I’ve seen numerous job search websites that offer advice like “employers love this…” or “employers hate it when you…” but employers are people too, and all people have individual personalities. Some may prefer traditional cover letters, others might want shorter and more casual e-mails. One hiring manager might appreciate a career summary at the top of a resume, another might feel that it wastes space. Is it appropriate to contact the office before applying and ask about these preferences? Or would that be seen as trying too hard to get on somebody’s good side?
Hi Melissa -
This is a fun question to answer. Far too often, people offer advice on this topic that is really bad. It’s not intentionally bad. It’s just offered in ways that come across as universal. The only thing I can tell you for certain is that . . .
No two employers are completely alike
You are correct! Employers are people, too; so you should not approach them all the same way.
What one employer might love to hear, another might abhor! Craft your resume in manner that markets you most effectively to the kinds of employment you are seeking, not to address the whims and preferences of an individual recruiter. Your goal should not be to “get on someone’s good side.” Rather, it should be to present your relevant qualifications as professionally and effectively as you can.
When you are looking for a job, two things have to happen for you get a job: An employer has to make you an offer, and you have to accept.
Just because someone offers you a job does not mean you have to accept it. Just as the employer is evaluating you as a potential employee, you should be evaluating that employer to determine whether or not you want to accept a job if one is offered.
Be consistent in the way you present yourself to employers and in the way you assess employment opportunities, and you will have a much better chance of landing a job that suits you well.
Now back to your specific question: I have conducted a lot of interviews, observed a lot of interviews, and met with a lot of recruiters. Based on that experience, here is my general advice regarding what employers love and hate to see in candidates. I think the following observations hold up well, regardless of the employer.
Employers love authenticity
Be who you are, not who you think the employer want you to be. Seriously, if you change your behavior and your responses to “tell them what they want to hear” just to get the job, who are they considering for employment? You or your interview “alter ego.”?
By the way, most savvy employers can see through BS answers and nervous posturing. Be cognizant of your surroundings, be professional, and be authentic. Employers love it when candidates are authentic. When you are authentic, they know who they are talking to.
Employers love confidence
Be confident in what you offer, just not overconfident. Don’t be ashamed of what you have accomplished. It is possible to be proud, humble, and confident all the same time. Your confidence show the employer that you are not easily rattled; that you can hold up under pressure.
Employers love candidates that don’t waste their time
Make good use of the time you and the interviewer are investing in your interview. Don’t waste your time and don’t waste theirs. Show up on time. Dress appropriately for the interview. Don’t ramble when answering questions. Don’t overstay your welcome. Don’t make them wait to hear back – return calls and emails promptly.
Employers love candidates that are prepared
Do your homework. Do as much research as possible before applying for (and interviewing for) a job. Be ready to tell the employer why you want the job, why you are a good candidate for the job, why you’re interested in working for their company, and why you’re interested in working in their industry. Be ready to tell your story, and be ready with questions so you can learn their story. Follow the Boy Scout Rule: Always be prepared!
Employers hate stock answers
Leave the stock, rehearsed answers at home. Most recruiters have heard them all before. No one learns anything from a stock answer. Offering up a stock response is never “telling them what they want to hear.” Stock responses are usually express passes to the front of the “thanks but no thanks” line.
Employers hate kiss-ups
Don’t pander – you’re better than that (or at least you should be!). Recruiters know their companies are not perfect and that the job they have to offer is not perfect. If you are a kiss up in the interview, you are telling them you will be a kiss up on the job. Do you like working with kiss ups? I don’t.
One caveat: If you want a job that requires you to be a kiss up, go for it! When you get that job, just remind yourself that it is the job you wanted. Be careful what you wish for.
Employers hate arrogance
If overconfidence is bad, arrogance is outright laughable; and they will laugh about you after the interview if you come across as arrogant. If you honestly feel a job or company is “beneath you.” why did you apply, let along accept the interview? Get over yourself; drop the attitude. Arrogance is rude, bad form, and just distasteful. In most cases, arrogance will NOT get you the job.
Still uncertain? Follow the advice of Dr. Seuss: