Nine sure-fire ways not to get the job!

As careers advisors we see lots of amazing job candidates and great applications. Sometimes, however, it’s not quite so good and experience tells us that a student just isn’t going to be in the running for that dream job. So, what are the very worst things you can do which are likely to guarantee that your application is not going to progress?

1. Fail to research the organisation you’ve applied to.

question_mark100We’ve recently been observing recruitment interviews and were mortified when candidates were asked what they knew about the employing organisation. It was clear that some candidates had not bothered to find out anything. See our Webpage for advice on how to research effectively.

2. Ignore the Job Description or Person Specification.

Sometimes when candidates are asked what they understand by the job role, they describe a job which bears no resemblance to the actual job they’re applying for! It creates the impression that they’re describing the job they want, not the one which is actually available. Lack of insight into the job betrays not only a lack of preparation but also a lack of motivation for and interest in the role.

3. Arrive late for the interview- and fail even to apologise.

What can I say…….this scenario will simply not end well. Generally throughout any recruitment process you need to be unfailingly polite. Nobody wants to take on the rude employee!

4. Ask Careers for advice and expertise, then challenge and ignore it.


We’ve all heard it. “But my friend/family member/senior says (for example) that it’s fine to have a 5-page CV.” Well it’s not! Before you seek the advice of others, consider their credentials. Is your friend/family member/senior employed by the organisation you specifically want to work for? Do they work as a graduate recruiter? If the answer is yes, then there will clearly be some specific value in what they know. Remember though that Careers Consultants speak to and visit graduate recruiters across a range of different sectors constantly, we can give you up to date and accurate information and advice. It’s our job.

5. Claim you have amazing communication skills and provide no evidence.

What on earth does “outstanding communicator” mean? What kind of communication? Verbal, written, inter-cultural? In what context? How were you effective in demonstrating this? It’s ironic really, as by failing to qualify with evidence, you are clearly demonstrating the exact opposite of effective communication skills! (See our blog post for good advice on how to demonstrate your skills effectively).

6. Fail to plan ahead.

un_prepared250For example, arrange an interview for just after your plane has landed so that when the flight has been delayed you can’t let anyone know as you are still ‘in flight!’ All attempts to rescue this one are likely to undermine any claims of effective planning examples you may have claimed in your application. Global travel does not trump good time management.

7. Fail to understand what is meant by “Tell me a bit about yourself”.

This is not about listing your qualifications and interests or talking about where you are studying – all information that the recruiter can see perfectly well from your application. This is time for your elevator pitch  Have a look at Helen Stringer’s advice on how to answer this very question. You should also have a look at my posts on strengths based interviewing. This is a “strengths” question. Understand what the employer is “getting at”.

8. Decide that recruiters don’t pay any attention to the cover letter.

Yes- someone has actually said this even though the application clearly asked for a cover letter! Recruiters have a tough job screening applications, they don’t ask for things they don’t want. Ignoring what they ask for will guarantee you that rejection!

9. Make assumptions without any real evidence to back them up.

“My friend applied to x organisation last year and got in without having to sit an assessment centre.” Are you sure their processes will be the same this time round? Check it out – recruiters are constantly updating their recruitment methods. Which ones have moved to Strengths-based interviews? Which are using Situational Judgement Tests? You would not make the same assumptions when undertaking an academic assignment – you would check the robustness of your information sources. Graduate recruitment works the same way.

Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance”.

George Bernard Shaw



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