Five Ways Candidates Ruin Their Chances at Getting a Job Interview

Hey everybody, I'm Brian Clapp VP of Content and Engaged Learning at and this is the Work In Sports podcast.

Question of the week comes in from Brian in Pennsylvania. Yes for the second time in a row I am answering my own question. 

“What are the big problems you are seeing first-hand as you review applicants to your job openings?” 

Great question Brian. As you all should know I’m hiring for three roles, and I’m in the weeds of resumes, phone calls and interviews. It’s awesome. I love being in the hiring cycle, but there are also a ton of tidbits and mistakes I am seeing that I want to share with you all. 

I try extremely hard to avoid cliches, but some can’t be ignored because they are legit and make sense.  

For example, there is a common axiom in sports that you hear in regards to golf tournaments, that you can’t win on the first day but you sure can lose.  

Let me explain. If you get out to a huge lead on day one, you don't win anything, you still need to bring it for three more days. If you mess up horribly on day one, you probably aren’t coming back to the top of the pack. 

Ergo: You can’t win on day one, but you can lose.  

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This applies to your job search and process as well. More on that in a second. 

Sometimes I think to myself, am I giving out advice that is too basic? Do I need to get deeper in the weeds? More granular?  

And then I go through the hiring process and review about 70 resumes for our job openings and think, nope, there are still so many things people do wrong. Massive things. Disqualifying things. And we need to keep talking about them and sharing context and improvements.  

You may not be able to win the job on day one... but you sure can lose it, and people are. BIG TIME. 

I’m going to run through a bunch of disqualifying events that I noticed in the last week reviewing many, many resumes. Make sure these are not in your repeat offender file.  

1: Using the Spray and Pray Technique  

When job seekers feel desperate, which I completely respect and understand, they tend to apply for a lot of jobs thinking something will connect. Spray and pray.

I get it. I understand this. But, applying for more jobs that you aren’t a solid match for is not the solution.  

In reviewing resumes for our job openings, I’d say 20-25% had between 0-1 of the required skills for the job. They had little to no experience executing a role like the one we are hiring for, or having any of the requisie skills. Immediately I was able to disqualify them. 

Now, on our site this is easy, we have this cool tool called iScore which evaluates the resume of an applicant matches it against our job opening and gives it a score from 1-100. When I see a bunch of scores in the 20s, I know they aren’t a match.  

I’m still getting used to this tool, so I still perused the resumes, and it made me kind of frustrated that these candidates even applied. You have none of the experience or skills, what are we doing here? 

Side note: the iScore tool I was just bragging about works for our premium members that are job seeking too, it's not just for sports employers! You can score your resume against a job opening and we will provide recommendations on how to improve your resume for this job. I love it! Incredibly efficient way to apply and make sure your resume is on point. Check it out. 

Bigger point, don’t apply to jobs you aren’t a match for. It won’t work out. Take the time to find and apply to jobs you are a match for. 

2: Submitting a Resume that is TOO LONG  

I had a 7-page resume to review. I had another that was written like a life story vs bullet points of skills and accomplishments. I had another that was in a weird font.  

NO, NO, NO. 

Follow best practices. If you are not sure what those are, please dive into more of our content. 

3: Including Mission Statements that are Off Point

As all the longtime listeners of this show know, I hate the mission statement on a resume. They are a waste of space. 90%of the time they are poorly written, focused on what you want for yourself versus what you can bring to a company.  

I just don’t like them. But a new layer of disdain was introduced this week as I was reviewing applicants. Seven different resumes, so 10% of the resumes I reviewed, had mission statements that said what the candidate was looking for in their career... and it wasn’t even close to this job! 

  • I'm looking for a role I can use my experience with political activism! 
  • I'm looking for a role I can use my experience with mechanical engineering! 

So now these applicants applied for jobs they weren’t really interested in and told me as much at the top of their resume. What are we doing here?! 

Jeez, if you had skipped the statement at the top of your resume that essentially said, “I’d rather be doing something other than your job” I may have looked at your resume and considered your skill set. But in these examples, the job seeker came right out and said, “Yeah I see your job posting, I’ll apply for it, but what I really want to do is this over here” - amazing. Jaw-dropping.

This is the very definition of lazy and inattentive. Going through the motions, clicking a button to apply because it’s easy. 

Not what I’m looking for.  

4: Submitting a Resume That Isn’t Aligned with the Job Description 

I recognize it is more work to customize your resume for each job application, but if you want the job, and I think you do, it is the single best piece of advice I can give you.  

Here’s an example: 

One of the jobs I am hiring for right now is an Audio/Video Content Creator. The top bullet point on the job description under job requirements is Adobe Premiere Pro and Audition expertise. Those are the video and audio editing programs we utilize at WorkInSports & iHire.  

I came upon a resume that scored middle of the road on iScore, but like I said, I wanted to check out everything personally, so I poked around. This person had wonderful experience and had held roles that required the type of work we desired. I set up a phone screening call. 

First question I ask: "I see you have experience with Final Cut Pro editing software, have you ever used the Adobe Creative suite?"  

Applicant: “Yes, I utilize Adobe Premiere Pro on various projects, love Adobe Audition and am learning After Effects.” 

Follow up: The number one requirement of this job was Adobe Creative suite experience, why didn’t you put this on your resume? 

Applicant: Honestly, I didn’t read the job description that closely, I just saw it was for an Audio/Video person and that’s what I’m good at.  

Let’s unpack this a bit. Forgetting for a second that this person admitted not really looking at the job description, a disqualifying event in and of itself. If I wasn’t psychotic and reviewing every resume by hand, I never would have known this person existed and bypassed them completely. They didn’t review the job description, understand the demands of the role, and highlight themselves as an asset that aligned with our hiring needs.  

What a waste. 

I’m not going to hire the person because they lack attention to detail, but I hope they learned a lesson and you do too. Take the time to know what is in demand for every role you are applying for and match your resume to the job! 

That is how you stand out and don’t lose the game before you get started. 

5: Not Doing Your Homework 

70 applicants, I worked it down to about 10 I was interested in phone screening, then I’ll go down to 5, and then a final group of 2-3 before deciding.  

Think about all that work we put in -- employers take hiring seriously! You should too! 

I had one candidate that looked interesting on paper; valuable experience, the right skills, let’s chat and see if we match.  

My first three questions in an early phase interview are always disqualifiers. If they have a poor answer, I know I can cut off the phone screen early and save everyone some time. They aren’t tough questions, but they need a little thought.  

  • I ask a question about their skills – I want to know if they can do the job. 
  • I ask why they decided to apply for this job – I want to know if their desires match up with our opportunity. 
  • I ask what they know about our company and product – I want to know if they’ve done their homework. A little effort. 

When I set up a phone interview, I usually give the candidate two days advance notice. If I call to set something up on a Wednesday, I usually ask if they have time on their schedule on Friday. Two-day window is plenty of time to prepare if you are serious about the job opportunity.   

If I ask you what you know about our company, two days after telling you we are going to interview you for a job at our company, and you know nothing - that’s a bummer. That’s not a high performer. That’s not someone willing to do the work. That’s not someone I am going to hire. 

Bottom line: Trying to find a job you love takes time and effort. Don't just go through the motions or you're going to be on the hamster wheel of job seeking for a long time. Be intentional, go at every opportunity with purpose and be ready to show off your best. You won't regret it.



By Brian Clapp | June 07, 2021
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