Major Turn Offs for Hiring Managers

As seen in the article, “Stalking the Hiring Manager is Not a Good Career Strategy” on

With large numbers of applicants for most open positions, what is the job seeker to do?  Many are looking to stand out in the crowd. But, beware.  Standing out in the crowd for the wrong reasons can be the final nail in the coffin for that opportunity.  Here are some major turnoffs for hiring managers which should be avoided at all costs.

Extreme job seekers tend to do things in excess and the employer perception of over the top efforts is not always positive.


  • Candidate had identified a target company and went to the company every day for two weeks and asked to meet with different people there.  The candidate would wait in the reception area hoping someone would finally meet with him.  The more he did it, the stranger they thought he was and no one would agree to meet with him.  Networking is critical but stalking is never acceptable.
  • A candidate had an interview and did not hear back in a week as the interviewer had indicated.  The candidate called the interviewer every half hour.  While the candidate did not leave a message every time, the interviewer was able to see eighteen calls from the same number on their phone.  The interviewer considered it harassing behavior and didn’t move forward with the candidate.
  • Reasonable follow-up is expected and is acceptable.  General rule of thumb, three strikes and you are out.  Do not follow-up more than three times with any individual hiring manager or HR contact.

Machine Gun Approach

  • A candidate recently bragged in an interview that he had submitted over 150 cover letters and resumes in the past month.  While kudos for that level of effort, the time would have been much better spent networking and targeting his efforts.  The candidate was using a machine gun approach instead of a more targeted rifle approach.   It gave the interviewer the perspective that the candidate was not particularly interested in their job and their company.
  • Candidates taking the machine gun approach often resort to using generic, template cover letters without any customization about the company or a specific job.  HR folks and hiring managers can spot generic letters at a glance and often immediately discard them.


  • Don’t write about your attention to detail and then send a resume and/or cover letter with typos or grammatical errors.  Employers expect you to put your best foot forward.  Most hiring managers will automatically discard candidates with errors on their resumes and cover letters.
  • Errors show that you didn’t care enough to double check.
  • If your letter mentions a different job or company it tells the hiring manager you did a cut and paste instead of customizing your letter to them.  Again this is perceived as lack of interest and effort.
  • Do not sent your resume or cover letter in edit mode so the hiring manager can see the edits and comments.  Amazing how frequently this happens and again shows lack of attention to detail.

 Lack of Preparation

  • If you can’t follow the directions in the hiring process, what makes an employer believe you will be able to follow directions on the job?  If it asks you to attach a resume, do it.  If it asks for references, provide them.  Demonstrate that you are prepared and capable of following directions.
  • Don’t assume you know what the job responsibilities are based on the title.  Read the job description and refer to the job accurately in your cover letter.
  • Go online and check our website.  Demonstrate that you took some initiative and learned something about us.  If you have met with networking contacts demonstrate that you know something about the company.
  • Use the website to identify the head of the department with the opening.  Address your cover letter to that person instead of “Dear Hiring Manager.”  Even if someone else is handling the hiring process, it shows that you took initiative.
  • Many applicants don’t bother with a cover letter if it doesn’t indicate that it is required.  They often feel their resume is all that is needed and that their experience speaks for itself.  Guess again.  Don’t make the hiring manager try to understand how your experience relates to what they are looking for.  Don’t expect them to figure out what it is you really want to do next and why.  Write a customized cover letter to address what the hiring manager am looking for and how your experience fits their needs.  If it isn’t obvious you will likely end up in the no pile.
  • Information is available at your fingertips via the internet.  There is absolutely no excuse for not doing your research.  Learn about the company or organization.  Know what we do and who our customers are.  See what you can learn about the department you will be interviewing with.  Often you can also learn about the person interviewing you.  Don’t come in and waste my time by asking what we do.

It’s NOT all about you

  • Obviously you want a job, you are applying for this position.  For the hiring manager, it is about meeting specific business needs and finding a fit for the team.  It is not about what you want or need.  Keep the focus on how you can deliver results for the company.
  • My personal current record is 34 “I”s found in a single cover letter.  First of all it is not a good example of strong business writing to start nearly every sentence with I.  More importantly it is not all about you.  The hiring manager has a business need they are trying to fill.  Your letter should demonstrate how you can help address that need.  It shouldn’t be a summary of your resume or a dissertation on what you really want or need.
  • Most companies are looking for team players.  Filling your resume with “I” can quickly turn off most hiring managers.
  • Those who resort to “cute” over the top measures to remember often find that those approaches backfire.  Don’t send the hiring manager flowers, a cookie bouquet or any other gift.  Do not do anything outside the realm of business professional or you will be making the wrong impression.

While it is important in the job search process to be remembered, candidates want to be remembered positively.  Over the top measures do not lead to positive impressions.  If you annoy the HR staff or the hiring manager, you will not advance in the process.  Also, remember a simple thank you goes a long way and can be a positive differentiator.

2 thoughts on “Major Turn Offs for Hiring Managers

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