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Recruiter Pet Peeves: 20 Most Common Job Seeker Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

Road sign with the words 'Wrong Way,' symbolizing common mistakes made by job seekers that can alienate recruiters

Overview

Recruiter pet peeves can break even the best candidate’s chance at getting hired. Understanding recruiters’ no-go’s and avoiding them can significantly boost your job search strategy and improve your chances of getting the job. By being aware of these common irritants, you can navigate your job application process more smoothly and make a lasting positive impression on potential employers.

Steering Clear of Common Pitfalls: What Recruiters Wish You Knew

Recruiters have an important job: They help companies find the right people for their teams. But just like anyone else, there are certain things that can really bother them. We’re talking about recruiters’ pet peeves—those little things that candidates do (or don’t do) that can make a recruiter’s job tougher. Imagine trying to put together a puzzle, but some pieces are missing or don’t fit right. That’s how recruiters can feel when these pet peeves pop up.

In this article, we’re going to talk about some of the top pet peeves that recruiters have. It’s like a list of “do’s and don’ts” for people looking for a job. By understanding what bothers recruiters, job seekers can do a better job at making a great impression. Think of it as a guide to help you stand out for all the right reasons. Whether it’s your non-verbal language in an interview, the way you talk about a past employer, or poor tech connection during a remote interview, knowing what these pet peeves are—and understanding solutions on how to avoid or solve them—can give you a head start in your job search and boost your career potential.

Here are 20 pet peeves that drive recruiters mad, along with solutions to avoid creating a nuisance that can affect you professionally, eliminate you from consideration from the job, and hurt your professional reputation:

1. Impersonal Interpersonal Communication Skills

As a recruiter, Elizabeth Laukka, CEO of Elizabeth Laukka Recruiting, a Minnesota-based executive search firm specializing in marketing communications, advertising, and digital talent placement, communicates with a lot of people via phone, email, and LinkedIn messages. When contacting potential candidates, she always maintains professional lines of communication. Candidates, however, do not.

Time after time, a job seeker or candidate communicates with Laukka in these ways:

  • “Hey, I am interested in your role, tell me about it.”
  • “Hello there, I would like to put my application in for your advertised position.”
  • “Do you know Bob X at company Y, and can you make an introduction?”

Solution: “It sounds simple, but saying please, hello, and thank you, and addressing people personally goes a long way,” says Laukka. “I like a warmer style versus feeling like the candidate sees me as simply a means to the end or a robot on the other side of the recruiting equation. Direct is good, but robotic impersonal notes do not impress.”

Job seekers, if you’re communicating with a recruiter—or anyone in the job search process—take the time to say please and thank you. Explain the reason for your communication, or explain in greater detail the questions you have. Your lack of information or rushed response does not help them determine if they should help you—or if you are a candidate worth considering. We get it; you are busy. We are all busy. But one extra minute, a few more words, and general professional communication go a long way in the minds of recruiters and other key decision-makers.

2. Ghosting an Employer

If you’ve worked with a recruiter, talked to a hiring manager, or interviewed for a job, but suddenly have decided the job is not for you and cut off all communication with that person or company, that is a major pet peeve.

Solution: Take the time to send a note saying you are no longer interested. Lukka explains, “If I have spent time with you emailing a job description and information about a role or spent time interviewing you on a phone or video call, or my client has, at least have the decency to spend 15 seconds and send a reply saying something like: ‘Thanks, but I am no longer interested.’ This can help let the recruiter know and save your professional reputation. A no reply at all comes across as rude and simply transactional.”

3. First Impressions Matter

A poorly developed LinkedIn profile. Impersonal responses to emails. A sketchy online reputation. What do you see when you search for your name in Google? Don’t do it? You should—employers do, and what they see goes a long way towards the first impression they have of you. If what they see is a Twitter (X) feed of endless political rants, or questionable comments on topics, that will be a red flag.

Solution: You don’t have to go out and pay a professional to create a LinkedIn profile. But take the time to include a photo, update your most recent job, and in the about section, share some bullets about your experiences, achievements, and skills. Employers quickly scan LinkedIn to learn as much as they can when deciding if they should contact you for an interview. And no, not every job requires a LinkedIn profile. But if you do have one, put effort into making it share more about you, otherwise delete it. You should also always be careful about what you say on other social media platforms (Twitter (X), Facebook, and Instagram, for example), even if it is your personal life. But it also goes beyond that. The first impression also includes contact during email communication, any phone calls, and during the interview process.

“You can tell if a candidate has spent time or effort on how they present themselves,” says Laukka. “Many top employers look at how a candidate ‘curates’ themselves across the board. How you show up for anything. I had a candidate eat their lunch interviewing with my client on a video call. They obviously weren’t hired.”

Take the time to manage your online reputation. Simple changes to privacy settings, taking an hour to develop a more polished LinkedIn profile, and being fully prepared (eating lunch in advance) and present for a video interview are simple ways to do just that.

4. The Overly Confident Candidate

There is a fine line between being confident in one’s skills and coming off as arrogant and unapproachable, says Christy Lyons, Principal at 4 Point Consulting, an organization that provides a variety of HR and talent acquisition services.

“Humility, even in executive searches, is one of the top requirements I hear from clients these days, as well as someone who is collaborative and a good team player,” says Lyons.

Solution: Practice articulating your skills to a friend or mentor, says Lyons. Ask them how you sound—you might be surprised. Then, when interviewing, remember to be humble and credit people who’ve helped you become a great employee.

Instead of saying: “I know auditing like the back of my hand, I’m sure I could fix your processes.”

Say this: “My last boss was incredible and taught me how to really streamline the auditing process. I am confident that I could do that for you, given how I was able to learn from her in my last role.”

5. Coming to an Interview Unprepared

Lyons had to laugh when she was recruiting for a talent role recently for a client. She says 50% of the candidates came in unprepared. They even asked questions such as “What does XYZ company do again?” Or “What is this role?”

“Amazing that people in the industry came in so cavalier and completely unprepared to apply their skill set to the role, and unable to articulate their fit,” says Lyons.

Solution: Study the company’s website and social media presence. Look up your interviewer(s) on LinkedIn. Recall the job posting and job description (have a copy with you during the interview). Take 30 minutes to an hour to do those things and then show how this relates to how you are a fit for the job, and you will go far in the interview process.

“Employers value candidates who demonstrate strong interest and a deep understanding of their organization,” says Logan Nguyen, the Co-founder and CMO of NCHC, a health and wellness magazine. “A lack of knowledge about the organization may come off as a lack of commitment or enthusiasm. Besides, organizations often have different cultures and values, and not taking time to learn about these aspects can make the employer question your ability to fit in the company’s working environment.”

6. The “Guy’s” Mentality

Many of Lyons’ clients are in the financial sector, which she considers an industry that is still coming of age regarding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). So, when she interviews someone who is always referring to “the guys” as the team, or people they would work with, it comes across as implying everyone is male. So yes, using all male pronouns throughout the interview process is a pet peeve.

Solution: Be aware of your habits and improve them. Be conscious of default genders and use neutral terms like “the team,” says Lyons. Example: Say: “I can’t wait to meet the entire team!” instead of “I can’t wait to meet the guys!”

“It’s small, but it really bothered me recently when a candidate did this over and over and the firm he was interviewing for is led by a female,” says Lyons.

7. Typos and Grammatical Mistakes

Recruiters require job seekers to pay attention to detail. Job applications are considered formal, and employers expect the highest level of professionalism. “Mistakes such as grammar and typos make your application appear careless, which are qualities employers associate with unprofessionalism,” says Nguyen.Solution: Take your time when applying for jobs or uploading material. If you are unsure of how to spell something, put it in a Word document and use spell check. Search for the word on Google and look for the correct spelling. Use Grammarly if you need to write longer paragraphs. There are more tools than ever to help with writing, clarity, and grammar, most are free. Use them to your advantage.

8. Lacking Attention to Detail

After reviewing over 30,000 job applications and interviewing over 2,000 candidates, the biggest pet peeve for Ana Colak-Fustin, Founder, ByRecruiters, is what she calls “a pervasive and glaring lack of attention to detail. It manifests at every stage of the hiring process, from typos in resumes to haphazard emails and unprepared interview responses.” 

Colak-Fustin recalls this memorable instance: A resume claimed ‘attention to detail’ as a key strength. Ironically, the phrase was misspelled—twice.

“What’s best, it was an application for an editor position, where attention to detail should be a given,” says Colak-Fustin. “It’s not just a matter of a misplaced comma or a minor typo; it’s about the very essence of the job. The irony wasn’t lost on me or the hiring manager.”

Solution: Take the time to proofread, review, and re-read every form of communication. From an email to an IM, LinkedIn message, thank you note or resume. Quick tip—read your resume from the bottom up before sending it. Print it out and read it on paper if possible. And finally, let it sit for a few hours to a day or more, get away from it, and read it again.

“It’s a powerful reminder that even the smallest oversights can leave a lasting impression and that attention to detail truly makes a difference,” says Colak-Fustin.

9. Overly Eager Follow-Up from Candidates

Following up too much can be interpreted as a lack of patience or understanding of the typical hiring time frame. While recruiters understand you’re eager for updates, they also need sufficient time to screen the applications in order to make the right decisions, says Nguyen.Solution: During the interview process, ask what the next steps are and what to expect in terms of follow-up. Ask for dates, if possible, and note those. If those dates have passed, then follow up and ask if there is more information about the next steps. Reference that in the interview it was mentioned you would hear within ten business days, and you just wanted to follow up based on that conversation. Do not send several emails just because you are excited about the role. Keep in mind the interviewer is working on other aspects of their job besides hiring. Be patient. Do not excessively follow up.

10. Missing or Inaccurate Contact Information

You might think job seekers never forget to include their contact details in their resume or job application, but they do.

“We encounter this every day,” says Nguyen. “Old phone numbers and closed email addresses are often included in resumes. This often leaves us with the responsibility of chasing down the candidates, something we don’t have time to do.”

Jamie McCann, Executive Recruiter, Cohen Partners agrees.”It’s shocking how many have incomplete phone numbers and wrong email addresses,” he says. “We all can rattle off our contact information without even a second thought. Yet, when we type it, often digits can be inadvertently flipped, or portions of email addresses are left off. Trust me, it happens—a lot.”

Solution: Review all your personal information and details before submitting. Check your email and phone number. Make sure they are current. It’s that simple.

11. Aggressive Body Posture

Aggressive body posture, such as leaning forward, looking unhappy, and crossing arms, can create a tense and intimidating atmosphere.

“Recruitment panels want the environment to be open and comfortable,” says Nguyen. “Besides, an aggressive posture conveys an argumentative communication style, which is often frowned upon in work environments.”

Solution: Practice interviewing and record the interview with your phone or a video camera, or practice in front of a mirror. Ask someone to interview you and take note of your non-verbal cues, language, and posture. You may not realize you are even doing it. Remember to smile, make eye contact, and pause before speaking. Also, let others finish speaking before your turn. If you do this, you will naturally come off as engaging, professional, and as someone people like and want to be around.

12. Badmouthing Current or Previous Employer

We get it. We all have bad experiences at jobs. But that doesn’t mean the recruiter or hiring manager wants to hear you complain about it in an interview. They also don’t want to read about it on LinkedIn or other social media platforms. Show emotional intelligence, do not bad mouth previous employers, bosses, or co-workers on social media, or in an interview.

“The hiring manager will be looking to see if you said anything about your previous employer,” says Nguyen. “If you badmouthed your boss or a colleague, it might not portray a good image. Employers want to hire someone who’s a professional and team player, not a hater or village gossiper.”

Solution: Keep your opinions to yourself on this topic. Focus on your achievements and skills and how you can make an impact on the company for which you are interviewing. If they ask why you’re leaving your current job, simply say, “I’m looking to move into a new role and this opportunity seems like one where I can make an impact on the organization and also fit in with the culture.” But you know what? You better be ready to back that up if asked to expand further in the interview. So, know why you want to join the company and be ready to share what you know about the company culture (reference social media postings or information on a company career page to gain that insight).

13. Stretching the Truth

We’ve all been tempted to embellish our resumes or skills a bit, but trust me, it’s not worth it, says Jason Leverant, Chief Operating Officer and President at AtWork Group, a franchise-based national staffing firm.

“Interviewers have a knack for picking up on exaggerations,” he said. “If they ask you to elaborate on something you’re not actually familiar with, it can get really awkward, really fast. Honesty is your best policy here.”

Solution: 1. Be honest. 2. If you don’t understand the question, ask them to repeat it. 3. If you don’t have an answer, be honest. Employers don’t expect you to be experts at everything or know all the answers off the top of your head. If you don’t have the skills they are seeking, try and come up with a related example or skill that matches and talk about how you are a fast learner and open to trying and learning new things, which is one thing you like about the job and why you wanted to apply.

14. Bringing Up Politics

Another mistake job seekers make is bringing up controversial topics such as politics. Just avoid all hot-button issues. You never know where the other person stands, and you don’t want to turn the interview into a debate. Stick to professional topics.

Solution: Avoid politics at all costs. Period.

15. Not Asking Questions

Not having questions ready can make it seem like you’re not that into the job, says Leverant. Plus, if the interviewer likes you, they’ll give you a chance to ask questions. It’s your opportunity to keep the conversation going and show your enthusiasm. Think of it as a two-way street—you’re there to learn about them as much as they’re learning about you.

Solution: Write down a list of questions prior to the interview. List up to 10–20 questions. Bring a notebook and cross off questions that are answered during the interview. When asked if you have questions, go to your list—the interviewer will like that you have prepared one. Feel free to veer off the list and reference things brought up in the interview if needed. Ask about the job, the department you are working in, challenges that the department is currently facing and your role in solving these challenges, and anything else that will help you decide if the role/job/company is a fit.

“Not asking questions at the end of an interview can seem like you’re not interested,” says Kraig Kleeman, CEO/Founder of The New Workforce, an offshore talent matching organization. “Have a couple of thoughtful questions ready.”

16. Poor Tech Setup for a Virtual Interview

If it’s a virtual interview having a bad tech setup is a major turnoff.

“A poor internet connection can really mess things up,” says Leverant. “Make sure you’re in a spot with good Wi-Fi and minimal distractions. A little effort in setting up a nice, quiet space can go a long way.”

Solution: Do not go to a coffee shop, the lobby of your fitness center, or anywhere else where unexpected distractions—such as poor wi-fi or internet, loud noises, or people lurking in the background—can occur. Conduct the interview from a quiet setting such as a home office, private office, or reserved room in a library (be cautious at a library as there can also be unforeseen distractions). Test all equipment and software well before the interview. If needed, set up a background display to avoid any stress about worrying about what they see in the background. Ensure lighting is good and noise is minimal, if at all.

17. Not Being Yourself in Interviews

Showcase your humanity in interviews, says Max Wesman, Chief Operating Officer of GoodHire. Wesman says candidates focus too much on proving their skills and qualifications during an interview and forget to be human.

Throughout the year, recruiters and hiring managers talk to many different people and hold interviews to the point where every conversation starts to sound identical, creating a perpetual state of déjà vu. That’s why most recruiters test their candidates with simple, day-to-day questions where they just want to identify and recognize the special and unique qualities that make you stand out from the crowd.

“I’ve had situations where candidates treat the interview like some sort of hostage situation, where they are forced to say certain things, even though I’m simply asking them to share a unique and interesting story about themselves or something they’ve seen or experienced,” says Wesman.

Solution: It’s okay to show your human side. Recruiters, interviewers, and your next boss are all human too. Be yourself. If you can’t be yourself, and the company doesn’t accept that, then that company and job are not the right fit for you.

18. Punctuality Reflects Professional Dedication

Being late or having a last-minute excuse to push back an interview is a huge red flag about dedication or interest in the role, says Jarir Mallah, Human Resources Manager, Ling App. It also reflects disrespect for the recruitment process as a whole and wastes people’s time. 

Solution: Be on time. In fact, be about 5 minutes early to that meeting or Zoom interview, ready to go. Practice hours, preferably days, in advance, for the interview so you are prepared, and improve your chances of being ready to shine and on time. Emergencies do come up, and if that is the case, handle that professionally by being honest. 

19. Talking about What Your Parents Want for You

One VP of a large financial institution says he often gets candidates applying for entry-level jobs at his company because “my parents said it would be a good company to get my foot in the door with” or “my mom and dad said I should apply.” 

They don’t know anything about the job, or the company, but their parents thought they should apply. At no point in the interview should what your parents want for you be a part of the interview.

Solution: If you are a job seeker applying for a position for any other reason than wanting it, and put in no effort to share with the person conducting the interview why you are interested in the job, you are not going to get it. When asked why you want a job, always back up that question with examples of relatable skills or experiences, that prove you are the right candidate for that position. If you don’t do that, the next candidate who knows why they want the job gets the job.

20. Avoid This Dated Job Search Strategy

Do not show up at a company office and ask to speak to someone about a job out of the blue, or to hand in your resume. “That’s a big no-no these days,” says Leverant. “It’s kind of cringey and can come off as unprofessional. We’re living in the digital age, so stick to online applications and emails.”

Solution: Follow the instructions outlined in the application process exactly as stated. It’s that simple.

Wrapping Up: Outsmart Recruiter Pet Peeves and Get the Job

Remember, successful job hunting is not just about showcasing your skills and experience; it’s also about demonstrating professionalism, effective communication, and attentiveness to the details that matter to recruiters. Armed with this knowledge, you’re now better equipped to make a strong, favorable impression that could be the difference between a missed opportunity and landing your dream job. Keep these tips in mind, stay authentic, and approach your job search with confidence and tact.

Matt Krumrie
Matt Krumrie
Matt Krumrie is a resume expert and freelance writer whose work has been published in over 200 newspapers, websites, and magazines. He has 15+ years of experience writing resumes for clients of all backgrounds, from college grad, to entry-level to mid-career, executive and more. Matt lives in Minnesota.

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