Talent Acquisition Workplace

Jobseekers: What NOT to Do, According to Recruiters

It is a familiar scene – the candidate leaves the interview asking themselves a thousand and one questions.

How did I do?

Did I say the right thing?

Have I had that bit of food in my teeth the whole time?

Regardless of how well a candidate thinks they have done, especially in the early stages of employment, there are bound to be one or two aspects of the interview process that may not have come off well. Having said that, a significant number of us make the same, somewhat obvious, mistakes time after time after time…

Here, we take a look at some of the worst traits candidates have brought to the interview room and further – into their first day at their new job, straight from the mouth of the recruiters at From putting a smiley face on your CV to dressing too provocatively in the interview, we look at the worst of the worst and how to avoid alienating potential employers.

Sorry CVs:

Before a candidate even reaches the interview stage, they must get past the first hurdle: having their CV read, understood and appreciated. The initial feeling a recruiter has towards an applicant starts as early as their CV so starting as you mean to go on is a must. Some of the worst CV howlers include:

  • OMG LOL! – Putting text-speak on your resume is likely to be received very badly. Albeit lighthearted, the language is not professional and certainly does nothing to solidify a serious intention to find work. Abbreviations are also not considered adequate CV speak, for instance using ‘2’ instead of ‘to’ does not send the right message. Texting is for phones, not for CVs!
  • Who, what, where? – So the qualifications are great, work history is astounding but… where is your phone number? A surprising number of candidates forget to include contact information on their CVs.
  • Cast a spell check – A lot of candidates have been guilty of having a quick spell-check at the end of writing their CV, assuming it will correct the silly errors made whilst madly typing. However, spell check is not an infallible tool! Spelling and grammatical errors are the biggest pet peeve of workers, a little time and effort to check a CV makes sense before it is sent as it shows attention to detail and a desire to be taken seriously.
  • Picture not-so-perfect – Including a picture on a CV is a relatively recent addition to the format, perhaps echoing the online profiles we have all become so used to. One particular applicant we’ve read about felt it necessary to show a little more than his credentials by attaching a full-sized nude picture to the front of his CV. Choosing a professional (and not naked) picture can help recruiters visualise you before the interview.

Ins and outs of interviews:

If the candidate has provided an excellent CV, the next step is the interview. This is the make or break point for many recruiters, and for candidates it is the point when the nerves can really start to show. Being nervous before an interview can influence a candidate’s behaviour and body language, often to their detriment. Recruiters cite the following things as top reasons why candidates to not get the job:

  • Relax, don’t do it – Sometimes the nerves can give way to an over-confidence which recruiters find off-putting. Candidates who slouch in their chair, use confrontational body language or unashamedly flirt with the interviewer are likely to hear the phrase, “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
  • Nail-biting nerves – If a candidate is unconfident, it will show in their body language. Starting the interview with a limp handshake and head looking down to the floor appears submissive and scared. Not making eye contact makes it hard for recruiters to build a rapport and mumbling through answers without annunciating is likely to lead to a no.
  • Clean as a whistle – Although we would all like to assume we are only judged based on our abilities, a professional image counts for a lot in an interview. Our interviewers thought that having bad breath was a catalyst in forming an opinion of a candidate so cleanliness and a professional appearance are extremely important if the recruiter is to properly visualise you as a potential part of the team.
  • Life online – Some recruiters may look to social networking platforms to glean more information about a candidate pre or post-interview. Although the majority of the opinion will be formed through the information provided on CVs and through interviews, a quick search of Facebook or Twitter may turn up a few undesirable shots of last weekend’s pub crawl. Recruiters can look to LinkedIn for professional information but they may try and work out a bit more about the candidate’s personality through their social media footprint, so they must be sure their privacy settings support their professional veneer.

First time for everything:

For a candidate with a perfect CV and enviable interview skills, getting the job is the next step. However, it is a recruiter’s job to follow up on the new hire and make sure they are working well within their new team. Candidates should not assume that just getting the job ensures stability as it is important they follow through with their professionalism right up to the first day and beyond. Some characteristics made apparent on the first day that have recruiters seeing red include:

  • Too big for your boots – Starting a new job as you mean to go on is key to gelling in a new team. Recruiters said new employees who tell others what to do or show a tendency to be bossy to seasoned workers will often rub people up the wrong way on the first day. Being understanding and getting a feel for the office hierarchy is key.
  • Pain of complaining – New hires who complain about the work they have to do, or express that their work is too difficult are sure to cause friction within a working environment. Of course there is a learning curve with new jobs, but complaining on the first day and showing a lack of willingness to try or put in any effort will have co-workers wondering how they got hired.
  • Talk is cheap – Getting to know co-workers is important but spending hours and endless coffee breaks chatting and disrupting the flow of other people’s work is sure to upset the balance that has been created before the candidate was hired. If the candidate hopes to be an integral part of the team moving forward, then there is plenty of time to get to know everyone in the office.
  • No free lunch – Recruiters have also said that how the new hire takes their lunch break can be a point of contention during those first few days. Not taking a lunch break at all can make people feel as though the new hire is trying too hard to impress, whereas taking several hours out of the office to have lunch can be seen as a less than desirable way to dine on the first day.

Recruiters see thousands of applicants every week and have come across every imaginable CV, interview and first day scenario. Whereas many of these mistakes and errors seem laughable, they are made on a daily basis and can cost jobseekers dearly. Candidates must cover all their bases, using confidence and common sense to stand out from the crowd, but for all the right reasons.

Author: Jamie Mistlin is the Director of, an online recruitment agency based in the South East of England. Follow on Twitter at @RecRev.

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