The recruitment process is a fragile one where one wrong move can cost you a gamechanging opportunity. Having relevant experience and a well-formatted resume is not enough to land a competitive job. I have personally witnessed strong candidates being sacked because they sent a rude email to HR or because they weren’t able to schedule an interview.
The job market is a battlefield and only the strong survive! In order to stand out you need to go above and beyond the average candidate.
To help you do that, I’ve listed 3 common pitfalls candidates often fall into when going through the recruitment process. Notably, these pitfalls don’t only apply when seeking a job, they apply when going through the process for any opportunity.
1. You’re messing up the details
I had heard of the importance of paying attention to detail long before I started giving career advice but I didn’t really get it the way I get it now. I used to think that while it’s not ideal for someone to have a typo in their resume, it shouldn’t be a big deal. Right?
Wrong. Oh so very wrong. Here’s how I came to really get it:
Last year, I offered to mentor a few graduates who were having a hard time securing a job. I was excited at the prospect of working with someone to achieve a goal that was of such high importance to them. I was excited to give them hope and learn from them as I helped them.
I keenly opened an email from one of my new mentees. I wanted to enjoy the email and be further invigorated. As I read the email, however, I couldn’t help but be put off by the bad grammar and typos.
That’s when it all made sense to me.
When a recruiter sees your resume or receives an email from you, this is essentially them meeting you for the first time. Similarly to in-person interactions, virtual interactions also evoke first impressions. Now, if a recruiter is slapped in the face with bad grammar and typos, this will likely taint their first impression of you. It may make them perceive you as careless or worse, incompetent. It may even make them question whether you respect the opportunity.
Not a great first impression. And as I learned from my experience, not so easy to look passed.
While they may still move forward with your application, that tainted first impression may cause them to judge you more harshly when you make other mistakes throughout the process. It increases the likelihood of confirmation bias. If a recruiter has a suspicion that a candidate is careless then they later forget to include a requested document in an email, they will be more inclined to think “Hm! This person really is careless” as opposed to “Oh, probably a innocent mistake”.
2. Your motives are questionable
Recruiters want to hire candidates who are particularly interested in and passionate about the specific job. A candidate who seems like they simply want any job and perhaps a big brand name is major turn off. That is to say that if your recruiter is unsure of whether your reasons for wanting the job are rooted in passion and an alignment of values, skills and vision then you’re in trouble.
This turn off can be evident in your resume, cover letter and interviews.
I’ve mentioned before that it is of utmost importance to customise your resume for each role you apply for and the reason is simple: relevance. Not all your experiences and skills are relevant to all jobs. If your resume gives the recruiter the impression that your passions, interests and skill don’t align with the job you are applying for, that could be a red flag.
For example, when I was applying for a marketing & sales role, though I had limited direct experience, I reworked some of my job description bullet points to highlight my ability to communicate, craft stories and understand consumers needs. When I later was applying for an entrepreneurship program, I altered my resume such that it highlighted my self-starter nature and drive. Read more about how I create killer resumes here.
Cover letters serve as a unique opportunity for candidates to share their stories. From what inspired you to apply to the company to what past experience you have and how it uniquely positions you for the role.
If your cover letter includes generic statements which could apply to a variety of companies and roles, its likely to leave the recruiter uninspired. Cover letters which lack displays of passion, proof of understanding of the job description, identification of transferable skills and show no understanding of the company are bound to turn recruiters off.
A common question that is asked when a company is interviewing an international candidate for a role is why they are interested in relocating to that country. For firms who originate from said country, a candidate’s answer is of even more importance.
When I was interviewing for a role in Tokyo, I was asked why I was interested in Japan and my answer which detailed what intrigued me about the country and what I hoped to learn left the hiring manager smiling. I ended up getting an offer.
In contrast, one of my friends was rejected by an international company because they said his reasons for wanting to relocate to that specific country were questionable.
Notably, different recruiters value different motives differently. However, in general, it’s important to have an authentic, purpose-driven reason for applying for an opportunity and then ensure that that comes across in your resume, cover letter and interviews.
3. You’re not being proactive
What some candidates fail to realise is that the interview begins from the first interaction between the recruiter and the candidate. Everything a candidate does thereafter can and usually is used to determine how they would perform on the job. Some of the key skills you can portray during the recruitment process are attention to detail (as explained in point 1), passion, personality, communication and lastly, proactivity. Proactivity is essentially the ability to take control of a situation rather than just respond to it.
For example, you have an interview scheduled for 10am. It’s now 10:10am and you haven’t heard from the interviewer. A proactive approach would be to message the interviewer, let them know that you are ready to have the call or happy to reschedule if this is no longer an ideal time.
What I usually do is let the interviewer know on the hour that I am ready for the call when they are. This shows my commitment to punctuality but also let’s them know that I am happy to wait until they are ready.
Another simple example is if the recruiter said she would reach out on Monday and it is now Friday. Instead of silently wondering what is going on and making scenarios up in your head, simply send a polite email that gently follows up while recognising that the recruiter may be busy.
The key to effective proactivity is being polite and considerate of what the other party may be dealing with.
These might seem like small things but the risk of not being proactive is coming across as uninterested or indifferent. Furthermore, given the fast-paced, busy nature of the workplace, proactivity is a highly valued skill and one that’s personally helped me stand out.
There you have it- 3 simple pitfalls which could cause you to unknowingly turn a recruiter off. To maximise your chances of landing that dream job, make it a habit to avoid them.
Thanks for reading! 😀 Let me know if you have any further questions and use #moredetails if you’d like me to elaborate on something.