By Laura Deck
A few weeks ago, I interviewed three candidates for a marketing specialist position at the Silicon Valley tech nonprofit where I work. The position was targeted at individuals who had acquired a few years of marketing experience since college graduation. I was expecting some basic marketing skills and a modest amount of professional polish gleaned from the wild and woolly business world.
Since the three candidates’ marketing skills were comparable, their soft skills and attention to detail quickly became differentiators. All three made preventable rookie mistakes that negatively influenced the decision-making process. Unfortunately, common sense isn’t always common practice, so let’s look at five mistakes that all job seekers should avoid.
- Typos appear in personal web pages or work samples.
The following quote appeared front and center on a candidate’s personal web page. When I pointed out the glaring typo, the woman said, “Wow, that error has been there for six months and you are the first person to notice it.” She failed to realize that I’m not the one trying to score points here.
Another candidate provided a blog about his university’s career center that included this sentence:
All you need to login is your 9-digit tower card number (as your username & as your password) and your in!
When I pointed out the typo, he said, “Well, I didn’t have much time to get that blog finished.” It made me wonder if we hired him would he be making similar excuses for careless work?
- Portfolio items have no context or explanation.
One candidate developed a PowerPoint presentation containing his marketing portfolio. One page looked like this:
What was his contribution? What business problems did he solve? What was the impact? Don’t assume I will click on every link and take the time to figure it out, because I won’t.
This photo belongs on her parents’ mantel. It made me think that this candidate just graduated and is looking for an entry-level position.
4. Unconvincing answer to “why do you want this job?”
If we hire you, how will you help us? How does this opportunity fit into your career goals? I need to hear a thoughtful, genuine response that goes well beyond “the company’s mission appeals to me.”
5. No thank you note or follow-up communication.
Three candidates, three levels of follow up:
- One candidate did nothing. In addition, this person typed notes throughout the interview which I found distracting since her focus was on her keyboard rather than on making eye contact with me.
- One candidate sent a generic thank you email to our administrative assistant and asked her to forward it to the interviewers since he didn’t get all of our business cards. He could have gone a bit further and asked the assistant for all email addresses. Did I mention that I gave him my business card?
- One candidate sent personalized thank you notes and even included an answer to one of my questions that he promised to investigate. (We hired him.)
The little things matter. A lot. After I determine that a job seeker meets the basic criteria for skills and experience, the intangibles make all the difference. Candidates who avoid these five rookie mistakes will be way ahead of the competition.