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Five dumb things job applicants do


Are you the type of employee who would say inappropriate things to clients or embarrass your boss in front of senior management?

No? Well, until there is solid evidence to the contrary, anyone considering hiring you fears you might be that type of employee.

Even if you would never dream of deliberately making your boss look bad, if you mess up on the job the consequences can be just as damaging to your boss’s career as they are to yours. Your boss may have to face co-workers, clients, her own boss, and others who question her judgment in hiring you and her abilities to train and manage a team. It’s no wonder employers will weed out job applicants for the slightest indiscretion.

To avoid scaring off employers, make sure you avoid these 5 dumb things job applicants do:

1. They don’t follow instructions

At a recent company lunch, someone handed a hiring manager a resume for a position that had just been filled. The applicant had made the mistake of mailing it to a customer service address instead of submitting it online as instructed.

Failing to follow instructions may not only cause you to miss the deadline, it may also make you appear to be a potentially difficult employee. After all, if someone can’t follow a few simple steps at this stage, how would that person perform on the job?

2. They disclose too much information

A cover letter shouldn’t begin with irrelevant personal information such as: “I’m a 40 year old mother of three who has experienced many challenges in life.” While job-seekers may think they are creating a bond with the hiring manager by “letting you get to know me,” employers are turned off by “too much information.” From an employer’s point of view, an applicant who makes inappropriate personal disclosures may be likely to exercise poor judgment in other areas as well.

Information to keep to yourself includes your age, health, family, how you like to spend your weekends, or anything else unrelated to the position you are applying for. And make sure you aren’t saying too much with an email address such as

3. They behave rudely

Of course you wouldn’t hire someone who honked and gestured angrily at you in the parking lot, snapped at the receptionist, and argued into his cell phone in earshot of customers waiting in the reception area. But job-hunters have made these and many other faux pas.

Human beings have bad days, and interviews can be particularly stressful, but an employer who witnesses or hears about even a hint of rudeness is likely to assume it’s only a small taste of things to come if the applicant is hired. So be on your best behavior with everyone you encounter.

And don’t make the mistake of badmouthing your former employer; an interviewer is likely to assume that’s how you’ll be talking about them if they hire you.

4. They say dumb things

Dumb statements include obvious gaffes such as asking an interviewer who’s slightly overweight when her baby is due. But sometimes it’s not so obvious.

“Before I saw your job ad, I’d never heard of your company,” one applicant for a marketing position told an employer, oblivious to the fact that the interviewer’s proudest achievements included overseeing marketing campaigns that had generated millions of dollars worth of publicity for the company, an industry leader.

To avoid appearing ignorant, familiarize yourself with the company by reading their web site before the interview. To avoid blurting out an inappropriate comment, pause before answering questions and if you think something might be taken “the wrong way” — don’t say it!

5. They don’t focus on the employer’s needs

When a company is looking to fill a position, it’s because they have a need. They may want to expand into new markets, cut costs, improve services, increase profits, or something else they have identified as important to their future success.

Yet applicants often ignore employers’ needs. Some focus on their own needs, such as asking about vacation time before they have been offered a job. Others try to tell companies they should have different needs, like the applicant for a sales position who said “the first thing I’d want to do is get rid of your slogan” although the company owners were happy with the slogan they had spent thousands of dollars developing and trademarking.

Companies usually communicate their needs both in the job ad and during the interview. Pay attention to what they say, ask questions such as “What are your top priorities?” then tell them how you can help them achieve their goals.

Send a thank you letter after the interview and make sure your references will say only wonderful things about you. Show an employer you will be the type of employee who is pleasure to work with.