Employers’ 5 Worst Job Application Pet Peeves

We all have pet peeves: some dislike Internet slang and unnecessarily shortened words, some hate people who litter. And employers hate these 5 things.

You’ve come across a really cool job – your DREAM job – and, quite naturally, you weren’t going to sit back and watch this opportunity pass you by, so you went ahead and submitted your application. But you’re not the only person applying for the job: another 117 people are estimated to have sent their résumés in, too – a third of which contain spelling errors. That’s almost 40 bad résumés that hiring managers are subjected to, which can't be much fun. In fact, it is probably pretty darn frustrating to come across the same mistakes over and over (and over) again.

Hopefully, you haven’t committed any of these unforgivable crimes but if you have, well, a hiring manager variant of the Incredible Hulk comes to mind.

1. Not Reading the Job Description Properly

You might be desperate for a job, but applying to become a brain surgeon at your local hospital when you can't tell the difference between the pituitary gland and an avocado is just stupid. Not only does it waste your time, but also the hiring managers. You don’t have to fit the description 100% but if you don’t meet the job’s requirements (i.e.: you’ve never been to medical school), well, you can rest assured that the hiring manager won’t think twice about deleting your application.

Sometimes, you might be able to tick all the boxes (location, qualifications, and requirements), and you might very well be the perfect candidate for the job. But, if you fail to follow some simple instructions that the job description states, you could end up screwing your chances of getting invited for an interview. Let’s say candidates are requested to send their résumé as a Word document but you send it as a PDF instead: how can a company trust you with bigger, more important things if you can’t follow something so simple?

2. Not Customizing Your Résumé to the Job

The most common piece of advice that résumé-writing guides offer today is how you should customize your résumé to the job you’re applying for. Granted, it can be a time-consuming process, but it’s totally worth it.

For one, many résumés first go through an automated applicant tracking system (which, in English, translates to a software program that helps employers manage their recruitment and hiring efforts) before they get seen by an actual human being. ATSs will search for specific, predetermined keywords, and if your résumé contains enough of those keywords or phrases, it’ll proceed to the next part of the hiring process. If it doesn’t, then it won’t get very far. But, you can avoid this by carefully reading the job ad, identifying keywords, and then incorporating those keywords into your résumé.

Not only does a customized résumé make you stand out from the crowd (and at an average 118 applications for any given job, it’s quite a crowd), but it also gives you the opportunity to demonstrate how genuinely interested you are in the job.

3. Addressing Your Application to No One in Particular

Businessman with magnifying glass

“Hey you! You over there! Yeah, you! Here’s my résumé!”

That’s pretty much what you’re doing when you submit your application for a job without addressing it to someone in particular. If you’re going to address it to “Sir/Madam”, then you might as well address it to “The Kitchen Cupboard” because you’d have a better chance of actually getting a response.

In this day and age, where you can Google just about everything, you have no excuse for not addressing your application to a specific person. Even if their name wasn’t mentioned in the job ad or you couldn’t find their name on the company website, you should never – ever – slap a generic “To Whom It May Concern” onto that important e-mail. Worse comes to worst, call the company up and ask them who you should address your application to.

4. Spelling the Name Wrong

Perfect. You found who to address your application to: Karyn B. Except you spelled it wrong; you actually addressed it to Karen B. You might not think it’s that big of a deal, and you’re right – it’s worse. It’s so much worse.

You see, that “tiny” mistake you just made (and we agree: it IS tiny) is an enormous one as far as it concerns potential employers. And that’s because it proves you’re not as “detail-oriented” you claim to be on your résumé. Hiring managers aren’t very forgiving, as you should very well know by now, so spelling their name wrong (or worse: getting it completely wrong) means that your résumé will probably end up in the bin.

There are a million reasons why you should always proofread your résumé, and spelling is one of them.

5. Trying to Stand Out with Weird Formatting

Woman with bow

Sure, you want your résumé to have a little pop, but you ought to stay away from fonts other than Arial, Calibri, Garamond, Helvetica, Times New Roman, and Verdana. You should aim to use a font that is clear, easy to read, and professional-looking, and whatever you do, do not – I repeat: do NOT – use Comic Sans. Jesus, what is this? Kindergarten?!

Unless you’re applying for a design job, your résumé should be as normal-looking as possible – of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make it stand out a little, but it shouldn’t be too over-the-top.

As for length, résumés should be a page long; two if you have over 10 years’ experience or three (and sometimes more) if you’re an academic or scientist with an extensive list of publications and patents.

See Also: Worst CV Mistakes

Are you an employer? What else gets under your skin when it comes to job applications? Tell us in the comments section below, and don’t forget to share this article with family and friends!