I recently wrote an article about the behaviours that will most turn employers off from hiring a candidate. In fact, there are actions they dislike so much from an applicant that they not only won’t hire the person, but they’ll also blacklist them from all future opportunities with the company.

Quite a few people took the time to write in their responses to that article and similar ones that detail candidate mistakes on the job hunt. The common theme in the comments was that sure, candidates do get things wrong sometimes, but what about employers? It turns out that recruiters and hiring managers make a lot of mistakes of their own, and that can cost them a great deal of potential talent when skilled but offended candidates choose to walk away.

So, in the interest of fairness – here are some of the most common blunders employers make that drive away candidates.

The top ten employer behaviours that candidates hate:

    1. Poorly written job descriptions with a list of demands but no benefits. Candidates need to know what is required for the job, of course, but they also want to know what’s in it for them. Describe the working conditions, the great culture, a few perks. Give people a reason to apply to your opportunity.

    2. Asking for the impossible. Some job descriptions ask for so much that no candidate could possibly have all of the credentials – or if this superhero miraculously existed – they wouldn’t work for the salary offered anyway. (You want a developer who can code your website, create all of the graphics, write engaging content in three languages while selling all of the media? For $20 an hour?)

    Looking for three plus years’ experience coding apps for Windows 8 is also absurd when the product has been on the market for a few weeks, but we’ve seen that sort of logical fallacy in job postings before.

    3. Being unprepared at the interview. Many candidates talk about sitting across the desk from someone who is apparently reading their resume for the first time. Jennifer says, “I once had a guy spend half the interview responding to emails on his blackberry and then showing me pictures of his family instead of interviewing me!” Job seekers stress about interviews, prepare in advance, and psych themselves up for the day. It is disrespectful to them when employers don’t take the meeting as seriously or give their candidacy the attention it deserves.

    4. Not replying to applications. Candidates like to receive an acknowledgment that their resume was received. This doesn’t have to be a phone call, or even a personalized note. The standard auto-response that thanks them for applying and lets them know they will only be contacted if they are selected for an interview is enough. That’s because when you’re applying for a job online or through email, you never know with 100% certainty that your resume got through unless you receive that confirmation. Emails hit spam filters or go to the wrong addresses, computers can freeze up or fail to process. Letting candidates know that you have their resume means that their chances now rest on the merits of their application. That’s fair. It’s stressful not to know if your career was blocked by a technical glitch.

    5. Much worse, not replying after interviews. When a candidate has taken the time to physically come in to the office to be interviewed, they deserve an official word on whether or not they got the job. Just by being interviewed, they know they were on the short-list. People have a lot of hopes riding on job interviews, landing a new opportunity can be life-changing. So amongst the behaviours that job seekers hate the most from employers is to be left hanging, indefinitely, after a job interview. Give them a call and let them know either way. Or at the very least, send an email thanking them for their time and interest, letting them know that you’ve selected another candidate.

    6. Allowing really long delays in communication with no explanation. Things can change, job seekers understand that. But when you say that you’ll let a candidate know about a decision by the end of the week – and you can’t make that deadline – send them a quick note. A simple, “Things have been crazy here this week, and we haven’t been able to move forward with the selection process. We’re going to regroup next week and will get back to you then…” will do. It’s the silence and the not knowing what’s going on when a job is on the line that candidates really dislike.

    I once received a call back for a second interview fully two months after the initial one. I had accepted a different (and much better) job in the meantime, so I never found out what the delay was.

    7. Asking for references right off the bat, even if you’re never going to call them. This causes job seekers to waste some social currency. The problem is that most candidates warn their references to expect a call, and they give them the job description in advance so that they’ll be prepared. They don’t want to have to let their network know about every job that they are interested in or to make too many demands on their time. They only want to have to approach their references for the roles for which they are a serious contender and it’s the references themselves that can make or break the deal.

    8. Going through the motions when an internal candidate or referral has already sealed the deal. Candidates tell horror stories of finding out that jobs they have applied for, interviewed for and even done a sample project for have been filled by the manager’s nephew. The theory is that even when there is a clear internal front-runner, companies still have a policy of going through the motions of screening a few alternative candidates.

    I have never seen this situation myself, but several managers I talked to confirmed that it happens. You can see how it grates on the ‘alternatives’ who’ve wasted their time.

    9. Indiscreetly talking about a candidate in public. This one was also written in to us. Linda shared: “My friend Evelyn was taking public transit to an interview – it was an interview for a position within her own company – a move to another division. While en route she overheard two women from her HR team talking about her, saying that she would never get the job, and wondering why she had even bothered to apply. She did not confront them, but was understandably upset that her own HR team would slag her and gossip about her in the open like that. She’d been with the organization for five years at this point and completely lost respect for the company.”

    10. Making it all about you. Once candidate told us the story about an employer who was so high on their own company that they spent the entire interview telling her how great the company was, how everyone wanted to work there, and how even being interviewed was a privilege considering the competition. Christina writes, “It was just really bizarre. They didn’t actually ask any questions about me or my resume. Shouldn’t at least part of an interview be spent a) trying to get to know me, and b) telling me the good parts about the job? Selling me on the opportunity? It was like a cult.”

Here’s something else to consider. When candidates feel that they have been treated shabbily, they’ll not only walk away from jobs with a company, but they’ll boycott its products as well. There’s no negative word-of-mouth as passionate as that coming from a person who feels personally and professionally affronted.

See also: Warning signs that the job will suck even more than being unemployed
Six red flags in job descriptions that should warn you not to apply


Peter Harris
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