In one of our earlier posts, we held a round table and shared some of our craziest recruiting stories; hard-to-believe situations that resulted in candidates being passed on for job opportunities. These unbelievable situations do not only occur during the interview process. Every day, I am astounded by the carelessness of people who are supposedly working hard to find a job or to make a career move. Why would otherwise highly qualified candidates go out of their way to repel prospective employers? It’s one of the stranger phenomena of the staffing industry.
I am not making up any of this. These are all very real situations that I come across on a frighteningly regular basis. Prepare for a heavy dose of the word “professionalism” and variations thereof; in job seeking, professionalism is the name of the game and should be of top priority. Here are eight unbelievable yet common job seeker mistakes:
1. Have an Unprofessional Voicemail Message
You do not want a prospective employer calling you and hearing a voicemail message that says “Hello? Hello, are you there? …. Gotcha, this is just my voicemail! Leave a message!” or “Yo yo yo! This is Mike, you know what to do, leave it at the tone. Mike out!”
An appropriate voicemail message for a professional person expecting a call from prospective employers should be succinct. “You’ve reached John Smith. Please state your name, phone number and the reason for your call. I will return the call promptly. Thank you.” A simple system message in which you only record your name (“You’ve reached the voicemail box of: John Smith. Please leave your message after the tone”) would also be appropriate.
2. Have an Unprofessional Email Address
Your personal email address should be kept personal. A prospective employer will question whether an applicant displaying an email address like boblovestheladies007, cheesewhiz27, or dreamsoftombrady12 can be taken seriously. One of the many things a manager must determine throughout the interview process is whether an applicant can be trusted to reflect positively on the business. Do not give them any reason to doubt that you are a trustworthy and professional person.
If you are planning on placing your email address on your resume or on a job board, please take two minutes to create a neutral email address with one of many free email service providers. Keep it simple; something like john.smith, john_smith, jsmith53 is sufficient and would not raise any eyebrows.
3. Answer the Phone Foolishly
This goes along with having an unprofessional voicemail message. If you are potentially expecting calls from hiring managers and recruiters, you should not be answering your phone with “Yo!” or “Talk to me.” Stick with the simple and classic “Hello?” or “John Smith speaking.” Speak clearly and show professionalism. Show professionalism! This is such a simple thing but the mistake happens more often than you think.
Another phone mistake people often make is answering the phone in a tone that suggests the caller interrupted a deep sleep or is being a bother. I do understand that answering the phone can be difficult for people who are at work; if that is the case, politely ask the caller to give you a moment while you step outside or to call back in two minutes. If you are on the job hunt while unemployed, wake up early and be prepared to enthusiastically take calls; other candidates are, and they will be looked at more favorably than someone who cannot be bothered to get out of bed or who is showing a poker face. No manager will hire someone who does not sound like they want to be hired. Strong, serious candidates treat the job search like a job itself and this includes answering the phone in a professional manner.
4. Put a Personal Nickname on Your Resume
Though your friends may call you Sweetness, your employer will not. Keep it off your resume.
5. Write Something Silly in Your Resume Summary
Even if you do excel at crushing your competitors, seeing them driven before you, and hearing the lamentation of their women, do not write that on your resume. Keep your resume’s summary section professional, succinct and career-relevant; see our posts on resume writing best practices for further help.
6. Have an Unprofessional Picture on LinkedIn
Like Nicolas Cage as a cat, there are some things you just can’t un-see. Many potential employers will check out a person’s LinkedIn profile before pulling the trigger on the hire. If they are greeted with a picture of you doing a keg stand, that great impression you made during the interview will likely be lost and gone forever.
7. Social Media with Reckless Abandon
See above. I often see people treating LinkedIn like the MySpace of old, spamming their contacts with silly images in poor resolution, inappropriate quotes and quips, and “tweets” about their trip to the supermarket. A potential employer looking up your credentials will be neither amused nor impressed.
I would like to reiterate how often hiring managers do look up at least the LinkedIn profiles of potential hires; Google searches on your name are also not unheard of.
8. Have an Inappropriate Ringback Tone
Some phones allow you to change the ringback tone: the sound a caller hears while waiting for you to answer. By default it is a familiar series of short drones, but if someone calling you is forced to listen to Miley Cyrus or Dr. Dre while they wait for you to pick up the phone, it’s probably pretty safe to say that they will not view you as a professional person or potential hire.
Leave your ringback tone alone or at least make it something neutral. I come across phones set to a ringback tone of Vivaldi’s Spring pretty frequently, as it comes as a default ringback tone option on many mobile phones in the US; while mildly annoying (as it is so common), it probably won’t be viewed as unprofessional.
It seems like a no-brainer, but simply displaying a bit of professionalism will give you an immediate edge against a large number of other candidates. What are some other major mistakes job seekers make, and what steps can you take to avoid these pitfalls?
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