As a veteran hiring recruiter, Kelly Finn has seen job seekers make quite a few mistakes.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years or so, so I’ve seen and heard it all,” Finn told Boston.com recently. Finn is a principal consultant working in WinterWyman’s Information Technology Search division, and we spoke with her about the top mistakes she sees job seekers make time and time again:
- Not following-up with your hiring recruiter. Let your hiring recruiter know you’re still job-seeking. It reminds him or her to keep an eye out for any potential job matches. Just don’t be overbearing. “There’s a difference between being proactive and following up once, and being a pest.” Finn said. “Be proactive but don’t be a pain about it. No one appreciates multiple calls and emails. It’s a fine line.”
- Forgetting a thank you note. It may seem old-fashioned, but Finn said letting recruiters and HR professionals know you appreciate their help is polite and makes them more inclined to help you out down the road. “Tailor it to the conversation you had,” Finn said. “Reference something you spoke about. It shows you were paying attention.”
- Ignoring human resources. “While everyone wants to talk directly to the hiring manager, some candidates forget that their interview with HR personnel could be just as important,” Finn said. Make sure you’re always putting your best foot forward, or you might not make it past the first interview.
- Sending a generic cover letter. Always make sure your cover letter is tailored for the specific company and job to which you’re applying. “I’ve seen letters come to me literally with the wrong name of the hiring recruiter,” Finn said. “Mention the specific company. Take the time to be detailed in that.”
- Bad-mouthing your former employer. “When asked about why you left your past employer, being negative is a huge huge ‘do not do’ thing,” Finn said. “Never bad mouth your past employer. Keep it short and sweet. A quick highlight of two sentences is all you need. Negativity just makes the job seeker look bad.”
- Talking salary too soon. “In first-round interviews, it’s important to keep the focus on your skills and background and how they relate to the position rather than bringing up salary, vacation time, and benefits,” Finn said. “There’s a time and place for that, but bringing it up early in the process makes it seem like that’s more important than what the job is.”
- Not doing your research. When it is time to talk salary, Finn said some candidates ballpark what they think they should earn in their new role. This can make you sound silly. Finn recommends candidates do some market research to back up the number they request. “Do some homework,” Finn said. “Figure out what these jobs are paying and see how your current salary stacks up to the market value. Ask yourself, ‘Am I being paid fairly or is it too high or too low?’ That will give you some guidance before asking for the higher end of average.”
- Aiming a little too high. Many interviewers ask job candidates where they see themselves in five years, Finn said. While it’s great to have big ambitions, it can make you look a little preposterous if you respond with “CEO,” or a similar senior role, she said. “Throwing out something unrealistic makes you look foolish,” Finn added. “Consider saying, ‘Whatever role I’m in, I want to look back on my time and know I made a real difference at my station.'”
- Having no questions for your interviewer. At the end of an interview, most recruiters ask a job candidate, “Do you have any questions for me?” Nothing is worse than when a candidate responds with, “Nope, I’m good!” said Finn, calling it the “kiss of death.” She recommends asking the interviewer how your skills stack up with the other people being interviewed. “That might set you apart a little and makes you seem interested,” Finn said. “It’s also an opportunity to use that time to address any concerns.”