Skip to Main Content

5 Surprising Things That Will Cost You the Job

Bonny Calfy | March 23, 2016

There is a great deal of work that goes in to the job search process. From résumé to offer letter, job seekers are constantly barraged with do’s, don’ts and unspoken rules, so it’s easy to become overwhelmed and make what seem like small mistakes. As the application and interview process wears on, many candidates can unknowingly sabotage themselves. Here are five surprising things that can cost you the job. Beware!

Poor Digital Etiquette

Everyone knows social profiles should be clean, but just eliminating questionable imagery or colorful opinions may not be all it takes. According to a survey discussed on World News & Report, 66 percent of recruiters reconsidered candidates because of spelling and grammar errors in their social profiles. Sometimes it’s the little things that are easily overlooked by the candidate that make all the difference to the potential employer.

Try this instead: Be cognizant of social media appearances or make all profiles private. These avenues can be used to show thought leadership or connections, so completely locking down profiles might be a tough decision. If this is a concern, try keeping LinkedIn up to date and use other profiles for private life. If you choose to keep your profiles public, make sure your grammar and syntax is in line with the jobs for which you’re applying. Text speak might not be a red flag for some hiring managers, but if you’re looking for a position editing, it could sink your chances.

Stretching the Truth

Research led one professor at the University of Chicago to believe that about 50 percent of people lie on their resume. Whether an outright lie or a little embellishment, dishonesty can come to light sooner than later. The internet has eased the process for preliminary background checks and then, of course, there are actual background checks. It’s easy to think that a little white lie on your work history won’t hurt you, but it could!

Try this instead: Instead of embellishing, start bettering. If there is an empty spot on the resume or job history that could use some work, find classes or workshops that can fill the gap. Even if it is still a work in progress during the job search, employers will see an applicant who wants to build their skillset. Try developing your java skills, instead of saying you’re ‘proficient’ when you’re really only aware that java is more than a kind of coffee.

Being Negative

Bashing previous employers, talking down coworkers and even just a simple poor word choice can result in a less than stellar interview. Many interview scripts include questions built specifically to discuss conflict, but that doesn’t mean the interviewer is opening the door for gossip and negativity. Questions around weaknesses and office challenges are supposed to encourage candidates to touch on problem-solving capabilities, personality traits and which actions are taken to strengthen those skills.

Try this instead: Touch on negative instances and focus on positive reactions. For instance, “my manager insulted employees and we all wanted to quit,” is far more appealing when stated as, “we were not motivated by leadership, so our team worked together to identify our own strengths and develop our skills to better support one another.” Present your new employer with a solution rather than a problem and you’ll fare far better.

Talking in Clichés, Bumper Stickers and Abstracts

Speaking of poor word choice, avoid using clichés at all costs when it comes to the résumé and interview. Clichés, jargon and buzzwords don’t say anything specific about completed work or accomplished goals. Team players, perfectionists, workaholics all these clichés can easily be viewed as masks that cover up lack of self understanding or worse, flaws that aren’t in check.

Try this instead: Identify specifics in previous positions. Instead of claiming to be a team player, explain a situation where you took on a leadership role. Instead of claiming to be a workaholic, explain what inspires a great work ethic and how you schedule your days to maintain peak efficiency. You’ll get bonus points in the interview if you can point to specific projects, outcomes and quantify success.

Not Asking Questions in the Interview

The interview is a conversation meant to introduce candidate to employer and employer to candidate. Candidates who ask questions appear engaged, prepared, interested and communicative. All these things read “ready for hire.” You might assume that not asking questions will make you seem eager and easy to please, when in fact, it can read like you’re not interested or worse, not very bright.

Try this instead: Come to interviews prepared. Research is pivotal to just about every part of the job search, including the interview, so identify a few questions based on the mission statement, culture page or even how employees progress internally. Listen to your interviewer and pick up on the specifics in their questions. Ensure you ask a few questions about how to succeed inside the company.

Now that you know these sneaky job saboteurs and how to avoid them you’ll be more successful in your next interview!

About the author
Author picture, Bonny Calfy
Bonny Calfy
As Paycom’s employer brand supervisor, Bonny Calfy oversees all recruitment marketing and employer brand efforts nationwide. Her brand awareness efforts extend over 10 years and have included launching the Paycom Careers blog and social media channels and producing recruitment videos, all to help attract top talent nationwide. Outside work, Bonny enjoys reading; fishing; and spending time with her husband, children and friends.