am hiring for a position that I will manage. Our office is small and this individual and I will work together very closely.

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

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

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

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 218 comments… read them below }

  1. What's in a name?*

    I think conveying your charisma through resume or cover letter is very appropriate for some positions. Hopefully it is done via a quantifiable fact (Sold X number of ice blocks to eskimos) or a story on the cover letter instead of being in a list of qualities/qualifications.

      1. Teyra*

        I don’t think it is? It’s showing, not telling. If I say ‘I am clever’, you don’t know it’s true. I could be lying, I could think too much of myself, I could be interpreting the word clever differently to you.

        But if I say that I have a phd in aerospace engineering (I do not, for the record), and received the highest mark in all of my classes (also untrue), you’d see that I was clever, and how I was clever. Just being told doesn’t have the same effect.

          1. Teyra*

            Apologies! I was very tired (just had a nap and am more wide awake now) and somehow managed to hallucinate the word ‘same’ in your comment between ‘the’ and ‘thing’. Honestly no idea how that happened. Sorry again!

        1. icky chu*

          LinkedIn is a networking tool. It is a not purely “social” media. The socializing that occurs there is to further your career or make you better at what you do. In such it is recommended to reach out to people in a company your interested in. It is also recommended to have an actual conversation with the person you reach out to, but that is neither here nor there for thebpet peeve. I would rethink that pet peeve because people who really utilize LinkedIn generally are alsonpeople who try to be really good at their jobs: look for best practices, to continually improve.

          As for the descriptors, those folks have not had a professional resume assessment.

    1. What's in a name?*

      After some googling, I realize a better term would be Inuit. Ah, the lack of a edit button.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Thank you so much for realizing this so quickly, I cringed so hard reading your original comment. It’s one of those lingering words out there that many still don’t understand isn’t appropriate.

        1. SometimesALurker*

          I hadn’t realized that it’s an equivalent expression, but it totally is, and a better one — thank you for sharing that!

        2. Social Commentator*

          Hmm, I’ve only heard it as, “carrying/taking coals to Newcastle” which isn’t quite the same idea – it’s one of putting one self out to do difficult, unnecessary work. It looks like the expression with “selling” does exist but is much less common and much more recent.

        3. allathian*

          There’s also “selling sand in the desert”, which is probably more recent than “selling ice to (the old name for) Inuits” and it doesn’t point a finger at any ethnic group.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      That’s the approach I would take.

      If it’s a peeve that would impair their ability to integrate into the team, function or be taken seriously, I would consider it. So if your team is hung up on grammar perfection and the résumé reflects a person who is more about getting the job done than style points… that could well signal a bad fit.

      I don’t think I’d let such peeves be disqualifiers, but I would consider them valid yellow flags.

    2. Anononon*

      I disagree. All work place norms could (potentially) be considered pet peeves, but all pet peeves are not work place norms. E.g., disliking getting LinkedIn invites from strangers is a pet peeve, but it’s not necessarily a work place norma.

      1. Rachel in NYC*

        But that is a pet peeve of mine. It’s something I sometimes do for work. But only when I can’t find someone’s email- and only because I need to send them a note (and linkedin changed the way you can send notes to people you aren’t connected to. you need to have a special kind of profile apparently- so now I just request to connect and include my note.)

        btw if I do that to you, there is no expectation you accept my request. (maybe I should put that in my note.)

        1. Anononon*

          It’s not a work place norm, though, either way. I have no idea how my coworkers use LinkedIn. It just doesn’t come up as one of our work place norms. I’m just pushing back on the idea that the two are interchangeable.

      2. Wintermute*

        Yes, that’s true, but I think the point that Kimmy was trying to make is that what we call “workplace norms” is heavily comprised of common irritation points that, over time, have been codified and become a set of mores.

        “Don’t microwave smelly foods in the breakroom microwave” is really just a pet peeve, but it’s shared by so many people that it’s become a norm, and you look pretty out of touch if you violate it because it’s annoying to so many people.

        Appropriate reply-all, BCC, CC, etc use in an email system is really just a set of things people find annoying, but enough people find them annoying that they’ve been codified as a norm.

        Now, I would differ on the idea that this is ALL that workplace norms are, some are also ethical or moral in nature (gift giving flowing top-down is a matter of ethics, I would argue, not just “I think feeling oblidged to get my boss a gift is annoying” same with things like sales solicitations, etc)… but that’s really sort of splitting hairs– it’s something people find insulting, irritating or annoying, and enough people find it that way it’s become a codified norm.

        1. Lavender Menace*

          But that’s not what a pet peeve is. A pet peeve is something that a particular person finds annoying; that’s what the preface “pet” conveys in the phrase (like “pet project” or “teacher’s pet”). It specifically means something that you find annoying that most other people wouldn’t find (as) annoying.

          Once it’s shared by a critical mass of people, it’s not really a pet peeve anymore.

          1. Wintermute*

            I think that a lot of people share the same pet peeves! Plus often what separates a pet peeve from a mere annoyance is the degree of issue you take with it, in some cases they’re things anyone would find annoying but you find especially so.

    3. Half-Caf Latte*

      I need this embroidered to put next to my Lone Cranky Feminist figurine, please!

    4. Bibliovore*

      Pet peeves that turn into work place norms. As a hiring manager, 9 years ago, I would have told you that I hated emails from people that I don’t know that started with Hi, Bibliovore instead of Dear Ms. Vore. I also would have said to write a handwritten thank you note not an email.
      Fast forward, both are fine and don’t worry this boomer will be retiring soonish.

  2. SD*

    I had to laugh at this

    “I have seen some résumés where people describe themselves as “charismatic” or “intelligent.”

    My 7 yr old granddaughter recently announced that she was the smart one in her little group of friends. It’s true, she is smart, but it isn’t a good idea to go around announcing it, which Mama had to gently explain to her. There are things one should learn at 7, and if they don’t, one wonders why. If I saw that on a résumé, I’d wonder what other social mores this person had missed and how that might play out at this job.

    1. Observer*

      I wouldn’t. Keep in mind that a resume is a marketing document and that means we are trying to highlight our strengths. It’s not the place to be modest.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        I’d rather see someone demonstrate those types of values than list them on a resume. Anyone can write down that they’re intelligent, personable, or a quick learner.

        1. Observer*

          Oh, sure. In terms of effectiveness, these words are useless. I’m just saying that their use does not indicate lack of basic social norms, but lack of good self-marketing skills.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            True, and in a giant pool of applicants, that individual may not be able to compete with someone who has a stronger resume.

      2. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yeah, but there’s some stuff that’s just dumb to write down. ‘Charismatic’ and ‘intelligent’ are generally things that others decide about you. Lots of annoying jackasses think they’re charismatic, and lots of dummies think they’re geniuses. Hard-working or passionate are st least things you could reasonably know about yourself – even if listing them in a resume is also dumb. Show don’t tell, yanno?

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yes, but as stated above, putting “I am smart” on your resume proves that you know how to spell I am smart correctly. That’s all.

        1. Observer*


          Which is why I would absolutely ignore it. But does knowing how to spell “charismatic” (or knowing how to use a spell checker) indicate that you may lack social skills? In other words, statements like that are useless. But they don’t mean anything unless you are hiring a marketing professional.

      4. Junior Dev*

        Right, like, it’s actually down to some fairly arbitrary cultural norms that describing yourself as “intelligent” is considered arrogant or out-of-touch, but describing yourself as “hardworking” isn’t, and I feel for people who for whatever reason have trouble figuring out the difference.

        1. I can only speak Japanese*

          Because intelligence is mostly an inherent trait, whether working hard is something you can influence. It has ableist undertones, I guess – although many chronically ill people are technically working even harder than healthy ones.

      5. BethRA*

        It’s also a document that people tend to get AWFUL advice about – so especially with people who are earlier in their career or returning to the workplace, I try not to let peeves like calling themselves “visionary” or whatever sway me too much.

      6. Wintermute*

        There is a difference between modesty and fluff.

        You want hard-hitting self-promotion you do not want marketing fluff. Highlighting accomplishments, hard skills, things you’ve been responsible for, and ways you succeeded where other people may not have, that’s GREAT for a resume.

        But what good does “intelligent” or “hard-working” or “charismatic” do? It doesn’t prove those things. What’s more thanks to incompetence unawareness and the dunning-krueger effect (which is often misunderstood to mean the same thing) people who are NOT those things are just as likely if not more to say they’re super charismatic when in reality they’re painfully socially unaware, or intelligent when they’re merely average.

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      My favorite is when applicants list their excellent communicatoin skills. Show, don’t tell.

      1. Alex (UK)*

        Please tell me the typo was intended.. if it wasn’t, it’s one brilliantly appropriate typo to make!

    3. Smert Mom*

      When my daughter was 7 she had to write down 5 things about herself

      #1 was that she is cute
      #4 was that she is “smert” (smart)

      I am keeping that forever but hopes she knows not to put either on her resume

    4. D3*

      Oh man, this hurts me to hear that your granddaughter’s confidence was squashed like that. Kids – and girls especially – need to be taught that it is okay to speak well of yourself!!

      1. SometimesALurker*

        I think this sort of thing is highly contextual, and I agree with both you and SD!

      2. Anonymous1*

        Of course it is, but I think this boils down to context like other comments have mentioned. The granddaughter could say “I’m smart” and that would be fine and encouragable. But “I’m the smart one in my ground of friends,” indicates that she alone (smart ONE) is smart in comparison to other kids that she likes and wouldn’t want to unintentionally offend. I think gentle correction was appropriate.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          We’ve had that same conversation with our daughter. She’s very smart, but prone to making it an all or nothing thing with her friends (and sibling) and that’s not doing her any favors. We want to encourage her intelligence but discourage bragging and unkind comparisons with others.

          Pop culture isn’t helping much either, since a lot of shows aimed at kids feature groups of friends where there is the Pretty One, the Smart One, the Musical One, the Artistic One, and so one.

          1. Koalafied*

            Read this and heard in my head, “So-and-So! What’s Her Face! The Ugly One! Kristen.”

      3. Deanna Troi*

        D3, I don’t really think that announcing that you’re smarter than all your friends is confidence. Its arrogance. Yes, she should be confident that she’s smart, but even as adults we can’t objectively know how the intelligence of others compares to ours. People are smart in different ways. And encouraging a child to think they are superior to their peers often results in some lonely times.

      4. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes, I recall a study that showed that on average around age 5 girls and boys were equally likely to say that they were smart, but by age 6 girls are significantly less likely to say that about themselves.

        Certainly it’s good to tell children not to say or imply that their friends are *not* smart if that is what is happening. But I don’t think we should discourage them from announcing how smart they are entirely. That should be encouraged.

    5. Sled dog mama*

      Oh the smart one thing is so hard. So often, IME, it’s code for you’re not cute or athletic or whatever.
      It absolutely kills me.
      No person gets a monopoly on cute or smart or anything.

      As a child I was told that I was the smart one in my sibling set (only girl, 2 brothers). Yeah I may be smart (I have two degrees in Physics) but my brothers are no slouches. Both finished college with honors, now one is a lawyer and the other runs the large family farm. I was clearly never the most athletic or the most good looking So maybe that’s why I got the label smart one but it was so much to live up to.

      1. DragoCucina*

        It can cause a lot of family tension. My husband is one of several sons and was the first in his family to graduate high school or go to college. One of his brothers still complains that the family always referred to my husband as the smart one. The oldest never went to college but had a very successful career with a major company. He’s retired and quite happy in his life. He knew he was smart in a different way.

    6. Lavender Menace*

      …I’m not sure that I would take it that far? I mean, a resume is supposed to market you as an employee, and charisma is something a lot of people want out of an employee. I mean, it’s not super helpful, but I wouldn’t assume they were missing some morals.

    7. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      By the time you’re looking for a job, you should have some bits of paper to prove your intelligence rather that shooting your mouth off about it.
      As for charisma, that’s something other people feel, it’s not something you even know about, you just feel far more confident than other people because you have this thing that means people will do what you say and look up to you and swoon over you. Someone who tells me they’re charismatic won’t get very far at all with me. My partner happens to have a fair amount of charisma, and leverages it to get what he wants, and it certainly works on me.

  3. TootsNYC*

    My pet peeve used to be the misspelling of QuarkXPress.
    But…considering that I was hiring people who needed excellent proofreading skills, it was totally germane. (The worst were the two people who, despite opening that software on the computer screen EVERY day, wrote it “Quark Express.”)

    It’s not my pet peeve anymore because people seldom refer to it on their resumes, since it has become QPS, and since other applications have become more prominent.

    1. BeachMum*

      I agree. I have put resumes in the ‘no’ pile because they couldn’t spell QuickBooks.

      The best one I had was a person who had a spelling error (I don’t remember what it was) in the phrase, “I have a high attention to detail.”

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        My classic from many years ago was the resume I received that listed a former job of”poofreader” (sic).

        1. Nanani*

          That’s my cat. He reads (well, supervises) my work, and goes POOF at the slightest unexpected sound.

        2. Ann O'Nemity*

          My favorite was a sentence starting with “Working ass…” instead of “Working as….”

      2. Texan In Exile*

        Uline job posting for recruitment content writer. (I saw this yesterday.)

        “Bachelor’s degree. Major in english, communications or journalism preferred.”

      3. Lexi*

        I’m convinced that there should be a Murphy’s Law for resumes. As far as I can tell writing “attention to detail” is the kiss of death and at least one typo will sneak into the resume.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          if you say you’re good at it everyone’s going to nitpick your CV to death till they find one. (I do proofreading so I know what I’m talking about!)

    2. Julia*

      I’ve always been taken aback at people who see a word spelled correctly several times and then misspell it themselves. For example, if I’m emailing back and forth with someone and repeatedly using a certain word, why on earth would they misspell it in their very next reply? They’re looking at my email!

      But then I realized that people process words differently. Some people are aural processors – so when they read my email, they sort of sound the words out loud in their head. And when they set out to write a response, they hear the words in their head before they type them. In that translation process, the way I spelled a word gets lost.

      That could explain your “QuarkXPress” issue. I’m betting you’re like me, and when you write you “see” the words, so spelling has never been an issue for you. It’s wild how differently people’s brains can work.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Eye get what ewe mean…..(lol)
        Worse, I can look right at the word and never realize. sigh. The only real way for me to fix it is to turn away from what I am doing for a few minutes and look at something else. But there are plenty of times where I just don’t have the luxury of time to turn away for a few minutes.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Best to sleep on it actually. I always tell clients my work is like bread, much better when left to rise in the fridge overnight.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        This makes good sense. I have a terrible time reading text-speak, and I cannot figure out why but maybe my brain is just not wired for the U to you conversion. Ur is Sumeria (obscure crossword clue) before your. I used to have to have my spouse read my mother’s messages out loud so my brain could wrap around them. CU2nite just would not parse in my brain until he said it aloud (see you tonight).

      3. Jackalope*

        My personal pet peeve with this one is my name. Let’s say my full name is Elizabeth and I go by Liz. My signature says Liz LastName, and I always use Liz, but my work email uses Elizabeth. Without fail, co-workers who don’t know me (say, someone in an office across the country) *always* call me Elizabeth and pay no attention to how I actually sign (or if I say things like, “Liz here, what’s up?”). Since it’s usually someone I’ll only talk to once or twice I don’t push it, but pay attention here, y’all! I did have one co-worker in my same office who refused to learn Liz, and told me that Elizabeth worked just fine for him. That relationship didn’t go well.

    3. OrigCassandra*

      … as a former XPress user, please tell me everybody pronounces QPS “kewpies.”

  4. Anon234*

    I’d always be very cautious about being the word police for small grammatical irritations or expressions.
    I have a friend high up in hiring in a local university who loathes the substitution of ‘invite’ instead of ‘invitation’. (Even though both are techically correct). And don’t get her started on ‘irregardless’. But she wouldn’t let her influence her decisions on hiring.
    I agree you probably shouldn’t need to put that you are intelligent, but I think it would be a sad and small hill to die on.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      The real kicker is that someone else might have the reverse peeve, finding “invitation” stodgy and pompous. You can’t win playing the peeve game.

      1. Anon234*

        That’s a cultural one, isn’t it I guess. Someone else made the comment about language and cultural barriers. Some of the international applicants have some pretty unconventional CVs and ways of applying and it would be a shame to discount these because of peeves.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Irregardless and “could care less” are like nail on a chalkboard to me, but it’s no reason to pass on a candidate. I can own my own pedantry without inflicting it on others. :)

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Where I would absolutely vote against hiring a candidate that uses “could care less” and irregardless.

        When composing logic, getting the right number of nots in a sentence is not a luxury.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Like it or not, both of those misuses appear to have passed into the common vernacular (downside of language evolution), and I don’t think use of them is representative of someone’s logical acumen, particularly in a language where inflammable and flammable mean the same thing. I don’t think anyone who uses them in everday conversation is telling the judge, “You honor, we’re not unprepared to proceed today.” when they actually mean unprepared/not prepared, making reversing positive/negative numbers in their spreadsheet, or using NOT operators in place of AND/OR.

          One of the best supervisors on my team is a “could care less” abuser, which drives me batty, but the communication section on his eval comes out at five stars every year from people who write and speak for a living. He has a lot of other redeeming qualities. :)

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Like it or not, both of those misuses appear to have passed into the common vernacular (downside of language evolution), and I don’t think use of them is representative of someone’s logical acumen, particularly in a language where inflammable and flammable mean the same thing. I don’t think anyone who uses them in everday conversation is telling the judge, “You honor, we’re not unprepared to proceed today.” when they actually mean unprepared/not prepared, making reversing positive/negative numbers in their spreadsheet, or using NOT operators in place of AND/OR.

            “You know what I mean” is a hazardous attitude in programming.

            One of the best supervisors on my team is a “could care less” abuser, which drives me batty, but the communication section on his eval comes out at five stars every year from people who write and speak for a living. He has a lot of other redeeming qualities. :)

            In another field, or as with private friends, I couldn’t care less about those words, regardless of how I came across initially. I also couldn’t care less about a manager doing it; I can correct her speech mentally or know to clarify if context suggests a literal reading of his text would contract its intent. Interpreters and compilers can’t do that.

            Language changes over time. Humans give language meaning, not the other way around.

            So true, but computers digesting code do not yet have independent intuition to correct our text to reflect our intentions.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              And people using colloquial speech like irregardless or could care less is rarely indicative of their computer programming skills. So, if you’re vetoing candidates because of how they use commonly-accepted language on the assumption that means they can’t code properly, that is a fairly wild logical leap and unfair to the candidate.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                So, if you’re vetoing candidates

                Veto & “vote against” are not interchangeable.

                because of how they use commonly-accepted language on the assumption that means they can’t code properly,

                That’s odd; based on the conversation the other day, I thought flimsy conclusions based on biases when hiring was in vogue. </sarc>

                that is a fairly wild logical leap and unfair to the candidate.

                No one forces the candidate to mangle Engrish.

                It does matter; “!(a & b)” needs to become “!a | !b”, not “!a & !b”; just because a human can autocorrect the second one doesn’t mean a compiler or interpreter could, and just because the second is “commonly-accepted” doesn’t mean it will execute properly. “!(a & b)” certainly can’t become “!a || !b” under any circumstances. Believe it or not, there are disciplines where the minutiae matter.

                If we miss out on a few good employees, that’s the cost of missing out on the lawsuits that came with them. Thankfully, not every field requires the same level of attention to detail and precision in communication.

                P.S. I do find it ironic that you mentioned law in your examples; it’s precisely because our clientele are primarily lawyers that the precision is required. In some ways, it’s like feeding sharks; if your not careful and precise, you are the chum.

        2. Lavender Menace*

          Language changes over time. Humans give language meaning, not the other way around.

        3. Eukomos*

          “Could care less” is an idiomatic phrase, though. Many idioms are illogical, but using them doesn’t mean you’re knuckling under to their illogic, it just means you expect that you’re communicating with people who understand the meaning of the phrase.

    3. Deanna Troi*

      There was actually an article on NPR last week and the title is “Regardless Of What You Think, ‘Irregardless’ Is A Word.” It was passed around our office with much glee by some people, and met with grumpiness by others (including me).

    4. Wintermute*

      The reason I think it’s probative when people say they’re “intelligent” or “charismatic” is that between the Dunning-Krueger effect, contextual awareness that comes with expertise (the more you know the more you know you don’t know) and general overconfidence, people who are NOT those things are actually MORE likely to bluntly say they are.

      Actual smart people rarely say they’re intelligent, actually charismatic people rarely say they are.

  5. Ugh*

    LOL! In my experience those who describe themselves as reliable, quick learners, charismatic, etc. are anything but what they describe! I finally learned not to interview those individuals.

    1. Cordoba*

      The smartest people I know don’t crow about how smart they are, because they’re very aware of the limits of their knowledge and how much they still can learn.

      I’ve found the people who say they’re especially smart to actually be in the bottom half of any given group when it comes time to accomplish something, as they think they know way more than they do.

      Dunning-Kruger is real.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Yep, my soon to be former manager is this person. It’s quite frustrating, I’ve had multiple meetings with him where I explain my project and strategy to him, and after every one he says the same thing: “Wow, I feel like I always learn so much from you, this has been really helpful!” And the very next meeting it’s like starting from square one, as he has processed and retain absolutely nothing about what I said before.

        He also prefaces most suggestions he makes with “this might not be a good idea and I’m totally cool with going a different direction” followed immediately by “hear me out” and arguing or ignoring every piece of feedback or pushback he’s given. Because he knows the right things to say but has no idea how to put them into practice.

    2. SweetestCin*

      Falls under “Any man who must say ‘I am king’ is no true king at all.”? (Yes, I’ve had similar experience in that I have little luck with people who tell me what they are…)

      1. Wintermute*

        The more of an actual expert you are, the more you realize you don’t know.

        When I had put together a few home networks I thought I was great at networking, I configured gateways! I set up MAC filtering!

        Then I got some certifications and realized that there’s four more levels of certification above the one I studied two months for…

    3. hbc*

      I find some of those are acceptable when used like “I was known for being X….” It’s still possibly untrue, but at least it’s an indication that they got some feedback along those lines. Plus, it’s usually accompanied by an example. “Became go-to for urgent projects because of my reputation as a quick learner.”

      A lot of them are just never used by people who are that thing. No actual visionary has ever described themselves as such. They’re focused on big plans and great thoughts and achieving things, and when they navel-gaze it’s more about “How can I grow and achieve more?” and not “I am so good at what I do.”

      1. starsaphire*

        I often wonder about the OP who wrote in here a few years back about how they were a budding visionary and wanted to just get hired as an idea man. Did we ever get an update from them?

  6. merp*

    The linkedin example is interesting to me. Like many other letters, there are going to be behaviors people consider ‘pet peeves’ that simply come from bad career advice (particularly if new to career or recent grads) and it doesn’t seem great to use that to bump them out if there aren’t other red flags. But also I can see how some of them would be truly problematic (say, calling every day to check on an application, or something), even if I agree with Alison that the linkedin one isn’t a big deal.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Agreed. If the application is clearly coming from a recent graduate, I’d put some of the quirks down to bad advice from the university career center or dodgy online sites. The LinkedIn issue is really a matter of taste — as Alison says, there are people who routinely send invitations to everybody, others are more selective. I wouldn’t use that alone to screen anybody out.

    2. Sen*

      My company has outright told us that we should add everyone we know or have come into contact with (at work) on LinkedIn. I think it’s a little extreme, but I work at a PR agency where your connections are your currency. I wouldn’t knock someone down for adding me on LinkedIn because, ultimately, if you don’t get the job, the connection *could technically* be a resource for you later on in your career.

      On the other hand, my father (in is 60s) absolutely hates connecting with people on LinkedIn unless he’s actively worked with them for an extended period of time (like colleagues). I would argue it’s also a generational thing. But definitely not something I would worry about during the hiring process.

      1. Beth Jacobs*

        I’m more with you than your company: connections are currency, but simply linking on LinkedIn does not make a connection.

  7. Aquawoman*

    I think there are some real areas for caution here. First, people tend to find what they’re looking for, i.e. confirmation bias (aka BEC). Also, this could be a result of cultural issues and “good fit” has been used to privilege the privileged in job searching for as long as the nonprivileged have been allowed to compete for the same jobs. The people of one’s same color/religion/ethnicity can seem more familiar and comfortable, and it’s just attributed to “fit.” And then Alison mentions the linked-in thing possibly coming across as “pushy,” and “pushy” is more likely to be attributed to women and new majority people. I’d be really hesitant to let really personal style pet peeves factor in at all unless it is clearly out of keeping with industry norms in a truly impactful way.

    1. Adrienne*

      I’d like to amplify the above. Sometimes a pet peeve is just that, but sometimes it’s a bias flag. Word-police tendencies are a flag for classism/racism for me, as an example, because I’ve heard other white people denigrate AAVE in word-police form and couch it in terms of grammatical purity.

      1. Wintermute*

        This is a good call-out, like we talked about last week in the letter about the difference between “thank you” and “I appreciate you”.

        Also important with this is don’t count against people getting bad advice. Yeah, a generic “objective” on your resume is out-dated and takes up space that could be put to better use while conveying no useful information– but SO MANY people tell you to put it on there no matter what you don’t want to accidentally screen people out just because, for example, they’re getting resume advice from their university or from a job center. Being overly specific in meaningless ways is another one too many advice-givers go for, they take the good idea of being specific about duties (not just “email, word processing” but “handled a group email list and multiple mailboxes in Microsoft Outlook 365 and Outlook 2016” etc) but they apply it in absurd ways like “handled shipping and receiving using Fedex web portal, US Postal Service, and UPS” or something like that. It’s a pet peeve of mine but… you can’t really fairly hold that against people.

    2. Anonys*

      Yes, I came here to say that. Pet peeves can be vastly different. I agree with Alison that calling oneself “visionary” comes across obnoxious and pompous.

      But true “pet peeves” are usually more about the person with the peeve that the peeve perpetrator. And by definition, they are not really objective, but describe when one is annoyed by inconsequential and minor things. There’s defo a lot of potential for pet peeves to be things that are more typical of certain minority groups. I don’t think the ones mentioned in the letter immediately jump out as being in that category, but it’s defo something to pay attention to.

    3. Georgina Fredrika*

      yeah – I was thinking of that theory of management or whatever where hiring managers are more likely to hire people who feel like they could be a drinking buddy, than someone who they think is necessarily the top qualified. Of course, you don’t want to be constantly rubbed wrong by someone all day, but if it’s something minor you should really double check whether it says anything in particular about their candidacy.

    4. Rex*

      This right here. Alison, I think this is really important to emphasize in your answer. I’m a little disappointed that you didn’t.

      1. (insert name here)*

        Agreed. I was looking for this in the answer and was disappointed not to see it.

    5. Kaaaaaren*

      This is a great comment. “Professional norms” as we understand them were forged largely by a white, male workforce in the time before women and non-white people held office jobs in great numbers. So… yeah, I think personal style issues should be overlooked if a candidate seems otherwise qualified and worthy of at least an interview.

    6. Jay*

      I also came here to say this. If “pet peeve” translates to “something people from different backgrounds do that makes me uncomfortable,” then no, you should absolutely not use it to weed out candidates because you will be perpetuating some kind of bias. That’s how we get offices full of people who are all white, all male, and/or all some flavor of Christian.

      A real-life example for me: Crucifix necklaces make me uncomfortable. This is based on events in my family and cultural background. If I decided that I wasn’t going to hire anyone who wore a crucifix necklace, that would be biased hiring, and it’s just as inappropriate (and more serious) as refusing to hire someone who wears white shoes before Memorial Day (one of my mother’s pet peeves).

      I think Allison’s advice here is solid: interrogate your pet peeves and try to figure out what’s underneath that. If it’s personal preference that has nothing to do with the applicant’s ability to do their job, you need to figure out a way to get past it.

  8. Long drives*

    I’ve been on hiring committees for entry level jobs where we’ll get 200+ applications. Almost everyone has the required elements (a particular degree, some basic skills). After that, you almost need pet peeves to winnow out 95% of the applications. Often it’s a matter of people really stepping outside professional norms, like calling me directly *more than once* to check on the progress of their application.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yes! On an unrelated note, I once had to choose a person to let a flat at the bottom of my garden – basically choosing my own neighbour. We had more than 20 perfectly decent candidates. I eliminated one guy because he had very strange ears – like Spock but worse, and Spock always freaked me out as a kid – and ultimately chose a guy who doodled a pretty little flower in the corner of the paper where he wrote his contact details for me. He has since become a very firm friend of the family and we see him often even though he’s long since moved out, so that flower was very helpful.

  9. quirkypants*

    I have done a fair bit of hiring, at different levels and within different disciplines.

    Like Allison, I try to understand why things are bothering me and that helps me understand what is a pet peeve and what has some relevance for the role.

    For instance, I’ve hired more technical, developer type roles – in that role, I let go of my “pet peeves” about cover letters or writing style/substance. When I’m hiring a manager level who works with content and strategy, I absolutely take a harder look at cover letters, writing style, being able to clearly communicate ideas, etc.

    For junior roles, I will overlook some faux pas on workplace norms or application faux pas but for a more senior role, they will be a part of my consideration set in how I evaluate a role.

    For the record, I find descriptors like “visionary” and “charismatic” annoying but I just filter out most self-descriptors anyways and tend to look for evidence that they can do the job in their resume or experiences. I wouldn’t ever block someone from consideraton for these reasons if I think they can otherwise do the job, even if I do roll my eyes a bit. Occasionally, this does become of a “fit” consideration (again depending on the role/seniority) but it’s not an automatic no.

    I do tend to harshly judge people who apply, send me a message on LinkedIn, and ask for a phone call “to learn more about the role” (that’s what the interview is for!). None of these candidates have ever made it to my consideration set for other reasons but, damn, it is a major turn off for me.

    1. Ahsley*

      I think knowing the role is key. Also how many applicants do you have to fill the position because sometimes you don’t have an ‘ideal candidate’ available.

      There are some things people consider pet peeves that I consider deal breakers after working with some people in various positions. For example many perfumes and colognes trigger migraines as well as cigarette smoke. If I meet the same person multiple times and they always reek, and I know I have to share and office with them I will put them on the bottom of the list. If I don’t have to share an office or work with the person in person regularly it changes the equation some. (It is a bit of joke that requirement number one is they don’t smell after back to back major hygiene issues for one position.)

      I think using the pet peeves to flush out the real issue and then decided what are true deal breakers for the individual position is key.

      1. Jay*

        Meant to add: I can’t tolerate strong scents. I would not exclude a candidate over that unless I asked them to avoid the scent for the next interview and they refused or were unable to do so.

        Tobacco is more challenging; I also can’t stand it, and I feel like refusing to hire someone who smokes is health discrimination. Given the demographics of smokers in the US these days, it’s also likely to be classist. I would struggle with that. A lot.

      2. Anonys*

        For many people putting on extra perfume or cologne is part of them “getting dressed up” and probably something they consider part of their interview attire that makes them feel “presentable” and confident. They might not have such a strong scent on a day-to-day basis. If it triggers migraines for you, which is understandable, why not announce before the interview that you have a perfume-free policy?

        Smoking is a little bit tricker, I agree with Jay about the classism issues. And with genuine hygiene issues, I do think it’s something you should consider, though I’m also sure there must be a few medical conditions that can make something smell a bit strangely, so I don’t know how I feel about this.

    2. Jay*

      There’s a difference between “pet peeves” and “errors” or evidence that people lack a skill needed for the position. If you’re hiring for a position that requires clear communication, it makes perfect sense to weed out people who can’t compose a coherent cover letter.

      1. quirkypants*


        Poorly written cover letters are a pet peeve, in general. But I recognize it as just a pet peeve that doesn’t influence hiring for many positions.

  10. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I have noticed in my years of hiring that resumes and cover letters rarely really give you much insight into someone’s actual personality traits. Lots of times it’s because people have so much help constructing these things because we view them as self-marketing tools and have so many different pieces of advice floating around at any given time.

    So I may cringe at something but I’ll still dig deeper into the person and not let it be a deciding factor on anything important [if they get an interview in this case]. The interview is where you get to see your feelings towards how you interact with a person who would be working closely with you.

    Honestly with these peeves, you have to remember that they’re annoyances for reasons that the other person isn’t in charge of. And if we throw people away over such little annoying nonsense we personally lose out in the long run. You could throw away great employees simply because someone uses social media differently than you do.

    Unless they are actively pestering you on Linkedin or to connect with them, an invite is just…and invite. You decline it, just like anything else you don’t want to do and move on. It’s the follow up that really matters, than the initial way they greet you is saying “hi” to you instead of “Good day” or “hello” or what have you.

  11. Suzy Q*

    Someone describing themselves as “passionate” would be a turnoff for me. Passionate can often equal evangelical (not necessarily with regard to religion), and that person sounds exhausting.

    1. InfoSec SemiPro*

      I have a huge knee jerk about “passion.” My industry has a prevailing tide that you have to have “passion” for InfoSec in order to be successful, and I disagree vehemently. I don’t want “passion,” I want “professional level skills and approach.”

      But everyone has “passion” and everyone talks about how vital “passion” is for InfoSec.


      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        True, but frankly I just assume someone put it in their because they were told they have to, and I ignore it.

      2. Wintermute*

        I’m going to hard disagree on this one.

        Passion in an InfoSec context doesn’t just mean “I really love this stuff” but, “I’m listening to podcasts about threat actor trends on cybercriminal forums on the way to work, I read the industry blogs and listen to seminars, I have a home network with some virtual machines and a kali linux box and I play with it in my off hours trying things I learn about, or I do war games”

        It’s a field that moves so, so fast that if you’re not really passionate about learning your skills will fall behind, but if you find it engaging and interesting you will not find it a chore to keep your skills current.

        1. Observer*

          “Passion” and continuing education are two different things. You can keep up with a fast moving field without being passionate about it.

          1. andy*

            It however does not matter. InfoSec has culture and jargon, just like middle management has culture or artists have culture. Different groups use words with slightly different meaning in different contexts, because that is how groups of people always operate. Especially managerial subculture should be able to understand that.

            And for most of tech subcultures, passion is considered important. Party because of lifelong learning, partly because it is used as equivalent of what managers call “attitude” and partly because of creativity it brings in. Partly because there are bad experiences with people who just learn how to do steps and then mindlessly apply them, ending with bad work product usually.

            When you are communicating with someone from different culture, it pays off to understand the different meaning and not to get too worked out for it.

            1. Wintermute*

              I feel like there’s also a big difference between “continuing education” and “passion about the topic”– CPE is scheduled, structured and formal. Passion is throwing on podcasts when you’re bored or commuting. CPE is taking a class or attending a lecture a few times a year, passion is setting up a lab environment on an old router you have at home to play with when you have some free time.

              Good point about how it also subs in for “attitude” though, also good point calling out creativity and avoiding rote application. A ton of IT work is checklist-driven, following MOPs and SOPs, going down testing checklists, etc. But the difference between an OK IT professional and an outstanding one is their approach to that checksheet, whether they want to make it better, what they do when they see a hole in it, if they’d notice a gap in the operations manual and correct it or just turn off their brain and follow the steps in order.

    2. quirkypants*

      While I find all self-descriptors a bit annoying, this particular is one of those things that I think is different depending on role – in marketing and sales this wouldn’t a red flag for me AT ALL.

    3. Observer*

      I hear you. But given how often people are judged for no being “passionate enough” (see today’s earlier letter for an example), it’s hard to judge people who say that they are passionate about X.

      Not just not fair – not smart.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I think that sometimes we put more weight on certain words than the humans using the word even mean it though. Which needs to be something we take into thought when having these kind of reactions.

      Are they really “passionate” in the form you’re envisioning? Or are they just using that word because others have used it to as a description before?

      You have to talk to them and see how they read still because saying “I’m passionate!” and being that kind of evangelical level passionate are totally different ballgames.

      Just like “I’m obsessed with llamas” could mean they’re actually a fanboy, llama stalker or just that they think llamas are cute.

      1. Wintermute*

        I feel like if they’re otherwise worth an interview that’s worth digging into “I love to hear you’re passionate about the work you’d be doing, how do you express your passion?”

        Things I’d consider a plus are reading llama industry blogs, raising llamas at home or owning a llama, attending free seminars and talks given by llama industry leaders, etc.

    5. char*

      On the flip side, a lot of job listings explicitly say that they want candidates who are “passionate” about the work. So personally, it’s hard for me to fault applicants for picking up on that language and using it to describe themselves.

    6. Anonys*

      I think it depends on how it’s used. Someone just saying they are passionate as a blanket statement is weird. But I think for college applications and the like people often say: “I’ve always been passionate about xyz and joined this and that club to pursue my interest” or something and I think that kind of language can probably be used in job applications as well. I don’t see anything wrong with using the word to describe that you are strongly interested in something. Especially if you back it up: “I’m particularly passionate about ensuring customer satisfaction, and in the last year handled xy enquiries to abc standard and was praised for always doing yz” sounds totally fine to me.

      1. Anonys*

        or how about: “I’m passionate about learning and always strive to improve my existing skillset, which is why I studied for a certification in xy while working full-time at Company”.

        I think a lot of these self-description kind of phrases are annoyed when just thrown into a cover letter without context, but when paired with concrete examples they make a cover letter interesting to read.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          Yes! I think this is a key point – it’s got to have some context around it for it to hold any water.

          1. anonintheuk*

            I hate people saying they are passionate about tax (my field). I worry about finding them in flagrante with the legislation.

  12. Khatul Madame*

    OK, we don’t like “visionary” or “charismatic”, but where do we draw the line? Resumes are essentially advertisements and unproven epithets are par for the course. Are self-descriptions like “reliable”, “energetic”, “proficient in XXX”, “skilled in YYY”, acceptable just because they are less over the top? How about “strategist” and “thought leader”?
    Full disclosure, my examples are a mix of my own pet peeves and words/phrases from my own resume.

    1. starsaphire*

      Given how many people get help with their resumes, I would probably give a pass on wording that annoyed me — but grammar and spelling errors, inconsistent punctuation, etc., would be a hard no. (Mind you, I work in publication and would generally be interviewing writers/editors, so that sort of thing is germane to the job itself.)

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      Thought leader would be a tough one for me to swallow (it gets thrown around in my field a lot, too). Sadly I’ve also seen it in job postings as a desired quality so I guess not everyone agrees with me.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Thought leader is tricky and oft overused, but it can be quantified.
        Did the person lead startups or launch new products or services? Did they write about an industry and have thousands of followers? Did they revolutionize a new way to market something that had everyone copying them?

        I’ve worked with a few people who are thought leaders, but it’s really not all that common a trait.

        1. Mad mad me*

          “Thought leader” is not an honorific you bestow on yourself. You might be able to get by with using language like “considered thought leader in field of spearfishing,” but it’s laughingly arrogant to call yourself one. Same with labeling yourself “charismatic.” Why not just call yourself an incomparable raconteur and be done with it?

        2. Elfie*

          Sure, but what exactly is a ‘thought leader’? One who leads thoughts? I honestly laugh to myself when I see (especially prevalent on LinkedIn) people describe themselves as thought leaders.
          Like one of my connections wrote on LI the other day that when they returned to looking at some documentation they had written, they thought “wow, I did a really great job on this!”. No, that’s really not for you to decide!!

      2. Uranus Wars*

        You comment brought up another point (maybe not intended) but many applicants may have gotten advice to mimic some of the ad or posting…so there it goes right in there. But I also agree there has to be context and not just words.

      1. Observer*

        But would you exclude a candidate over this? I mean they obviously didn’t take your resume writing advice, but seriously speaking someone could be an excellent candidate without being a good marketer of themself.

        1. fposte*

          It might be about different fields, but I do find “charismatic” eyebrow-raising whereas “quick learner” is just null space. The second is about how they’d do the job; the first is just about their wonderfulness. I wouldn’t automatically weed an application out for using “charismatic,” but if they weren’t early career it would count against them.

      2. Traffic_Spiral*

        This. Show ‘hardworking’ or ‘reliable’ by an example of something you accomplished by working hard or being reliable. Just saying it means nothing.

        1. AGD*

          This is the key. Describe your accomplishments, and let the readers draw conclusions that involve lots of adulatory adjectives!

      3. Xantar*

        For the most part I agree although I think “proficient in xxx” might be useful if it’s something that can be certified or quantified. I’ve met too many candidates who claim to be proficient in Excel who turn out to have never done a basic formula, so I don’t pay attention to that. If they are proficient in Adobe software, I think that does say something because even using the basic functions of Adobe requires some training.

    3. Georgina Fredrika*

      Well honestly I don’t keep a lot of these sort of self-describing adjectives in my cover letter or resume – it just seems like fluff. If I have to indicate XXX proficiency, I put it in my resume as “3 years experience using XXX.”
      If I wanted to say skilled in YYY, I put in “initiated training and presentation for my team on YYY.” etc. Instead of friendly I put “volunteer to organize team outings 1/month.”

      IMO with limited space and attention spans it’s a better approach and less subject to “hm, but everyone says that about themselves”

    4. Wintermute*

      I consider all of those bad without being backed up with proof, just saying “reliable” is terrible, talking about how you’ve performed consistently over time is good. Talking about proficiencies and skills is the exact opposite of fluff, it’s showing specific details, in my field 95% of what is going to get you hired is your proficiencies– you want to give details to prove it (number of years you’ve used a skill and at what level) but that’s precisely what a good resume SHOULD have.

      The real issue with “visionary” in my opinion is that if you’re less than a world leader in a field you’re not really a visionary. If you’re not inventing things that no one has ever thought of, or marketing things in ways that have never been done before, or inspiring paradigm shifts in your entire company if not industry, you’re not really a visionary. It’s SO overblown that it speaks to dramatic arrogance and smoke and mirrors. I can’t hear someone call themselves a visionary without thinking of an Elizabeth Holmes type that has such an overblown sense of their capabilities that when reality and the laws of physics intrude they will lie their asses off rather than admit they’re not actually a world-changing genius.

  13. AndersonDarling*

    I thought the “pet peeves” were going to be on the level of “The candidate was chewing their nails during the whole interview,” or “They mentioned a bizarre conspiracy theory on the initial phone screen.”
    If you have 500 applications and you are looking for any reason to randomly exclude applicants, then I guess you can use these pet peeves as an excuse. But it if it’s 5 strong candidates, then describing themselves as charismatic isn’t a reason to exclude them. Who knows, maybe they have a +10 Charisma and they don’t want to bore you with the details in a cover letter.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yes; I was ready to bond with others who say “I’d never say this out loud, but I’d have a really hard time hiring someone who smacks their gum.”

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Not gonna lie, I’m put off by someone who’s chewing gum in an interview at all, even if it’s quiet.

          1. thebobmaster*

            If you’d have been there, if you’d have heard it, I bet you you would have done the same.

      2. A*

        Given the large number of AAM commenters that have/or have self-diagnosed misophonia…. I think you can still forge that bond!

      1. Amy Sly*

        “I don’t know where I’ll put my low stat.
        It’s only seventeen.
        I wonder why the other guys
        Have started turning green.
        You think they’d be
        So glad for me.
        Instead they’re really mean!
        I don’t know where I’ll put my low stat.”
        — I Put My Low Stat, Mary Crowell

  14. Observer*

    OP, if you allow your pet peeves to really influence you, you are highly likely to miss out on good candidates.

    Of course, if you think that the thing is something that actually may be a hint to something useful, that’s different. But even there, it’s just a hint. So what you want to do is follow Allison’s advice and just keep your eyes open. AND do look at your own patters. If a lot of strong candidates engage in your pet peeve, you really want to disregard the peeve if you can.

  15. Ray Gillette*

    My pet peeve is when an applicant says they have excellent writing skills, but doesn’t include a cover letter. There’s an opportunity right there to back up that statement, and you didn’t take it!

    1. MonteCristo*

      Not so much a direct question for you, but I’ve just recently started job searching, and of the many many jobs I’ve looked at and applied for, there has only been one job with a place to upload a cover letter. Do you just add it to the file when you upload your resume? I’ve been assuming if they don’t have a place for it, they don’t want it.

      1. Ray Gillette*

        In my case, I’m soliciting applications either via direct email (my company website) or on platforms that allow a cover letter to be uploaded directly. If there isn’t a way to attach one, I think you’re safe in assuming they don’t want one.

  16. OrigCassandra*

    The thing about your individual pet peeves is that they’re YOUR INDIVIDUAL pet peeves. If they’re not widely shared, how is one poor applicant supposed to predict them for every hiring manager they’re putting an application in front of?

    This is related to, but still slightly distinct from, the various problems with “fit” (and how it becomes biaswashing, for example). Both raise real questions about how reasonable it is to expect a candidate to predict and allow for certain things.

    I teach in a professional program, and do a lot of application-reading. Do I have pet peeves? Oh my goodness, yes. Many. My profession has a lot of clichés and stereotypes attached to it, for example, and of course they turn up in application essays. I have to remind myself that knowledgeable is what they are going out, not necessarily coming in, and ask whether the misconception the applicant has is liable to hinder them in the program or its associated careers. Rarely, the answer is actually “yes,” but usually it’s “nah, they’ll learn better and get over it.”

    Some aren’t even from the applicants, but from their recommenders — I would dearly love to yeet every recommender who refers to a cis female applicant as e.g. “modest” or “completely lacking in conceit” into the SUN. (For some reason I never see such adjectives attached to cis male candidates. Gosh. Wonder why.) But do I count this against an applicant? Nah, of course not.

    1. Observer*

      Interesting point. The one that grates on me is “respectful”. Sure, there are contexts where it makes sense to bring this up proactively, but most of the time “respectful” should be a baseline of behavior. I think that the reason it catches my ire is that I generally see it either when describing certain groups, or used by a certain type of person.

      But, as you say, that’s a reflection of the recommender not the person being recommended.

      1. Wintermute*

        That one reminds me of the epic rant out there about “nice guys”– Being nice to people is a baseline human expectation, it is the table stakes to being a human being in social situations.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      I would dearly love to yeet every recommender who refers to a cis female applicant as e.g. “modest” or “completely lacking in conceit” into the SUN.

      Oh, that makes my heart hurt. (That they say this, not that you want to eject them from the planet.)

      1. OrigCassandra*

        Mm-hm. I have to be a little careful not to admit the applicant on the spot just to get her away from that horrendous recommender.

  17. Sara without an H*

    OP, if for “pet peeves,” you substitute “prejudices,” would you still feel comfortable using that as a filtering tool for applications?

    You say that selection of interview candidates cannot be entirely “fair.” Why not? Before you go through the applications, try spending some time developing a really focused list of “must have” and “nice to have” factors for the position. (Actually, you should do that before you write the job listing.) If a candidate has all of your “must haves,” and perhaps a selection of your “nice to haves,” proceed even if their application contains features that trigger your “peeves.” If there’s something in the resume or cover letter that bothers you, come up with ways to probe further on that issue in the interview and reference checks.

      1. fposte*

        Though alternatively, you could explore them and see if on reflection you can shore them up so that they’re legitimate criteria. “Charismatic” would be a really tone-deaf self-descriptor in my field; it would be a strong indication of somebody out of step with culture in way that could cause a problem. So it’s worth considering–is this just something you’re sick of seeing, or does it indicate a weakness in your applicant?

    1. Pamela Adams*

      The problem is when that still leaves you with 50 candidates. Even for phone screens, you need to cut numbers down somehow. When I am hiring, all resumes that reach me meet ‘must haves’. I then work with nice to haves to bring it down to 10 or less, so I can phone screen and make interview choices from there. Sometimes, it comes down to rolling the dice.(Of course, a deep pool like this is an advantage when your number 1 declines, or you decide to hire to fill multiple spots)

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I have to be in the wrong industry.

        Boss: “There’s no way I can go through all 1,000 résumés for our open position.”
        Schlep: “We’ve been shorthanded for over a year with the two positions open!”

        Maybe the solution is to hire one of the unemployed to go through the other applications and triage them?

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          The solution is to have the boss do their GD job and prioritize hiring better. If they’re too lazy to hire because they’re “too busy”, they aren’t treating the problem at all. You should never be too busy to fix your short handed problem. Otherwise you dig yourself deeper instead of using the ladder to climb out of the dang hole.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            You left out giving up on waiting for a left-handed purple squirrel to drop into their laps.

            Other than that, cheer cheer! Harumph, harumph, harumph!

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              These people miss all their possible unicorns because they won’t even LOOK UP to see it’s standing right there in front of them.

    2. Anonys*

      I think that what OP meant with hiring can’t be entirely “fair” is more things like: Humans are always involved, so it’s not 100% objective. There’s a reason why computers don’t decide who to hire based on objective accomplishments listed on resumes. Some people might be great for a role but have trouble putting that across in cover letters and interviews. There’s also a reason why not everyone in an interview panel always agrees on who to hire. People prioritize different things, which can be legitimate, as long as it doesn’t discriminate against any particular group. Also, as Alison has said before, culture fit can be a real consideration for both interviewers and interviewees, again, as long as that doesn’t mean: “be a white male bro who’ll make sexist jokes at the strip club” it’s ok. Not always the person who objectively has more accomplishments will get hired. Maybe the hiring manager would like someone a little less experienced but cheaper who can be trained to the standards of the role.

      I think “fair” can be a tricky word in general. I think the aim should be to hire the person who is a great fit for the job(considering budget) while actively taking care to eliminate biases against those in marginalized groups.

  18. Lora*

    I set up a rubric for scoring resumes on technical skills, informal background notes (e.g. if Jane worked at Notoriously Awful Place the first ten years of her career, maybe she has bad habits to unlearn), particular hypothetical situations to ask about (“how would you deal with…” “how have you handled in the past…”) and more general requirements (previous jobs of any kind for an intern or new grad, general computer skills, problem solving and getting along with humans during professional disagreement, followed instructions and normal professional behaviors). Then I do a sort of informal survey of colleagues we might have in common to ask what is this person like to work with, and ask them in general terms about anything that was flagged for me. It has worked FABULOUSLY well for me – managed to red-flag some candidates who, upon being asked one of those “how have you dealt with…” questions, gave major NOPE NOPE DO NOT HIRE answers, and I manage to hire a pretty diverse crowd that is also very successful and efficient.

    Yes, I do get some people who do alllllll my pet peeves (butt kissers are THE PITS, guys, I can see right through it and I do not even appreciate the effort) but these are my personal problems. I have a drink when I get home and get over it.

  19. Bob*

    Alison’s answer is interesting, take what they say into account and look for signs confirming or denying it. Then use that information in your hiring decision.

  20. Anonymous at a University*

    Yes, don’t judge on this unless it’s combined with other, more serious red flags. For example, typos in professional documents are a pet peeve of mine. If I see a typo in a cover letter, I wouldn’t reject it because of that. If I saw multiple typos in a cover letter, and some of them were in words such as the name of my university, authors’ names who are respected in our field, terms relating to students? Yeah, that would be a cause for concern, especially since I’m in English and have mostly sat on committees to hire English professors and people with degrees in English; we do expect higher standards of them, especially a cover letter for a position that has to do with proofreading or Writing Center direction. (The immortal example in my mind is a cover letter that was three paragraphs long and had more than fifteen typos, including “I spent sex years at this job.”)

    Look for patterns, not single instances.

  21. MonteCristo*

    I have a few pet peeves that I use when screening, but for the most part, I have reasons for why they warrant exclusion. For example, if you resume has random font or other formatting issues, I’m going to assume that’s the same standard of work I will get from you when you create a report, especially since the resume is suppose to be your best foot forward. If you tell me you tell me you know very little about the company, I’m going to assume you don’t prepare for things, and that you’ll always be a step behind. Or if you are a small cog in a big machine, and yet you are using overall market trends of your company as your measurable accomplishment, I’m going to assume you are a bit of a smoke blower. If you use “detail orientated” or “meticulous” in your resume I will examine it with a fine tooth comb for any irregularities, as well as any other written communication that passes between us. Just don’t. Show it to me with your well crafted resume.

    1. Jean*

      This is a great comment. I actually stopped using “detail oriented” as one of my supposed strengths in interviews a long time ago when I realized it made me a target for undue scrutiny. If you tell people you have excellent attention to detail, they are absolutely delighted to throw that back in your face when you inevitably do make a mistake.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I actually had “be less detail-oriented” as a goal on a performance review. I’m still trying to figure that one out.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          It could mean to stop getting hung up on the little things if they stop you from getting work done in a timely manner, i.e., don’t spend an extra week getting your error rate from 2% to 1% if it’s not necessary.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            The context was in written communication, and the consequences of a misunderstanding were lawsuits.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I don’t think what you’ve listed are pet peeves! It’s just you assessing them, at face value with what you have in front of you to do so.

      If someone says they’re detailed oriented, it’s not a peeve to then take another deeper look and look for any details they missed. It’s just natural to examine what people give you instead of just eating it up and taking them at what they say.

      We once had a resume that said they increased sales by $10,000,0000. And we both looked at each other and started howling because really, really?

      1. Anonymous Hippo*

        Well, maybe they aren’t pet peeves…but I was helping assess my sister’s latest resume, and started to run down these things, and she got all annoyed with me and said I was nitpicking. lol.

  22. Jean*

    I would seriously question the judgment and self-awareness of someone who put on their resume that they were “charismatic.” Being charismatic is a subjective, unquantifiable personal characteristic, not a professional achievement or qualification. It has no business being on a resume. That’s a reasonable standard, not a pet peeve.

    1. MonteCristo*

      I’m not sure why “charismatic” would be an admirable character quality in an employee in any case. Ok, so people like you, does that mean you get away with doing poor work because “oh that’s just John?” Or you are good at convincing people to go your way, but is your way any good? Do you have the knowledge/expertise to back up this supposed charisma? Honestly, if I saw that on a resume I would be extremely taken aback, and assume they though VERY highly of themselves.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        If the job requires schmoozing, it’d be a positive, but it’s still not something one should be self-describing.

        1. Anonymous Hippo*

          I would think you’d just show how good your sales and/or relationship building was…ie results, not ability. Lots of people have abilities that they can’t turn into results. Same as if someone wrote “I’m an asset to every company I work for” no please, show me why, don’t tell me.

  23. Hiring Manager*

    I don’t even consider what you have described as “peeves.” I think it is a fair assessment of an applicant. FWIW I also don’t like the LinkedIn reachouts when we don’t know each other, and if the only way you can show us you are “visionary” is to state the fact, then there is a problem. Your cover letter and resume should show these things. Pet peeves would be to me things that annoy me for petty reasons or things I just don’t like (like a certain color clothing).

  24. Lexi Kate*

    Is it a pet peeve that will making working with the interviewee impossible for you? Do you have a large amount of viable candidates? if so then them in the maybe pile and look for someone else. My pet peeve is loud desk eaters. I used to sit next to Shrek he ate 2 cans of tuna, a whole Onion, and a LB of carrots every day. Its been 12 years, I will never forget him and his chomping. If I could I would have interviewees eat a few chips and drink a drink in the interview so I could judge how loud they were going to be at their desk.

  25. lazy intellectual*

    I kind of understand these reasons, though? They don’t seem like ‘pet peeves’ so much as people who don’t seem to understand social/professional norms.

    Though I will say, if their applications are otherwise good, give them a chance. ESPECIALLY give them a chance if they are:

    A) New to the workforce

    and/or B) Candidates who belong to marginalized demographics, and thus don’t get much of a chance to pick up on professional norms via exposure (because they don’t know many people who work professional jobs, etc.)

  26. JSPA*

    If you have to work with someone, it makes sense to pick someone who’s different enough from you that you reap the benefit of an independent way of thinking and a set of skills that’s different from your own.

    It also makes sense to pick someone who doesn’t drive you up the wall.

    So long as your peeves are not inappropriately weighted by gender, ethnicity (etc), and so long as you keep an eye out for people whose weakest skill is selling themselves (but who are demonstrably excellent in other ways), it’s OK to weed out candidates whose resumés make you feel a bit tired or put off.

    That irritating turn of phrase or glib bit of self-congratulation likely isn’t going to grate less, when you’ve heard it 20 more times.

  27. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP, I have the same pet peeve about people who describe themselves as “charismatic,” sight unseen. I automatically think “Narcissist!”

  28. Uranus Wars*

    I have a little bit of an issue with the LinkedIn thing, but it happens and I don’t hold it against anyone or let it influence whether or not I bring them in. But if the person then messages me and trys to get an “in” it then crosses the line. But like Alison said, I use it as a tool to look for more.

    I work in an industry a lot of people want to work in, but not a lot of people have the skill set for it. I one LinkedIn attempt to connect was over the top. A candidate who was not qualified, but requested a connection, messaged me to say “hey, I saw you are hiring for XYZ position, what can I do to make sure I get the job?” I ignored it and he got the same courtesy “thanks but not thanks” email as other candidates. He then got a job in our customer service department and before he was even out of his six week training class he was emailing me to ask to shadow me for a day, asking me how he could prove to me he was qualified to do the job despite not having the qualifications, could he shadow my staff, etc. I said no, so he moved on and started emailing the person who was hired into the job he had originally applied to. I told him to knock it off, so he moved onto someone else. Rinse repeat. I actually had to get his supervisor involved to tell him to cut it out.

    I say all that very long story to say if it’s a true issue it will come out in other ways during the process, so I wouldn’t write anyone off on a request to connect on what is essentially an online networking site.

  29. nerfherder*

    Someone at my organization put on her resume that she was “obsessed” with certain aspects of the job. That really rubbed me the wrong way. I can’t even put my finger on why, it just sounded so unprofessional.

    Anyway, I was on the hiring committee, and I felt that she didn’t have sufficient experience/maturity for the role. I didn’t make that call JUST due to the use of “obsessed,” but it was on the list, you know? It wasn’t make or break, but it was part of the conversation. It was something I would have overlooked if the resume had otherwise been strong, but the resume was a little weak and the “obsessed” just kind of…nudged her over into my personal “no” category. So for me, this tracked with Alison’s advice.

    But most of the committee didn’t agree with me, and she was actually hired. Turns out now that she’s been at it for a while…she didn’t have sufficient maturity and experience for the role, and she’s struggling quite a bit. Ah well.

  30. AutoMan*

    My business partner describes herself on LinkedIn as a “visionary” in our field. I can assure you that Allison’s pet peeve about that term is well deserved in her case. When it comes to being visionary, my partner is a classic example of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

  31. NightOwl*

    In this case, I wonder what wording the job posting contained. I’ve seen postings recently with phrases such as, “Seeking a forward-thinking, passionate, charismatic…” blah blah blah. Is it possible this candidate put a few of those words into their resume in hopes it would make it past a computer screening process? Not the best idea, but I can see how it can be done, especially for people newer to the workforce (not a clue if that’s the case here). How many times have we been told to make connections on LinkedIn and be engaged and post content on LinkedIn due to the algorithms? Gag. I wouldn’t pass over this resume for that, but I would want to see some level of charisma demonstrated during the interview.

    And I’m also with the group that would reject a candidate for gum snapping – no no no!

  32. christine c*

    I have a bunch of pet peeves, but have been trying to be careful about asking myself whether following those peeves privileges candidates with a similar background and profile to me — a white woman raised by university-educated professionals in a major urban centre. Because frankly, some of our implicit biases hide out in our pet peeves and can end up unfairly disadvantaging certain groups. And my sector is full of people who look exactly like me, which is a problem.
    For example, earlier in my career I would have been VERY hardline about entertaining cover letters containing grammatical errors and poor writing style. Now, I try to look past that if the role I’m hiring for doesn’t involve a lot of writing. I also am annoyed by some approaches to networking (including the aggressive LinkedIn connecting) but think sometimes aspects of these approaches are influenced by cultural differences.
    Anyhow, just something to think about.

    1. lazy intellectual*

      I actually think the aggressive LinkedIn networking is largely due to bad advice from college and grad school career centers, at least in the case of young job seekers. This is another reason I would overlook something like this if the candidate is otherwise decent.

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