Asian woman looking concerned

Ten ways you’re sabotaging your own job search without knowing it

Peter Harris|

Everyone knows that your chances of landing the job are greatly increased if you and your potential employer hit it off and genuinely like each other right from the start. Unfortunately some candidates ensure that this doesn’t happen, often without even knowing it.

Want to guarantee a potential employer doesn’t want to hire you right off the bat? Here are ten ways:

  • Send out as many resumes as possible to every job opportunity that you can find (whether or not you’re even qualified). And use the same resume for each one of them. Employers hate receiving piles of clearly irrelevant or unqualified applications to their jobs that are obviously part of a shotgun mass-apply campaign. They can spot a generic resume pretty quickly, but they still clog their inboxes and water down the serious applications from qualified, relevant candidates. I call this approach ‘the biggest mistake on a resume.’
  • Lie on your resume. Even if the lie is about whether you picked up those last two credits to finish your degree or not and doesn’t actually affect your ability to do the job, employers hate falsehoods on an application. You lose all credibility, because you were deceitful from the start. A large part of teambuilding is establishing trust between the team members. How can you be a trustworthy when you’ve been lying since day one?

    Oh, and lying on your resume about having a skill (that you don’t have) that actually is relevant to the job is far worse. That’s why companies often have three-month probationary periods for new hires. Not only will your new (soon-to-be-ex) boss dislike you, they’ll also give you the boot.

    Here are the lies you can (and probably should) actually tell.

  • Make sure that you have lots of offensive or unintelligent pictures and posts online that are easily found by social media scans or Google searches. Most employers do both of these things before hiring a candidate. The recent Workopolis recruiter survey indicated what they least like to see:
    • profanity,
    • poor spelling and grammar,
    • illegal drugs,
    • sexuality,
    • drunken pictures.

    Here’s what they do want to find out about you online.

  • Always answer the phone with loud music playing a ‘cool’ expression rather than saying ‘hello.’ (S’up? and Yo!Yo! work great.) And make sure to have a witty voice mail message to give callers a chuckle. Employers haven’t met you yet, so this call is the first time that they hear your voice. Their first mental image of you is just being formed. If you don’t sound smart, friendly and professional, they aren’t going to like you very much.
  • Show up late for the job interview. Being late tells whoever you’re meeting with that your time is more important that theirs. Employers will see it as a sign that you’re either disorganized or that you didn’t care enough to do any research in advance about how long it would take to get there. They hate both of those things in potential hires.
  • Once you arrive at the interview, be rude or condescending to the receptionist. This is often the first person you meet at a company, and they will meet all of the candidates for the job you’re applying for. The hiring manager is going to ask them what they thought of you. Usually this will have just been a short, polite, even superficial conversation. But if you came across as dismissive or arrogant, your potential employer is going to hear about it and not like you very much.
  • Make sure to have an unprofessional appearance at the job interview. As I mentioned in my article about the guy who didn’t wear pants, not making the effort to look the part for a job – and even take it up a notch – comes across as disrespectful. Looking too sexy or too sloppy or being too smelly (unwashed, over perfumed, or smoky) just gives the interviewer who’s looking for the best person for the job a reason not to like you.   (Here’s what to wear.)
  • Answer (or even just pick up and look at) your cell phone during the interview. This will demonstrate to the employer your lack of interest or limited attention span. How are you going to perform on the job when you can’t even stay focused through the job interview? Plus, it’s rude to check your phone while talking to someone else. And most people don’t like those who are rude to us.
  • Blame your jerk of an ex-boss for why you need this job now. Tell the interviewer all about how your previous workplace was a terrible place to work and how you’re so glad to be outta there. Even if it’s true and your boss was a creep, you’re only going to look like a disgruntled complainer by revealing this information in the job interview. Employers will picture themselves being the target of your future rants. (You’re far better off putting a positive spin on your work experience and what you’ve learned and accomplished along the way.)
  • Seal the deal with some annoying or unprofessional follow-up. Employers like to receive a thank-you note after a job interview. It shows that you are polite and pay attention to detail. It also gives you a chance to reiterate your interest and key qualifications. What employers don’t like is a daily email from a candidate checking on the status of their application – or worse repeated phone calls and voicemails pressuring them for information or a decision. Some moderate and professional follow-up can be done, but nobody likes being harassed or stalked.

Likeability can be as important as actual ability when it comes to landing the job. This is especially true in a tight job market where employers have multiple fully-qualified candidates to choose from. When all other factors are equal, they’re naturally going to lean towards the person they get along with the best. Don’t give them a reason not to like you.


Peter Harris
Peter Harris on Twitter

Category: Job interviews, Job Search Strategies
  • JunadiJuna .

    I do not have any of those to go on. I think it’s my age personally.
    I definitely agree with this content though, I have seen people do some of this when I was Receptionist with an HR department.

    • KathyM

      Hi Junadi,
      If I may be honest with you, your profile picture doesn’t present as professional – hat, cleavage, hand up signing dismissal. Please take this as objective help.

      • Dem Uriza

        Gawd forbid someone has cleavage. There’s no hiding a chest. Even if you wear a sweater up to your jaw, someone will claim you’re showing it off.

        • KathyM

          You need to dress the part for the job you are applying and will be judged, like it or not by your presentation. The employer needs to know you will fit in with their present staff. Attitude and attire should take the business into consideration.

          • Dem Uriza

            So strap them boobies down, girls! No lumps allowed

        • JunadiJuna .

          Thank you Dem, This comment from KathyM took me by surprise. To judge me by one photo, I don’t even know what to say. But wanted to say I appreciate your comment.

      • JunadiJuna .

        KathyM, thank you for your thoughts.
        I am wondering why you think/assume this is what I look like when I interview? I also wonder if you think I send this photo out saying HEY, this is what I look like. HEY this is who I am? You are basing my life on a photo, I would never do this to anyone.

        • KathyM

          Sadly you may never get the opportunities based on first impressions and the fact that recruiters now use all social media and web-based info prior to scheduling an interview. Be cautious what you put out there. Good luck.

    • RMycroft

      The contact you have with people in the company outside the interview can be decisive. I nailed one job when the interviewer was tied-up and I was parked in the lunch room to have a coffee. The coffee was empty, so I started a new batch. That was noticed! Don’t be so focused on the interview that you waste those moments with possible future co-workers.

    • The Spartan

      Agree with Kathy M your picture does you a discredit and will immediately put off potential hirers! I am sure you could be excellent but companies are always looking at first impressions on sites like this, Facebook and LinkedIn.
      I took early retirement ergo my picture is irrelevant although I was a CFO of a $250 million company. Good luck!!

  • Johnny Jensen

    I agree with JunadiJuna. It’s my age. Employers don’t want older people.

  • Ron Jamieson

    Sadly, age is something that’s hard to hide, and it’s not something you can control.

    But it IS something you can act on.

    Older workers tend to stay with their employers longer than younger ones. They have experience and people skills that they’ve developed through their careers.

    During your interview, be proud of your age and what it brings to the party.

  • Chris

    I can understand the last point from an employers perspective, however I think the onus is really on the employer here to get back to the candidate that they have interviewed with face to face in a timely manner. I find it extremely rude and “un-professional” for an employer not to be bothered to find the time to send a quick 10-15 word email or to make a follow up phone call to advise the candidate that they won’t be proceeding further with them. Particularly when it has dragged on for over a month or so after the meeting. What does this really say about the company??They also seem to like to hide behind the fact that they were “just too busy” or “just couldn’t find the time” which is not a good enough excuse at all. Stay back at work an extra 5-10 mins and get it done!! That’s why company’s have HR departments isn’t it? You expect the courtesy from us as candidates not to harass you all the time for a follow up yet you can’t afford us the same courtesy? Do unto others as you would have them do to you.
    Another thing that seems to be a common theme here in Canada (contrary to the rest of the developed world except US) is employers will drag 4 or 5 candidates right through the interviewing process (often 3-4 interviews), only to then tell them at the end of it all that “they have decided to go in a different direction” or “the requirements for the role have changed” or worse still “the role is no longer available”. This one is so infuriating for candidates and is a complete waste of, not only the candidates time, but also the employers time. I realise this could just be a lie that they are telling to the unsuccesful candidates and are actually offering someone the position. In this case, that begs the question of what’s the point in dragging the other 3 or 4 candidates through the process if you have already decided? Not to mention, why bother lying like this, we are expected not to lie or bend the truth at all, why can’t you do the same? Or is it just a case of justifying to the CEO why an HR department is needed in the first place? I’d be interested to know if anyone can explain this one… I realise that it may just be a BC thing (people here really seem to have a superiority complex against the rest of the country) as I have interviewed in other provinces and not found this to be quite so common.
    Also, I find that some recruitment agencies here in Canada will post ads for jobs that don’t exist just to “drum up some interest” and get more candidates names on their books. They will then tell you that the role has already been filled or isn’t the right fit for you and you never here from them again. Isn’t that basically illegal? Certainly would have to qualify as false advertising? Keep up the great work guys…
    Anyway, enough ranting, having moved here from Australia myself (with years of experience working in Europe) over 3 years ago now and not having been offered one single permanent job within this time, I can truly say that I have been made to feel like a complete outsider by the recruitment process here and probably won’t be wasting my time here any longer… It’s the local candidates I feel sorry for, you should be demanding more, US aside, the rest of the developed world does not operate like this!!!

    • Kevin Miller

      Thanks for being the only one able to point this out. This is worth a million shares.

    • Julien Simo

      Waouh Chris! You really had enough of on the recruiting process, especially here in Canada. I totally agree with you with the first point you brought up by saying “employers do not get back to candidates”, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you”. That is something I also really find frustrating and I have been learning that the hard way in Canada. Even in my country,a supposed “third world country” called Cameroon, employers have the decency to call candidates and telle them they won’t proceed further with their application and wish them good luck in the job search.

      I was stunned as I did mutiples phone and face to face interviews in a company and at the end, after three months, after calling the HR that was always telling me “they’re still interviewing other candidates and that the decision isn’t made yet”, and finally got them telling me that “the position has been filled by an internal candidats”. What I didn’t find professional at all. I wondered if they needed three months to know that one of their employees could fill up the position. It was really frustrating and irritating.

      • Chris

        That’s very interesting Julian! Thanks for sharing your experiences!

        Perhaps Canada is not really the “developed” nation it is considered to be. I feel as though getting back to candidates is just common courtesy though. What kind of message are you sending about your company, even yourself if you simply can’t be bothered to send a quick email to advise that you are no longer considering a candidate. Not a very good one in my opinion! It’s a bit sad really because it is such a beautiful country! My wife and I worked and saved very hard to move here for around 5 years but we just cannot afford to stay here any longer without work. The only company that has employed me here, albeit on a temporary basis through Hays recruitment is HSBC, both of which are not Canadian based employers. I can’t even get interviews with most of the Canadian based employers. Very strange when I bring 10 years of experience working in finance (a sector that is apparently growing here) along with a degree and a professional qualification. It’s like they don’t want to encourage skilled candidates to stay here. I come from Australia, a country not too dissimilar to Canada in it’s values and culture and yet I’m treated like I’m a 2nd class citizen even though I love everything about Canada (including the cold weather and ice hockey) and have always dreamed of living here!! I hope that some employer here will give me a chance soon otherwise I won’t be returning in a hurry, even for a holiday!

        • Meghan Thomas

          Chris, I don’t know what part of the country you are in, but have you tried any of the mentoring programs to help skilled immigrants find employment? (E.g. TRIEC mentoring partnership in Toronto)

          • Chris

            Hi Meghan, I am in BC, absolutely beautiful place but I now refer to it as “Backward Country”. Perhaps a little humurous joke to lighten the feelings of disappointment I have witnessed here! I realise this is not the financial centre of Canada though and I probably should have started off my search in Toronto. I have applied for a number of jobs there though more recently and not been offered anything more than a phone interview at this stage. One company, who is supposed to be at the forefront of the investment industry here and manages $200+ billion worth of the lovely people of Canada’s pension money, can’t even decide whether to offer me an initial Skype interview or not!! This is after over a month now since I last spoke with a member of their HR team. I have also sent countless follow up emails and as polite as the poor girl is trying to be, all I get back is “sorry for the delay, the team is still making a decision of which candidates to move forward with”. Doesn’t say a lot about the types of decision makers they have sitting on their thumbs over there. Even worse, honest and hard working Canadians are trusting these people to manage their retirement money!!!! I know I wouldn’t be… Perhaps the candidate pool in Toronto is just so big that they don’t need to consider candidates living in other provinces? At the same time, I can’t afford to relocate to the other side of the country on a whim that there “might” be more jobs there. The rate at which the recruitment process moves in this country, I will almost be planning my own retirement before I even get offered a job here!! Sadly, I just can’t wait around forever and the above example is only one of a myriad of similar stories (or excuses) with various different companies in different parts of the country that seem to lack any ability to make any hiring decisions. Rather alarming considering the country is basically in a, dare I say it, “recession” currently. Perhaps it’s time to clear the decks and get some fresh legs and minds driving the economy forward. Certainly seems as though the ever conservative Harper has had his day!! Perhaps Trudeau and his “nice hair” are the way forward for the lacklusture situation the country is in.
            Anyhow, enough ranting, thanks for the suggestion, it may be all a bit too late now but I’ll be sure to check it out.

  • Kartik Jani

    sometimes it is just someone is little better than me in experience or qualification.

    • Roustam

      So what? Looking for a man with absolute experience dooms good business. Because there will be always who is a bit better.

  • Ryan LaCroix

    I have said this before, and I will keep saying it…
    cause people dont think about it at all….>:(
    You cant build a resume for each job you apply for!
    You build a “semi-shotgun resume”
    So your not wasting 5 – 10 hours on research/resume (maybe per job and writing)

    on a job you probably wont get !!!!

    Business are all about doing things fast, not take your your time.
    Otherwise They would send a letter to each applicant.
    They would Send a letter to each interviewee that was not hired.
    and inform them that they found someone else.

    Care to explain to me why Business arent doing that?
    but its not OK for people looking to use the same speed tactics for applying.
    makes complete sense……. BS

  • Emilie Chang

    I disagree with all this BS, you Peter Harris the author is an unprofessional goon yourself!, I mean here you are advising potential candidates for job interviews of their downfall, when in fact your article is characterized with incorrect spelling mistakes?. I mean you have to be joking right?. Take a look below, I have itemized your buffoonery I’m sure there will be more if I look more closely, proofread your article next time before publishing sir. Practice what you preach, ass-hole!

    And why do you have to spell out “outta” if we already don’t know what ‘out of’ mean?! Always Be professional! or fire yourself!

    *****************************YOUR UNINTELLIGIBLE MISTAKES***************************

    “Make sure that you have lots of offensive or unintelligent pictures and posts online that are easily found my social media scans or Google searches”

    ……….“my social media? ”. or “by social media ”.??????

    “The recent Workopolis recruiter survey indicted what they least like to see:”

    — indicted? Or indicated?????

  • Kevin Miller

    Poor spelling and Grammar is one thing in which people simply cannot avoid. I have met many people with dyslexia who simply cannot correct this issue ever. Thats not to say employers are not willing hire this, It is a matter of having a third party find a reasonable employer who is willing to take on the challenge of someone who is indefinitely unable to read.

  • Iqbal Mulam

    Chemistry, need or connection are must to hire for job by employer. Based on my experience I believe all other are just excuses not to hire.

  • Joanne Readman-Moffatt

    Interesting comments. I find some of the people interviewing have many problems on their own level. Sitting with their phone, looking at emails and texting, while you are waiting for them to finish “their business”. Nine times out of ten they are going to hire a friend of a friend of a friend, relative, girlfriend. It’s annoying and bad etiquette. I am frankly fed up with just about everyone in the business world these days.

  • Pedro Erik Ortega Perez

    Hi everybody, my name is Peter …. i was reading the article and is really good but is not much useful in my case … i live in Cuba and i have been trying to get a job in Canada for over a year with no results yet … can anybody tell me the best formula for to get my goal?

    • Chris

      Hi Pedro,
      My advice would be stay where you are or even try the US now that they and Cuba have an improved relationship. The US economy is really picking up and I think you will be far more successful in your search there than here.
      Canada is going backward, very quickly!!! Please don’t make the same mistake I did in moving here “hoping” to find work when you get here, I’m afraid it just isn’t going to happen. Well unless you want to work at Tim Hortons or A+W, doing the jobs that Canadians refuse to do!!! And please don’t rely on anyone here if they do get in touch with you and tell you there are plenty of jobs here, you just need to move here first. It’s all lies. I used to really like, even admire Canadian people, now after spending 3 years living here, I realise they are just full of lies and don’t like confrontation so are happy just to lie to your face instead of actually “manning up” and telling you the truth. I hate to be so blunt but it’s true. You’d have more luck finding work with Santa Claus as an Elf. Haha

  • Roustam

    I have already been known about those things for many years. The same old stuff. By the way you have know idea how many times you spoiled your reputation as a professional adviser.

  • Efrem

    “Sergeant, I didn’t shoot for several reasons: first, I had no cartridges…”
    The very first reason nobody hires you- the economy doesn’t work.