The Very Worst Things Candidates Do: Volume 1

On some clear nights, recruiters wish upon faraway stars that their candidates won’t fall for the easy (and obvious) traps. Don’t wear flip flops to the interview, don’t chew gum when talking to the hiring manager, don’t inquire about anyone’s age—it’s simple advice like this that talent pros would love to stop telling candidates.

But sometimes we have to take other recruiters’ past slips and use them as learning opportunities. These are just some of the very worst things candidates can do during their job hunt:


1. Not specifying any contract or temporary positions on their resume.

Otherwise, the message that your candidates are sending to the hiring team is that they only worked for that company for a few months, and in the words of our Rockstar Recruiter, Erin Auerbach, “that ain’t good.” Some hiring managers won’t even let candidates with unjustified, sporadic employment histories through the door for an interview (and that’s a bad look for all of us). Ensure your candidates are showing that they didn’t cut out on the job early by putting the work context on their resumes!

2. List their entire family tree as references.

Please, for the love of everything wonderful in the hiring world, triple check with your candidates that they aren’t listing grandma as a reference. We love seeing that a candidate has a supportive family, but if we reach out to a candidate’s first reference and find out that it is really Uncle Henry, we have wasted our own valuable recruiting time on something that should have been caught earlier in the process. Whether we are aware of the familial relationship right away or not, we need to proactively coach our candidates to provide appropriate, professional references that we can take to the bank, and the hiring manager!

3. Watch the clock.

If they’ve made it through the wringer and advanced to the interviewing stage, don’t let them screw it up by exuding an air of disinterest. We know it’s just one more thing to tick off before the offer letter, but forging an actual connection with the interviewer (and potential future coworker) will do so much more for your candidate than checking the time on their Apple Watch. Make sure that your candidates go into their interviews with a high-level of self-awareness and remind them that they’ll be able to update Twitter after the meeting.

4. Not know what they’re applying for.

Sometimes candidates can get a little starry-eyed and complete applications that don’t exactly match their goals. It’s our job to keep them from getting a little too dreamy with their decision-making.

“Oh, you’re looking at a management position with that awesome company? Great! Just make sure you’re prepared to move to that new city to accept it, since it was written in bold font at the end of the application.”

Plans change, people change, but it’s a terrible idea to continue the hiring process when you sense that there’s a red flag raised regarding locations or specific qualifications. It never hurts to confirm with a candidate that they are ready or able to take on a new gig, especially if it requires special skills or a big moving day.

5. Skip the research phase.

As talent industry aficionados, we should always strive to understand the internal process going on in our candidates’ minds. “I’m applying for a diabetes clinic,” they think. “I’ve known somebody with diabetes, I should be prepared.” Mistake! If the recruiter is doing their job correctly, they should be able to spot this runaway train of thought and stop the candidate before they get too far into the screening call. Make sure your candidates are doing the proper research regarding where/what they’re applying to. We never want to be caught off guard by the hiring manager after an interview gone wrong, or worse…on the candidate’s first day.


Throw out some of the worst things your candidates have ever done in the comments below! There’s nothing like a good hiring horror story to put on my reading list.

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