8 Things That Hurt Your Chances of Getting Your Dream Job [+ 1 Thing That Will Help]

Frustrated employee at his laptopYou’ve found your dream job at your dream employer. How can you ensure you stand out, get the call for the interview and, ultimately, land the job?

There are obvious steps to take, like submitting your resume and filling out the application, but there are also things that hurt your chances during the application and interview process.

We’ve been hiring people here at Anderson Trucking Service (ATS) since 1955, so we’re well aware of the right things applicants should do during this process, along with the wrong things to do.

In this article, you’ll learn eight things that will hurt your chances of landing your dream job. Plus, as a bonus, we’ll throw in one thing that will help you.

What Will Hurt My Chances of Landing a Job?

If you’re applying for jobs and are doing any of the following, you’re hurting your chances of getting that job:

  1. Submitting a poorly constructed resume
  2. Submitting an incomplete application
  3. Using an unprofessional email address
  4. Not answering phone calls
  5. Using an unprofessional voicemail
  6. Ghosting an interview
  7. Showing up to an interview unprepared
  8. Failing to Meet Deadlines

1. Submitting a Poorly Constructed Resume

Your job search will end quickly if you submit a resume that isn’t built properly — plain and simple. If you include an outdated phone number and/or email address, how is the company supposed to get in touch with you? (Yes, it happens all the time…) If you have multiple phone numbers or email addresses, use the ones that are the best for contacting you.

It’s also important to put your work history in order of most recent at the top and furthest in the past at the bottom and pick three or four positions that are the closest fit to what you’re applying for.

Share your successes and use numbers to quantify those successes. That will have the biggest impact on proving your skills. Use strong action words, including words that are used in the job description. After all, those are the things the employer finds important, so if you have those skills include them.

Finally, proofread your resume. It sounds so simple, but you’d be surprised by how many errors we find on resumes. Look it over closely and have a trusted friend or family member do the same.

Related: How to Write a Great Resume: 8 Key Components

2. Submitting an Incomplete Application

If you don’t fill out the application completely and properly, that resume you just spent hours perfecting won’t even be seen. Most companies — especially larger ones — use applicant tracking systems that filter out unqualified candidates to help save recruiters time.

If you skipped a step for the sake of convenience, you might have just cost yourself the job — simply because no human actually saw your resume.

In the moment, filling out an application that asks you the exact questions your resume answers can be frustrating. But if you genuinely want the job, take the extra few minutes to fill out the application properly. Follow all of the instructions.

3. Using an Unprofessional Email Address

Depending on where your email address falls on the “unprofessional scale,” this can singlehandedly ruin your chances of getting a job. If your email includes any vulgar language, don’t expect anyone to reach out to you for a job.

Setting up an email address is easy. It takes mere minutes. There are many platforms that let you do it for free too, so there’s no excuse for using an unprofessional email address — at least when it comes to applying for jobs.

Using any combination of your first and last name (or initial, if you prefer) is a safe bet. If you have a common name (sorry all you John Smiths out there), you’ll probably have to include a number or two. Just remember, don’t use words or numbers that can come across as unprofessional.

Cell phone getting a call from an unknown number

4. Not Answering Phone Calls 

We know it’s annoying getting calls from unknown numbers in today’s world of non-stop telemarketing calls, so we totally understand screening phone calls. But if you’re applying for jobs, answer the phone — especially if it’s coming from the area code you applied for jobs in.

This is even more frustrating from the employer’s point of view if you’ve reached the point in the process of phone screens with recruiters. If you set up a 2 p.m. phone call with a recruiter and your phone is ringing at 2 p.m., give or take a few minutes, answer the phone.

One side note: Take the phone call from a good place. What we mean is don’t be driving — even if you have hands-free options — especially if it’s a video call (we promise we wouldn’t bring this up if it didn’t actually happen to us…). It’s safer and it allows you to give your full attention to the recruiter. 

Also, avoid taking a call from a loud environment, like a restaurant or coffee shop. Try to find a quiet place with no distractions. We understand that’s not always possible, but it’s something to be mindful of.

5. Using an Unprofessional Voicemail

There are times when things don’t go as planned. Maybe you’re unable to answer the phone when it comes through (please don’t answer if you’re on the toilet, for example).

For cases like this, it’s extremely important to have your phone’s voicemail system set up — and set up professionally. It might be funny to your friends if they have to leave a voicemail (although they’ll probably text you instead), but we promise the employer won’t understand it and, therefore, won’t find it funny.

Instead, say something like “Hello, this is insert your name here. Sorry, I missed your call, but please leave your name and phone number and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.” Easy, right?

Maybe you’ve done all this already. That’s great! If that’s the case, please make sure your voicemail box isn’t full. That way, the recruiter can actually leave a message if they need to.

6. Ghosting an Interview

So you’ve aced the phone screening with the recruiter. Now it’s time for an in-person interview with the hiring manager(s). Please, please, please show up. Or, let someone know if you can’t make it (again, unexpected things come up).

Don’t, for any reason, ghost the interview. If you stop communicating and don’t show up for the interview, you definitely won’t be getting the job.

Maybe you’re no longer interested. Even if that’s the case, let someone know. You never know if you’ll be interested in working for that employer in the future. You can bet they’ll have notes in your file stating you didn’t show up for an interview in the past. That means they probably won’t call you ever again.

Related: What is Ghosting an Interview? [And Why You Shouldn’t Ghost an Employer]

7. Showing Up to an Interview Unprepared

I know we just mentioned how important it is to show up to your interview, but there’s more to it than that. Showing up five minutes late in shorts and a t-shirt isn’t going to do you any favors — especially if you aren’t prepared.

Before you hang up with your recruiter when setting up your in-person interview, ask them what you should wear to your interview — if they didn’t already tell you, of course. This is recommended simply because every employer has a different idea of what’s appropriate and what’s not. Your recruiter is there to help you, so they’ll be more than happy to give you advice on what to wear.

You should also do some research on the company you’re interviewing with ahead of time — along with any research you can do on the position itself. Not only will that allow you to answer the questions better, but you’ll also be able to prepare three to five questions to ask during the interview. It’s always a good idea to ask questions. After all, you’re not just selling yourself to the employer, they need to sell themselves to you too. Your questions will help you determine if they’re a good fit for you.

Once the day finally arrives, show up early. That doesn’t mean half an hour, but 10 minutes or so is a good idea. You should also take the weather and traffic into account and make sure to leave at an appropriate time.

Finally, if you’re sitting in the room before the interviewers arrive, be sure to stand and shake hands when they enter the room (if you’re physically able and comfortable doing so). That’ll leave a good first impression on them. If they’re already in the room when you arrive, you’re already standing so you can skip to the hand-shaking part.

Calendar with the 15th of the month circled next to "Due" with a double underline

8. Failing to Meet Deadlines

Deadlines exist for a reason — and you’ll almost certainly have deadlines in the job you applied for. If you can’t meet the deadlines set for you during the interview process, what does that say about what you’ll do once you have the job?

It’s extremely important to complete tasks before the set deadline (which you probably agreed upon in the first place). Again, things do happen. If that’s the case, be sure to communicate with your recruiter so they can adjust accordingly. But changing the deadline more than once is just as bad as not meeting the deadline in the first place.

1 Thing to Help You Land a Job

There are certainly multiple things that can help you get a job (following the advice provided above is a good start), but we wanted to call out one thing that often gets overlooked by candidates.

Following an in-person interview, send a thank you email (or letter, if you’d like) to the people you interviewed with. We’d personally advise sending an email since the letter could take some time to arrive.

If you didn’t get business cards with contact information directly from the people who interviewed you, feel free to email your thank-you message to your recruiter and they will pass it along to the appropriate people. Again, as an advocate of yours, they’d be more than happy to help.

Not sending a thank you email won’t necessarily hurt your chances of landing a job — which is why we didn’t include it above — but it will help.

How to Hurt Your Chances of Landing Your Dream Job

If you want to keep a level playing field with other candidates applying for your dream job, you need to avoid:

  1. Submitting a poorly constructed resume
  2. Submitting an incomplete application
  3. Using an unprofessional email address
  4. Not answering phone calls
  5. Using an unprofessional voicemail
  6. Ghosting an interview
  7. Showing up to an interview unprepared
  8. Failing to meet deadlines

Doing one, or more, of the above will almost certainly take your name out of the running for the job you’re seeking. By avoiding those things and sending a thank you email to those that interviewed you, if you made it that far in the process, you’ll increase your odds of getting the job you’re dreaming of.

Crush Your Next Interview

If you’ve already completed the first several bullet points, you’re probably prepping for an in-person interview. Make sure you ace that interview by downloading our FREE interview etiquette guide. In the guide, you’ll get 13 tips for crushing the interview — just don’t forget to send a thank you email afterward!

13 Tips for Crushing Your Next Job Interview

Dan Ascher

Written by Dan Ascher

Dan joined ATS' talent acquisition team as a talent acquisition specialist in early 2016. Dan is passionate about connecting people with the jobs that suit them best, a quality that made him highly effective in this role. In April 2022, Dan became ATS' lead talent acquisition specialist where he continues to help job seekers find their spot within ATS.

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