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7 Ways to Piss Off A Candidate

I’ve spent most of my career as a hiring manager, but I’ve also been a candidate. And I have to tell you – it can be shockingly annoying to be on the candidate’s side of the table.

I’ve had many moments where I’ve wondered, “Did a human write that email, or did a random phrase generator?” Or, “Did they even bother to READ my LinkedIn profile before sending me job spam?” Or even worse, “If you can’t get my name right (and it’s Jenn – seriously, not hard in the US, where it was the most popular girls’ name for 15+ years), please don’t call me.”

After all of these experiences, I’ve put together a list of the top 7 ways to annoy me as a candidate:

1. Get my name wrong.

I am not John. I am not Jan. I am not Jane or Janet or Jean. If you’re contacting me – especially if you’re contacting me as a passive candidate – please get my name correct. Dale Carnegie said that “a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Well, getting my name wrong certainly hits a sour note!

2. Send me nonsensical job spam.

I got this email a while ago and have kept it since I still find it amusing.

Hi! My name is <redacted> and I’m an IT Recruiter for <redacted>.

We have a 6-12 month renewable contract in Boston, MA for a Project Manager Standard Associate (2 yrs). The hourly rate for this is W2 $<less than I’ve made in a long time>.

Let’s review why it was very silly to send me:

  • I don’t work in IT any more (I haven’t since 2009).
  • I don’t live in Boston any more (I haven’t since 2011).
  • I have 15+ years of experience (not two).
  • It’s way out of my hourly range (and not in a good way).

A quick Google or LinkedIn search would have helped this person avoid sending a ridiculous email that could have gotten me complaining about their company on social media (and not with the name redacted as I did here!).

3. Ignore my current title/industry.

This one follows closely on the heels of #2. Reaching out to me on LinkedIn for positions or industries that in no way resemble anything that I am doing or have ever done in my career (e.g., executive assistant roles – which has happened!) only proves that you aren’t careful in trying to find the right candidates for the roles you’re trying to fill. If you’re demonstrably careless about something as vital as finding the right candidates for your role, why would I work with you?

4. Fail to confirm interview places, people, dates, and times.

I will readily admit to being a bit of a ‘Type A’ personality, but I’m sure I’m not the only person out there who likes to have some idea about where, when, and with whom my interview will be taking place. Not having any idea where I’m going or who I’m talking to at minimum 24-48 hours out makes me cranky. And when I’m cranky, I’m less likely to perform well at the interview or be really interested in the role.

5. Do not listen to the words that are coming out of my mouth.

“So, what are you looking for in a role?”

“I’m looking for a company that I can live and breathe. I want to do high-level strategic growth work and provide leadership.”

“Great! You’ll fit right into our entry-level temporary accounting role!”

Sounds ridiculous, right? Sadly, it’s happened. If you listen to me, we’ll be much more likely to make a good match. Of course, I need to listen to you as well!

6. Pull a bait & switch.

Years ago, I went into a company to interview for a role that was right up my alley. I prepped for it, and I was really excited about the company and the role – the role was to build something really exciting and lead a great team. I discovered (in the second of a full day of interviews) that they had switched the role without telling me. The new role was to evaluate the nationwide operations and make layoff recommendations. There was no building anything – there was tearing down instead – and no team. By switching the role and not telling me until I got there, they wasted everyone’s time.

7. Don’t get back to me.

This one, frankly, is just rude. You’d be annoyed if I didn’t get back to you, so I expect the same courtesy from you. We’re all humans and this is a very small world – let’s just be courteous to each other, okay?

Candidates are very well-connected today. I realize that we’re all ridiculously busy and make silly mistakes sometimes, but annoying one candidate can have a domino-like effect in their networks. Don’t destroy your hiring brand with these easy-to-avoid mistakes (or by taking these 20 simple steps to destroy your employer brand, either!).


Head of Growth at RecruitLoop. Previously at Amazon & HubSpot. Passionate about growing humans and companies, working out, and wine. Also blogs on leadership at Follow her @jennsteele.

  • Christi Carter

    I agree with a few of your points, but it goes both ways.
    From the recruiter’s perspective (me), when you respond to my email and
    misspell my name (despite the sig pic and my email address clearly advertising
    it), I’m definitely left wondering about your attention to detail… and this
    happens ALL the time.

    In regard to #2, I have to strongly disagree. To be fair, I hear ya! It’s
    irritating to feel spammed with irrelevant information. However, that
    information might have been relevant to you a few years ago (so at least the
    recruiter got something right!) Not only that, but you’re at a different point
    in your career now. Maybe you just laid someone off who’d be a perfect fit!
    Maybe the description doesn’t appeal to you but you’d like to talk to the recruiter
    anyway. The market is ever-changing and we might have access to the perfect fit
    for you tomorrow (or today, even).

    Candidates and recruiters alike are flawed. Some are outstanding, and some are
    not. But candidates should never burn bridges with recruiters. We are in your
    market! We are “in the know,” especially when specialized. We know
    the companies that are hiring, who’s firing, who’s cool, who’s touting a great
    environment (and then disappoints)… I’m not sure if all candidates know this,
    but there is NO ONE who wants to get you a great job as bad as we do! (Because
    it feels great and we’re paid to do it!) We mean very well, I promise! Just
    like you, we are in high pressure environments with standards and deadlines,
    and we want to maintain a high level of integrity despite the lightning speed
    we’re required to move at. A great recruiter will go out of their way to help
    you, even if they can’t place you. So, shop around! If you’re a top notch
    candidate, they’ll be after you for sure! Just don’t spell their names wrong,
    and you’ll have your pick. 😉