8 Ways to Blow Getting a Job Interview

Once again we’re hiring at PushFire and once again that means I’m going through a slew of resumes to try and find some new – and awesome – members to add to the PushFire team.

Add to that my post last week railing ForbesWoman for explaining how women have a hard time competing in today’s market for employment because they have to compete against men and I figured this would be a great time to post about what I see (and repeatedly at that) that actually hurts your opportunity to get the career you want – at least at my company.

Failure to follow instructions

Look – I know it’s a competitive market, but don’t be in such a hurry to get your application in “first” that you fail to take the time to actually read the job ad and follow any instructions listed within it. Your application for a position is supposed to be your best impression. If your “best impression” is that you don’t bother to follow simple instructions, you’ll immediately end up in my circular file (AKA the trash bin). It says to me that you can’t be managed without a lot of oversight.

Spelling the company name wrong

Again, don’t rush. Take the time to look into the company you’re applying with. Our company name is “PushFire” – and is clearly stated so in the ad and on our website. It’s not “Pushfire”, “Push Fire” or “PuchFire”. It’s not the we’re narcissistic or feel we’re a household name – it simply shows me your lack of attention to detail. If you can’t be bothered with the small stuff for things that directly benefit you, then I highly doubt you’re capable of paying the attention to detail we demand for our clients.

Using “canned” cover letters

It takes approximately five minutes to personally address your cover letter to me – or my company – and modify your objective within your resume to fit in line with the position that we’re hiring for. It makes me cringe when I see “Dear Hiring Manager” followed by how they’d be a perfect fit at my “company”. It reminds me of a generic link exchange request. I see that as a lack of “people skills” and I’m always looking for people skills – especially important if the position itself directly requires it.

Using ridiculously long cover letters

In this economy, people putting out job ads are likely getting a lot of applicants. I don’t want to have to read a book to find out whether or not I should bring you in for an interview. Keep it to two paragraphs or less. Appreciate my time and show me you can be succinct in describing your potential value to our company and culture.

Not understanding the line between confident and cocky

I absolutely want confident people. But I don’t want egos. There is a fine line between showing a potential employer that you’re bold vs. showing them that you’re cocky. Team members that think they know everything are often hard to work with for co-workers and oversee by management. Learn the difference between “I’d add immense value to your team” and “You’d be lucky to be able to hire me”.

Failure to include relevant skills

We sometimes get applications from someone for a position where their resume and cover letter make no mention of the specific skills that are required in the position. There is likely a reason you feel you’re qualified for the position you’re applying for. Make sure you show me those reasons.

Including unprofessional attributes

If you send me an application from hotcandy88@hotmail.com, tell me how “Ud luv” to get an interview, use 18 point pink font in your email, have a dancing kitten in your signature line or include a shirtless picture of yourself (I couldn’t make this shit up), you won’t be getting any interviews with us – and probably won’t with anyone else for that matter. We’re a laid back company, but we’re still professionals.

Telling me all about how you’re self-employed in a competing business

I love entrepreneurs, don’t get me wrong. And I get that entrepreneurs sometimes make the jump to a salaried position for whatever reason. But when you tell me about all the success you’ve had while running a business that is competitive to mine, you make me feel like you’re looking for a free education and not a long term home with our team. I’m not saying to lie, but if you’re self employed – especially in a competing business – while applying for a job, I’d highly suggest addressing WHY you’re looking for a job in the cover letter.

Got any to add?

If you can think of any additional mistakes you’ve seen cost people an interview, feel free to mention them in the comments. :)

About Rae Hoffman

Rae Hoffman aka "Sugarrae" is an affiliate marketing veteran and the CEO of PushFire, a search marketing agency specializing in SEO audits and link building strategies. She is also the author of the often controversial Sugarrae blog. You can connect with Rae via Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

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  1. Ego is a big time no no that got me canned over and over again throughout the years.. Great post, it’s awesome to hear your voice again.

  2. I find when I have to power through any quantity of resumes anything with special paper, weird fonts, pictures, any distractions, just piss me off. And for godsakes put your experience first, not your volunteer work, not your education. I’m a busy guy, if you make me hunt for what I want, you have a much better chance of me chucking your resume and just going to the next one where I can find what I’m looking for. Forget the bells and whistles and just get me the info I need right now. If I want your education and hobbies I’ll go looking for them after I see what you’ve done before. … actually as I write this I’m thinking this also applies to designing your website…

    Also, if you are giving me a resume in person, give it to me and go. Don’t stand there like I’m going to read it or book an interview this instant.

  3. Kathryn Parsons says:

    You made my evening. When I got to “unprofessional attributes,” I couldn’t stop laughing. Over the years, I’ve seen some pretty unprofessional things from resumes, but the dancing kittens takes the cake.

  4. Completely agree with every single one of these. I’ve round-filed many applications for these reasons in the past.

    I’d add, while not as immediately “glaring”, I cannot stand when the applicant fails to clearly state how they are the best fit, or even how they’re going to add value. Help me understand why YOU are the right person for THIS job and how you are going to add your own unique flavor of value to the company. Make a compelling case, but make it quick.

  5. Great points, all, Rae. Had to laugh at the dancing kittens and shirtless photo! Years ago, I was hiring a new secretary to replace my retiring right hand, who literally fell off her chair laughing, when she opened a resume in which the applicant had enclosed an 8×10 glam photo in a bikini!
    The sad thing was, without that photo, she’d have definitely won an interview. With it, she hit the round file.
    I would also add to your list the follow-up calls or emails the day after (and roughly every 8 hours after that) you receive the application, offering “corrections” or “additional information” that should have been included the first time. Nothing screams half-assed like an incomplete or inaccurate job application.

  6. Hiring…the worst part of a company’s success…ugh!

    Best of luck tho, SugarRae….hope you find some real winners, eh!



  7. Including relevant skills in your cover letter is important because it shows why you’re perfect for the job. Moreover, it shows that you’ve paid close attention to the job requirements and thus highlighted relevant skills that you know can increase your chances of getting the job interview.

  8. Rae this blog was priceless. Let me add one more that is a personal favorite. Using the word “strategy” in every other line of a resume &/or cover letter does not make you an industry expert. Neither does referring to yourself as a “guru” or such.

  9. Great tips! In fact, I use some of these as warning signs when hiring my own people as well. The following directions one especially. I always put some sort of specific instruction about how to appropriately title the email, or even put something along the lines of “Add the word Banana to the bottom of your cover letter” if I post the application somewhere where I know I will receive a lot of applicants like Craigslist, just to weed out those that are going for quantity over quality applications.

  10. I once had an applicant for an SEO intern position where the person seriously wrote under skills for a job in campus dining “rolling burritos, building sandwiches, and folding omelettes”.

    I also had another applicant in the same batch of resumes write a 2 page cover letter where one half of it was a Napoleon Hill quote and the other half talked about his trials and tribulations of being a failed almost-professional hockey player, then entered a black hole of failure while attempting to make something of himself.

  11. The Interview process has always been the most tiring activity for me but being a team manager this has always been a part of my work.

    Thanks for the tips SugarRae Hope you find some really good people to work with..

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