Job hunting is all about the survival of the fittest. If you know how to play the game and get the attention of the interviewers, then you’ll have no problem getting the job of your dreams. Some people get a job interviewer’s attention for all the wrong reasons. These HR Recruiters shared some of the major red flags they saw that made them change their mind about a candidate.
Maybe Leave That One Off The Resume
“I was helping my then manager go over resumes. We googled one dude, and the first thing that pops up is an article about someone getting tried for manslaughter or homicide for selling bad (meaning contaminated with something) illegal substances at the bar he worked at as a bartender, complete with extensive interviews from coworkers saying they were pretty sure he’d sold contaminated substances purposely.
And we know it was the same dude, BECAUSE HE LISTED THE BAR ON HIS RESUME.”
“Seventh Law Of Magnetism”
“We saw a guy apply for a masters degree internship in a scientific lab saying on the last page of his resume that he had invented the seventh law of magnetism or something like that, followed by a nonsense description of what it was. The rest of the resume was absolutely fine, and we reminded ourselves that it is always crucial to read a resume to the end before making any decision.
And a piece of advice for anyone who applies somewhere and think they have an unrecognized discovery worth a Nobel Prize: have it recognized before you put it on your resume.”
People Should Dress For The Job They Want…
“When I was around 21, I was managing a small department for the provincial government that looked after palliative patients. At this time, we were low on resources, so I didn’t have someone to do a pre-interview or a short phone interview prior to meeting the candidates.
Sometimes when people were really bad (I’m talking like being 20 minutes late showing up with fast food in hand talking about how they need a ‘good government job,’ spitting out their beverage in disbelief when they saw a petite, young woman was going to be the manager, all kinds of gems like that), I would just ask them hypothetical questions based on well-known movies. Essentially, it was just something to run out the clock so if someone ever did follow up with them, I did indeed interview them.
One time, I had a woman in her early 30s show up for an interview wearing super low rise light blue jeans and a pink spaghetti strap tank top so small I could see her belly button piercing. I tried to nonchalantly ask her if she brought a copy of her resume and she shimmied a crumpled resume out of her back jean pocket and handed it to me. Her face had white eyeshadow that had been applied very liberally – cheeks full of glitter and she smelled of heavy perfume. I looked at it, then at her and said: ‘I’m going to give you an opportunity here. I am going to say something that is going to be difficult to hear, but if you do it – I will interview you and you might get this job – and you will do better at every job interview you attend after today. This is a government job, it is very conservative. Do you have dress pants, skirt or a blouse or sweater, a t-shirt or top that may match the dress skirt or pants? Maybe a dress? Do you have anything like that at home?’
I paused and she stared at me as I continued: ‘If you don’t have access to those things – that is okay, we can set up a phone interview, but I think you should come back tomorrow, prepared and ready to make a better impression. Does that sound okay?’
She called me a nasty name and threatened to file a complaint about me. She never followed through. I was half hoping she maybe would think about what I said and come back the next day or week so I could interview her but she never did – so obviously she did not get the job.”
Shoe Lacing Diploma
“My father-in-law was once involved in a hiring process and saw a resume he threw out very quickly. Not only was it chronological instead of antichronological (not a red flag per se, but not very practical either). The first (and oldest) achievement the applicant put on it was her ‘shoe lacing diploma’. Yes, the thing we get in kindergarten when you have learned to tie your shoes. According to the applicant, it proved that she was a go-getter. To him, it proved that she lacked common sense.”
5/5 For Self Awareness
“Not in HR, but I was recruiting nurses a few months back and had one resume that had a cover page with a large (approx A5 equiv) centered photo. I’m not fond of these in healthcare resumes.
Then on the first page of the resume was a scale where she ranked herself out of 5. She rated her communication and attention to detail as 5/5 but her teamwork as 2/5. I didn’t like the scoring, and even worse I didn’t like the low teamwork score where she applied for a ward nursing job.
To top it off, it was riddled with grammatical, spelling and presentation errors. Clearly, attention to detail wasn’t a 5/5.”
“I’ll Start My Own Country”
“A lot of interviewees hate the question, ‘Why do you want to work here?’
After all, the honest answer is usually ‘Because things cost money, and I want some of that.’
The thing is, that question isn’t actually about learning an applicant’s specific desires. Sure, they might very well have reasons (beyond money) for being genuinely excited about the job or the company, but the real motivation behind the inquiry is just to see how it gets answered. If the person has a prepared response, that’s often a point in their favor. If they’ve done their research, that will also help them along.
On the other hand, if a person starts informing you of their plan for world domination, it probably won’t end well.
I’ll confess right away that I wasn’t actually the hiring manager in this instance; I was just one of the team members who was helping with the interview process. The applicant in question was a young man who had a rather overinflated idea of exactly how impressive his previous accomplishments were, and who seemed to believe that he was some kind of revolutionary in the making. When I asked him why he wanted to work at the company — a video game development studio — he gave me a long, grave, and steady stare (or at least, what he probably imagined to be one), then began speaking.
‘This is,’ the fellow said, ‘the third step in my path. I’ve already developed my reputation, and now, I’ll position myself to start making an impact. I will produce the most ground-breaking game the world has ever seen. I’ll buy the company with the money I make, then start buying other companies. I’ll use all of that influence to get a big piece of land, and I’ll start my own country.’
There was a lot more to it than that, but I’ll spare you all of the specifics. Suffice to say, the guy continued to speak for more than a few minutes, taking me on a pipe-dream-like journey that eventually brought us to a destination somewhere between The Matrix and Narnia. Don’t get me wrong, his proposed utopia — which was supposedly going to be set in a purely virtual world — sounded like a great concept for a science fiction novel, but it really wasn’t the best answer for why the young man was interested in the job.
Honestly, he should have just said that he wanted the money.”
Not A Very Good Friend
“The interview went pretty well until I asked, ‘So, what are you looking to get out of this job? What’s important to you in a work environment?’
And he responded: ‘Well, I just really want to work in a place with a bunch of friends. Hanging out during work. After work. Going on company trips. Playing video games. Just all of us having a good time. Hanging out. Being friends. I really hope I get this job. I’ve been to 38 interviews so far this year. I don’t understand why no one will hire me. They like my resume. But for some reason after the interview, they don’t hire me. Do people not want a new friend? I don’t get it. I’d be such a good employee. People can tell me anything. I’m a hard worker. I’m always there for people. So what do you like to do for fun? Do you go anywhere? Do you guys all like hang out after work? Get a drink or something? Am I rambling? I feel like I’m rambling? But 38 interviews? Can you believe that?’
It went on for a while. I didn’t hire him. But I called him to tell him this, and normally I don’t tell people why I didn’t hire them for liability reasons, but I felt so bad this dude had been to 38 different interviews over the previous nine months I decided I’d let him know that maybe if he kept it professional and didn’t word vomit desperation so much it would go a little smoother for him. That conversation went like this:
Me: ‘Hey, we decided to go a different direction with the position, but I was wondering, if you have a few minutes, I’d like to talk to you about the interview and maybe give you some advice on the process.’
Him: ‘No way, man, not interested. I’m good. Some people just aren’t into meeting new people and gaining new friends. We’re done here [click].’
I made the right choice.”
Not The Place For That
“Trigger warning: An applicant talked about trauma on a resume.
I don’t work in HR, but I have some experience reviewing resumes and job applications. Once, when I was at work, a man dropped off his resume for consideration. He was polite to me and there were no problems initially. I read his resume. His contact information was his Reddit username. He had a 4-year work and school gap with 0 explanation. He also wrote that he was assaulted when he was a child and that his father was murdered. He wrote that he wanted revenge against his father’s murderers, the ‘evils in the pharmaceutical industry,’ and his abusers.
Management decided not to interview or hire him.”
I Don’t Think They’ll Have To Worry About That
“Most memorable interview I’ve conducted was for an inbound call center customer service position:
We greet the girl, early 20s, white, dressed like a valley girl, and she has an entourage with her. Four people show up to sit in our lobby while this girl interviews. Not really a red flag, but weird.
The next weird thing I notice is she’s hobbled like a newborn giraffe. She says she twisted her ankle earlier that week. I think to myself, ‘Okay, maybe four-inch heels weren’t the best choice there.’ Again, nothing to rule her out, just weird.
Then the interview. Her only work history was for a vet clinic as a receptionist. We ask her typical questions like, ‘Tell us about a time you gave great customer service,’ and ‘What would you do if you didn’t know the answer to a customer’s question.’ Pretty normal stuff.
Any time she gives an example, it is about how she’s worked with animals and how the animals appreciated her. She is applying for a customer service position, one where you talk to PEOPLE, and her answers are all about how she’ll make sure the dogs are happy. Nothing about actually dealing with people. It is like pulling teeth trying to get a reasonable answer out of her.
We conclude the interview and are leaning towards a ‘No.’ As we are signing her out, she turns to the other interviewer (who is an African-American female) and says out of the blue:
Interviewee: ‘Just so you know, I’m like, SO, against prejudice!’
Co-worker: ‘Uh, okay… How do you mean?’
Interviewee: ‘I’m just like, so against it. If a customer is problematic to me, I will hang up. I do not tolerate it.’
Co-worker: ‘I don’t really understand how that would apply here.’
Interviewee: ‘My grandma is a quarter Puerto Rican, and if someone tries to be prejudiced towards me because of it, I will hang up.’
Co-worker: ‘I don’t think you’ll have to worry about that.’
Needless to say, she didn’t get hired.”
“I used to run a training program, and we had about 4000 applicants for 200 positions each year. Bad grammar and spelling automatically got a resume thrown out, because the job required so much writing. Also, get the name of the agency correct! I had one applicant, who claimed she was a PhD candidate, talk about the Health and Human Cervixes (instead of services). Seriously?
Inappropriate email. One guy had something like Pimp69 for his email. He listed a website of his, and it had a nsfw photo. Dude. Just what?”
Yeah, They’re Not THAT Desperate Yet
“I worked in our HR department for a while: One guy handed in a handwritten resume, written on the back of some photo-paper, which stated, that he hard worked for us before some ten odd years earlier, and he was sure that by now we desperately needed him back…I checked up with the head of HR…the guy had been fired for drinking on the job.
Another one was a father and a son both submitting very similar CVs with basically only the name and picture changed. But they both had a fork lift license so we asked for a copy of the license…they both submitted the same one…and it was neither the father’s nor the son’s.”
At Least She Has A Go-Getter Attitude
“I’ve seen a lot of bad resumes in the 20+ years I’ve been recruiting, but one I read 17 years ago always stands out.
It was from a woman responding to a Software Engineer position. Her introduction mentioned she had no experience in the field she was applying to, but was willing to learn. To be clear, she didn’t say she had no experience in software engineering, but “this field.” In other words, she was applying to a variety of jobs she had no background for.
She wasn’t kidding. Among her qualifications:
A bubbly personality
She watched a lot of TV, so she knew popular culture
I’m not saying it would’ve been better if she’d had an arrest record. It’s just an odd thing to highlight.
She had one listing under work experience: four months of internet modelling for a website featuring girls kissing girls.
Suffice to say, she didn’t get the Software Engineer position. Wherever she landed, I hope she got a whole new batch of qualifications, so she can let the TV watching and her lack of an arrest record go.”
Set A Trap
“Years ago, I was reviewing some resumes for a company which I worked for in Chicago. One that I thought was complete bull stated that the guy had worked for the CIA. I knew that was suspicious, so I put the resume in the ‘REJECT’ pile. However, another supervisor was also doing the interviewing, and he retrieved it.
When we interviewed the guy, I asked him about the CIA on his resume. Not surprisingly, he stated that he ‘couldn’t talk about it.’ I decided to set a trap (the job was for a robotics technician and if the guy was lying about the CIA, he was likely overstating his other credentials as well.) for this guy as it was a union job and if we hired a dud, we’d be stuck with him if he made it through the probationary period.
Long story short: I asked him if he liked the Roanoke, Virginia area, as I had heard that the CIA headquarters there was in a very nice part of town. He again stated that he couldn’t talk about his time with the CIA, but he agreed that Roanoke was a nice place for their headquarters.
CIA headquarters is in Langley, Virginia. It’s near Washington, DC and well over 3 1/2 hours from Roanoke.
He didn’t get the job.”
“Received an unformatted, 12-page resume that was a nightmare on the eyes and listed every single thing the person had done starting at the age of 9 or so.
I received this resume probably 4-5 times in the course of a week. I finally responded, assuring the girl I had indeed received her resume, that she only needed to send it once and that the position had already been filled.
She wrote back, asking why she wasn’t called in for an interview.
I stated bluntly that her resume wasn’t even looked at because it was too difficult to read. I suggested that she trim it down to one page, eliminate anything that wasn’t necessary and make it easy to read, I even sent her a few urls of resume templates to see examples.
She responded with a threatening letter about ‘be careful when you cross the street you don’t know who you insulted that may be driving’ and then started an online campaign against me and the organization claiming we post fake jobs just to troll naive students.
That was the last time I ever said yes to ‘Do you want to take on some interns?’ and I also learned why HR almost never contacts people unless there is an offer.”
Not The Goats!
“I once was asked to review a CV and cover letter for a position on a different department. As I went through the cover letter I noticed almost immediately that the person was not even remotely qualified for the job.
I get many requests to support other team leads and managers in hiring processes for many years. Usually this means that the hiring manager just wants my opinion on something that is my area of expertise or that I’m supporting the manager and will interview the person later on. So I started to wonder why I was asked to review it since this was an obvious “no” and there was nothing that I could help with.
When I got to the CV I was really puzzled. The person’s professional experience was on a family farm, completely unrelated with any kind of IT or data work.
When I got to the last line of the CV I burst into laughter. The last line said that if he didn’t get the job he would visit our company and kill all our goats. To this day I don’t know if that was an Internet prank or the weirdest thing I ever read on a CV.”
“Not HR, but a former hiring manager…
I had an applicant submit a 13 page résumé. They had written a miniature novel, detailing all of their interpersonal conflicts and struggles at each position. So, of course, I scheduled an on-site interview.
During the interview, they stopped, said ‘hold on, I need to take my meds,’ opened a couple of pill bottles, and took their mood stabilizers & psych meds before continuing.
Toward the end, they expressed a need to work from home four days per week, due to ‘mental health’ reasons. There were a couple other odd requests I forget.
After a couple of days they called to let me know they took a position elsewhere (at a very large well known company).”
How Was He Not In Jail?
“I am an HR manager in an IT company. I mostly come across nerds, and I think they are the best to have a conversation with. I learn new things from their interviews. I once had a candidate, one of the best performers in his class, I asked if there’s a city around he wishes to visit. He giggles, I got a feeling to expect something funny or silly. HR always says that ‘It’s okay, you can share whatever you think or feel, it will help us know you better”. I told him that, and he said ‘I want to visit Amsterdam because I want to do hard substances freely, all the time’. I definitely didn’t see THAT coming.
Also once, I was working for a top beverage company of the world, I asked a genuine candidate to be hired for higher level role ‘Do you have past associated to misdemeanor/traffic tickets/any other serious issue in your background’ he got offended. I tried to relax him that it is something to be asked for background checks. He said a little thing, it doesn’t matter, I asked him please share. He said murder…..at his previous work…. I don’t know how he was out of jail and talking to me face to face. Still feels weird.”
“Expert-Level Apple Box Skills”
“A few years back, I had the misfortune of interviewing a fellow for a role in a film shoot. Although the production technically had a Human Resources professional in charge of screening résumés, they were far better versed in the recruiting process than they were in what qualifications were necessary for the job. As a result, less than half an hour before I was supposed to meet with the man in question, I was handed a document that would have made most pathological liars blush.
According to the résumé, my interviewee had been an ‘uncredited consultant’ on over a hundred feature films. While there certainly are cases in which a given worker goes uncredited — it has even happened to me — the sheer magnitude of the fellow’s claim went well beyond the realm of believability. Furthermore, the guy had listed quite a few alleged skills that seemed to suggest a less-than-complete knowledge of the industry.
My favorite claim was that he had ‘expert-level apple box skills.’
For the record, an ‘apple box’ is literally a wooden box. That’s it. There are a few different sizes, and they’re used whenever something needs to be stacked on top of a box.
I went ahead with the interview anyway, if only because I was curious about how the guy would back up his various claims. He turned out to be maybe 20 years old, which was far too young to have worked on many of the films that he had listed. When pressed, he explained that he had ‘consulted’ on each of them by writing letters to the people involved in the productions, in which he outlined several suggestions on various things.
Suffice to say, he didn’t get the job… though I’m certain that he listed himself as an ‘uncredited consultant’ on it, simply because he attended the interview.”