In today's job market, it's easy to feel like you need to be aggressive to stand out in a crowded field of applicants and make sure employers notice you. But with most employers, being too aggressive will backfire and lead to more rejections than interviews.
You might wonder why—after all, employers like persistence and enthusiasm, right? But when those things cross the line into annoying employers, making you seem desperate, or making you appear not to understand and follow normal business conventions, you'll harm your chances.
So what does it mean to be too aggressive? Here are some of the most common overly aggressive tactics that employers see:
Applying for every position a company has open. When you're feeling anxious for a job, it can be tempting to apply for every opening you see. But if you apply for every opening a company has, even if you're only somewhat qualified, you'll start to look desperate and employers will doubt your judgment. (To be clear, it's fine to apply for two or three openings if you're truly qualified for all of them. The problem is when you apply for every opening, no matter how dissimilar.)
Calling to follow up on your application, especially more than once. Candidates sometimes think that calling to follow up on a job application will show persistence and enthusiasm, but most employers will tell you that these calls don't help and sometimes hurt. These days, with more than 200 applicants for every opening, if every applicant called to follow up, employers would spend all day fielding these calls. It can be hard to accept when you want to feel a sense of control in your job search, but once you apply, the ball is in the employer's court.
Showing up in person without an interview appointment. With the exception of industries like retail and food service, you should not apply in person unless an employer specifically directs you to. It's annoying, it's disrespectful of other people's time, and it displays a lack of understanding of how hiring works (because candidates can't decide on their own that they're getting an interview; the employer needs to make that call). Plus, many companies these days only accept resumes electronically because they're put into an electronic screening system, so you'll simply be told to go home and apply online.
Using deception to reach the hiring manager. If you've ever intimated to a receptionist or other gatekeeper that you know the hiring manager personally—or worse, that you're calling on a personal matter—or if you've ever marked a envelope with your application in it "personal and confidential," you're not doing yourself any favors. Trying to reach the hiring manager through deception and trickery doesn't make you look resourceful; it makes you look like someone who's willing to lie to get what you want.
Asking hard-sell closing questions in your interview. Job interviews shouldn't be a high-pressure sales environment, on either side. Ending interviews with hard-sell questions like, "Is there any reason you wouldn't hire me for this job?" and "Is there anything standing in the way of me getting an offer?" will turn off most interviewers, because it puts them on the spot and feels too aggressive. These tactics are too much like car salespeople who ask, "What do I need to do to get you into this car today?" No hiring manager wants to think she's being aggressively sold; we want the best person for the job, not the pushiest spiel.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager'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.