(Last Updated On: 21/03/2017)

Everyone aims to put their best foot forward when entering a job search, particularly when students have the opportunity to interact with recruiters, whether in person, via email, or by application to a position. Knowing this is a delicate relationship that can make or break a hiring decision, candidates often flub the chance to impress. What should they say? How many times is too many to follow up on an email? How can they make their resumes stick out? I reached out to recruiters to find out their pet peeves with job applicants at the college level. Want to know how to avoid irking potential employers? Here is some of their feedback!

I really get annoyed when candidates…

Don’t respect my time

Maybe you’re the student that thinks emailing and calling a lot shows persistence. Or you could be the one that reaches out to every member of the recruiting team. Twice. And the worst part? You expect someone to always provide a timely response to your “just checking in” notes. Perhaps you’re that candidate that requests several reschedules because of your personal timing conflicts, time zone differences, or other interviews. Whatever the case, you must realize you are not the only candidate a recruiter is managing. It doesn’t matter if you are one of 5 or 500. After an initial interaction (email, face-to-face, phone, etc.), use your judgment on what level of follow up is appropriate. Most of the time, your gut tells you when enough is enough. Don’t ignore it. When in doubt, ask a career services professional.

Can’t follow directions

There is nothing more aggravating than getting questions about next steps in the process when it has been explained in a previous email or conversation. More importantly, it can make it seem as though you cannot follow instructions, and lack the ability to thoroughly process information you’ve been provided. Read thoroughly/listen carefully!

Are difficult to reach

Seems like common sense, but it is not uncommon for students to list email addresses that they don’t check often, or phone numbers that are no longer working. If this information is not up-to-date and accurate, how will you know (in a timely manner) that you’ve been selected? And when you see the email a week later, should a recruiter show understanding to your tardy reply? They won’t, and shouldn’t. Be sure to use contact information that you use frequently.

Have poor resumes and other application documents

In college, your resume should be a page. That doesn’t mean you should make your font really small just to get everything on there. Nor does that mean to make it bigger to fill up space. If a lengthy resume is an issue, more than likely it is overrun by superfluous information. Sit with a career advisor to learn what needs to stay and what needs to go.

Poorly crafted cover letters fall in this category as well. Recruiters are turned off majorly by wordiness, grammatical errors, and especially the mention of another organization by mistake. Cutting and pasting company names from one letter to another is usually the culprit for this happening. It shows a lack of genuine personalization and thought regarding your content, and speaks poorly to your attention to detail. My suggestion? Start fresh each time you write a letter, and get an advisor to proofread it before submission.

Act too casually during interviews

I get it. You met them at a career fair. Then their info-session. You’ve talked on the phone three times. The recruiters are one beer away from being your new bff! Or at least it seems this way. So why wouldn’t you relax a bit in the actual interview? How can you maintain a serious stature with the recruiter that has been so chummy and personable throughout the process? Easily…treat your interviewer as though they know nothing about you. This means no showing up in jeans or khakis (when a suit is expected); greeting the interviewer with a hug; leaning to the side, back or forward in your chair; chewing gum; inappropriate jokes; colorful language; or bringing up personal or casual topics. It also means you can’t rely on past conversations to shorten your answers, assuming the interviewer should be able to fill in the blanks based on what you’ve discussed previously.

Use the same situation to answer multiple questions

Part of preparing for an interview is knowing your story. When have you been challenged? Shown leadership? Completed a project? Failed? If you can’t pull from different areas of your life, whether it be from an internship, a part-time job, the classroom, a club on campus, then you don’t know your story. Sometimes students have been involved in an activity heavily, and because of their time and dedication, it is at the forefront of all of their recent memories. So if you feel as though you’re in danger of this happening to you, be sure to really think about each section of your resume, and what you learned from each experience.

Fail to communicate they are no longer interested OR renege on an acceptance

One last grievance is the candidate that leads a recruiter on. Interview invitations go unanswered. Phone calls aren’t returned. And maybe you feel embarrassed or awkward to tell a potential employer you aren’t interested in their position any longer. Trust me, it is much more polite and professional courtesy to let an employer know you appreciate their time, but you have decided not to pursue this opportunity. You will not hurt their feelings. This is part of their job.

And once you do find a position, you should stop looking and interviewing elsewhere. You shouldn’t accept a position until you’re absolutely sure this is the job for you. Because once you’ve committed, your new employer stops searching for candidates. And if you renege on your offer, they have to start the process all over again. Most importantly, you definitely risk burning a professional bridge that may come back to haunt you.

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Britney Fields
Britney wrote career advice articles for CareerThoughts.com. She has worked in career services and higher education for nearly ten years, focused mainly on campus recruiting and college student advising. She currently resides in Atlanta, GA, working as an Associate Director at Emory University. Check her profile here.

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