What is the worst thing you can do when applying for a job? Lie. But it could take much less for your resume to end up in the trash can. From the inconvenient to the rude, hiring managers and recruiters tell ADVANCE what to avoid to ensure you snag an interview and get the job.
“Recruiting is a small world,” said Renee Dahring, MSN, NP, recruiter and career coach. “We talk to each other and we talk to human resources representatives. It doesn’t take a lot to get a bad reputation.” When applying for a job, impressing your potential boss should not be your only worry.
The first person you contact, and eventually meet, in the application process will likely be a recruiter. These highly detailed professionals are your key to a future job-your mistakes will be at their mercy. But don’t get too intimidated-for hiring managers, the joy of their jobs lays in helping you, and your potential employer, find the right fit.
“As a recruiter, I love meeting with new professionals and discussing their goals,” said Sheryl A. Whitlock, MA, MT(ASCP)BB, laboratory coordinator for the University of Delaware in Newark. “I like the challenge of convincing potential employees that our establishment is a truly ideal work situation.”
For Andrew Schrage, owner and publisher of the personal finance website Money Crashers, recruiting is an opportunity to get to know candidates before determining if they would be a good fit for his company. “As a small business owner, I have full control of who I bring on,” he said. “When I hire high-quality candidates, my business improves. When I make a mistake, I have no one to blame but myself.”
‘Righting’ Your Resume
Recruiters have years of experience shuffling through thousands of resumes and conducting hundreds of interviews, and can immediately identify a poor candidate. When looking for the perfect fit for a new opening, it doesn’t take much to land your resume in the rejected pile. But presenting a well-written and concise resume is not as difficult as it seems.
“Resume writing has changed a lot,” Dahring said. “Medical professionals tend to be over-explainers, and put too much on their resumes, making it difficult for recruiters to pull out the necessary information.”
From her experience, Dahring said the most common mistake applicants make is including irrelevant experience on their resumes. “Unless you were in the military or held a high-level position, we don’t care where you worked before entering your field,” Dahring said. “When you’re competing against other candidates with a lot of good experience, your years at the local caf‚ are not going to sway anyone.”
Instead, Dahring advises applicants to be specific about clinical work, volunteer positions or valuable courses that have added to their abilities in healthcare. “Applicants tend to fill their resumes with generic statements that serve more as job descriptions than actual accomplishments,” she said. “If I’m hiring you as a nurse, I know you can dispense medication. I expect any nurse to do that. You need to give me specific instances of what makes you stand out.”
Bruce Hurwitz, president and CEO of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, said it is vital that applicants take the advice of recruiters and use it well. “Applicants often refuse to change their resumes,” he said. “Put differently, they don’t take criticism well.”
If a potential employer is interested enough to give your resume thoughtful pointers, take them. Submitting a resume that has been edited based on specific recommendations will tell the recruiter that you were listening and willing to accept constructive criticism.
And perhaps most importantly, your accomplishments and experience will go completely unnoticed if you make one key mistake: including grammatical errors on your resume. “If there is anything misspelled on a resume, I don’t even bother with an interview,” Schrage said. “If the candidate can’t take the time to proofread his or her resume, it tells me they’re not too serious about landing employment.”
Impressing in the Interview
If your resume lands you an interview, now is the time to prepare. “Give thought to how you will answer some expected questions,” Dahring said. “Most of what recruiters ask you will be behavioral, not clinical.”
Questions such as “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and “Why should I hire you?” could catch applicants off-guard, but they shouldn’t. Preparing answers to these typical questions before the interview will show you are focused and ready to be hired.
Just as you prepare answers to a recruiter’s questions, it’s important to have questions of your own. “It’s a must for a candidate to ask follow-up questions after the interview is complete,” Schrage said.
“Certainly, there’s no way I could have answered everything on the applicant’s mind during the interview. The people I interview who say they have no other questions when the interview is over are the people I view as not being serious about joining my organization.”
Questions for the interviewer could range from, “What would a typical day in this position be like?” to, “What major responsibilities will I be expected to undertake in the first three months of employment?” What you ask a potential employer should be different for each person-focus on what matters to you most and build questions from there.
But all recruiters agree: You must include a question that shows you have researched the facility you are applying to. “Know something about the organization you want to work at. Whether it be something unique about their business, a new project, a recent article or an award, you must show your interest goes beyond the paycheck,” Dahring said.
Whitlock added, “Potential employees who are most interested in benefits such as tuition reimbursement rather than the position itself and its day-to-day commitments will not be seriously considered for the job.”
Just don’t go overboard. Throughout the interview, it’s important to maintain a balance between interjecting questions and allowing the recruiter to keep control. “It’s great to interface and be friendly,” Whitlock said, “but stay on task and answer the questions that are asked. Time is of the essence.”
Dahring agreed. “The biggest thing employers don’t like is when applicants hijack the interview. It is possible to talk too much in an interview,” she said.
Landing the Job
When the interview is nearing completion, take time to thank all those involved, and remember you are there to meet the employer’s needs. “Until the employer offers the candidate a position, the focus should be on the needs of the employer,” Hurwitz said.
“It is a classic symptom of our culture,” Dahring added. “Many people looking for a job will tell you why the job is good for them, but miss the point that it’s all about what the employer needs. You may love the job because it has a great day care and a short commute, but the employer doesn’t need to know that. They need to know what you can contribute to their success.”
If the potential employer has requested references, make sure the contacts you give are available and willing to speak. “References that are difficult or impossible to contact are worrisome because it wastes my time, does not yield good information and delays the hiring process,” Whitlock said.
Above all else, be yourself and be confident. Recruiters want the best candidate for the position. Being prepared, concise and friendly will ensure that person is you.
Kelly Wolfgang is on staff at ADVANCE
Want the Job? Don’t Do This.
Andrew Schrage, Renee Dahring, Bruce Hurwitz and Sheryl Whitlock share their biggest pet peeves.
- Don’t over-apply. You will look desperate.
- Don’t wear too much perfume, makeup or jewelry. This isn’t a date.
- Don’t hire someone to write your resume. Only you know your previous experience.
- Don’t include your height and weight on your resume (Yes, it has happened).
- Don’t include your GPA. Sorry, but no one cares.
- Don’t have a negative attitude.
- Don’t ignore the receptionist.
- Don’t ask for an unreasonable salary, especially after we agreed on something different.
- Don’t string me along. If you aren’t interested in the job, tell me.
- Don’t present false credentials.
- Don’t criticize your previous employers.
- Don’t overdo jokes in the interview. You will not be taken seriously.