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How to not get a job: Bonus material from today's column

Posted by Scott Kirsner  January 10, 2010 07:08 AM

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I spent the past week collecting advice on how not to get hired: what qualified candidates sometimes do that nixes their chances of landing a gig.

And I got way too much good advice to cram into the column in today’s paper.

So I’m collecting ten of my favorite “bonus tips” here, as well as publishing two e-mails directly from the sources: one is from the executive recruiting firm BSG Team Ventures, and the other is from the vice president of human resources at Boston-based CSN Stores.

Ten more things you can do to lose out on that big opportunity:

1. Show up late for an interview, or exceedingly early. “Ten minutes before the interview is probably better than 20 minutes before it,” says Jim French of Hill Holiday. “People don’t have time to entertain you, and showing up too early can be just as aggravating as showing up late.”

2. Don’t look hard for someone in your network who can put in a good word for you. “Getting someone else to provide color commentary on your strengths and skills is extremely helpful, for us and for you,” says Brian Shin of Visible Measures. Using LinkedIn can supply connections you might not know about, says Kristina Shedd of Sapient. Participating in trade groups and professional organizations can help broaden your network, notes Michelle Gordon-Seemore of Children’s Hospital Boston.

3. Don’t admit to ever having encountered a challenge or problem in your work career. “If you can’t tell me about a situation where something went wrong, you usually don’t go further in the process,” says Pamela McNamara at Cambridge Consultants.

4. Make a chauvinistic or culturally insensitive remark. McNamara says it sometimes happens.

5. Accept an interview for one job, and try to negotiate yourself into something with a different title, more seniority, or a higher salary. “The impression you get is, ‘I don’t want this job, but I’d like to have that job,’” says Jeff Anderson of Quick Hit. Usually, you won’t get any job.

6. Stifle your personality. “Most managers want someone who’s innovative, excited, a team player,” says Maria Harris at Rockland Trust. “Your personality needs to come out, because they’re looking to see if you’ll be a good fit with their department.”

7. Conduct a phone interview while you’re distracted. “If you’re at the grocery store, or your children are screaming in the background, or you’re not prepared, ask if you can do the interview at another time,” Harris says. “You want to be in a quiet place. The recruiter will appreciate it, too.”

8. Repeat the same example of an accomplishment you’re proud of over and over. “Come to the interview with a whole bunch of different examples, from different jobs,” says Debbie Mitchell at Feeley & Driscoll. Otherwise, you'll sound like a one-trick pony.

9. Assume people know the companies you’ve worked for. “If you’ve worked for companies that aren’t household names, a little one-sentence explanation on your résumé of what the company does, or how big it is, is helpful to us,” says Christine Lahey at Liberty Mutual.

10. Spelling always matters. “We got a thank-you note recently from someone who was a candidate for a very senior position,” Lahey says. “It was full of misspellings and grammatical errors.” Despite getting points for politeness, the candidate didn’t get the job.

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About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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