1. Ignore application instructions. Employers give specific instructions for a reason, so ignore them at your peril. Don’t send your resume through postal mail rather than applying online as instructed, ignore the request for a cover letter, or call to follow up when the ad says “no calls.” Showing you don’t pay attention to or don’t care about directions is a good way to take yourself out of the running.
2. Call to “schedule an interview.” Some job applicants end their cover letters by noting that they’ll call within a few days to “schedule an interview.” This is not a good idea. Job-seekers don’t get to decide to schedule the interview; employers do, and it’s overly pushy to pretend otherwise.
3. Be difficult to schedule a conversation with. Taking days to respond to an email or phone message or being inflexible about what times you can meet will make an employer wonder why they’re bothering, when there are plenty of other well-qualified candidates who will make themselves available. If an employer is trying to hire you, don’t put up roadblocks.
4. Follow up repeatedly. They have your application; if they’re interested, they’ll contact you. Follow-up calls, especially repeated ones, are the bane of many hiring managers and HR reps. With hundreds of applications for a single position, there’s just not enough time to respond to these inquiries, which are unnecessary to boot.
5. Arrive late for your interview. Hiring managers assume that candidates are on their best behavior during the hiring process. If you can’t get to the interview on time, they’ll assume that you’ll be unreliable once on the job.
6. Arrive overly early for your interview. It's good to plan to arrive early so you have a buffer against being late, but kill those last 20 minutes at a nearby coffee shop, not in the company’s reception area. Many interviewers are annoyed when candidates show up more than five or ten minutes early, since they may feel obligated to interrupt what they're doing and greet the person, or feel guilty leaving a candidate sitting in their reception area that long. Aim to walk in five minutes early, but no more than that.
7. Be unprepared for your interview. The interview isn’t the time for the hiring manager is explain the basics of the job description or what the company does; you’re expected to show up already knowing that.
8. Ask questions that focus solely on salary and benefits. This signals that you're interested only in compensation and aren’t putting thought into the details of the job and the company.
9. Call repeatedly and hang up when you get voicemail. Calling, hanging up when you get voicemail, and then trying again half an hour later, and repeating this cycle over and over in the hopes of getting a live person on the other end of the phone is a bad idea. We have caller ID, and we’re not answering because we’re in the middle of something else.
10. Angrily challenge their decision not to hire you. It’s frustrating to get rejected for a job you thought you were perfect for. But don’t show your frustration—or worse, anger—to the employer, or you guarantee you won’t be considered for future openings there.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.