How Not to Get Hired


So, you want a job at an awesome-sounding agency and are thrilled to see a posting for a role that suits you perfectly. Your next job is totally in the bag, right? Not so fast. As the director and hiring manager for the social media team here at 451 Marketing, I’ve quickly discovered how many different ways there are to apply to a job. And I know exactly what makes me immediately picture the applicant at the free desk outside my office versus what makes me hit “next” on the email. Below are my recommendations for what not to do when applying for a job.

Addressing the Email Incorrectly

This point seems so obvious that I hate to even include it, but after sifting through hundreds of resumes this year, I have to. Spell the hiring manager’s name right. Don’t use nicknames that aren’t listed on the company website (I don’t fault you for not knowing how much I hate being called “Sue,” but why bother taking the risk?). Don’t write “Dear Associate” when the person’s full name is listed. Don’t address the hiring manager with “Hey!” Be professional, while still being personal.

Ignoring Required Specifications

When you read through a job description, you can usually tell what’s really important to the role and what’s simply an add-on bonus. You can generally tell by words like “required” and “necessary” versus “desired.” If there are required skills that you don’t have, instead of just ignoring them, point them out and discuss your workarounds or strong desire to learn. You don’t have to address every little requirement in the posting, but take note of what’s important. If I have a  job ad out that requires graphic design skills and I receive a resume and cover letter that make absolutely no mention of an any creative design endeavours, I’m going to assume you don’t have this skill and are simply hoping I’ll overlook it. I don’t expect every applicant to be perfect, but with so many applicants that do have the skills we’re looking for, it’s important for you to at least recognize that you read the job description and truly believe you can get the job done.

Going along with that, if you’re applying for a job in the social media field, please at least have some mention of social media somewhere in your resume or cover letter. Please? At least tell me you’re addicted to Twitter. Even better, tell me about a social media promotion you ran at your previous job or internship.

Only Telling Us What We Can Do For You

There’s a trend I’ve noticed in recent emails and cover letters and even at in-person job interviews where the applicant simply describes how much they’re looking forward to “the next step in their career” and that they think they “could learn so much from us.” I actually had an applicant write to me that they are hoping to launch their own business think agency experience would bring them one step closer. While it’s true, you will learn an incredible amount working at an agency and it will be a seriously valuable step of your career (and that maybe it will help you launch your own business some day!), it’s really important that you recognize what you can do for the agency, too. With so many applicants offering their skills to us, we’ll always hire the person who can bring the most versus the person who just wants to learn from us.  

Doing So Much Research, It’s Borderline Stalkerish

When applying for a role, you should show hiring managers that you did your research and have a strong understanding of what the company does. I also think it’s nice when the applicant makes a comment about something in my company website bio. Taking it a step too far is when they write a lengthy paragraph about a blog post that I published on my not-work-related food blog or the recent tweets from my personal accounts. Keep it professional and job-related.

Following Up to the Point of Creepiness

It’s always a good idea to follow up to show that you’re interested in a role with the company, but give the hiring manager at least a week to get back to you. Don’t tweet to their personal account. Also, if a phone number isn’t listed in the job posting, I don’t recommend seeking one out and calling to question the hiring manager. But if you do and manage to catch them on the phone, have a plan for what you want to talk to them about. Simply saying, “I just want to make sure you got my resume…” isn’t going to make me favor your resume any more strongly than the next person. My favorite is when applicants follow up via email with a new writing sample, a relevant add-on to their resume, or a piece of industry news that got them really excited about the role.

To LinkedIn or Not to LinkedIn?

This goes hand-in-hand with my above point and is a controversial topic that you’ll likely find different answers from different people on, so proceed with caution. Personally, I dislike when people apply for jobs and then immediately request me on LinkedIn. Since I receive hundreds of job applications, that’s a lot of LinkedIn requests from people who oftentimes begin pinging me on LinkedIn if I don’t immediately get back to them. In going with my above point, I believe it’s a great idea to do some LinkedIn research on who’s doing the hiring, but I don’t think immediately hitting the “request” button is necessary.

Every time we post a new open role for our team, I’m amazed by how many applications we get and how many people truly want to be a part of our agency. I absolutely love it, but it always reminds me how important it is to work to stand out when looking for a new job. Be confident, but never go in with so much confidence that you forget how many other people are potentially applying for the same role. Always be professional, while showing off your personality and what makes you unique. And if you don’t do the items listed above, you’ve just greatly increased your chances of being called in for an interview! And yes, I think I could write a whole other novel on what not to do during a job interview.

Susan Anderson

Susie Anderson is Vice President of Social Media and Influencer Relations!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *