Job Seekers: Stop Insulting the Hiring Manager
May 5, 2016

Job Seekers: Stop Insulting the Hiring Manager

by Brian de Haaff

It never hurts to let a little personality shine through in your job search. For example, a short but friendly introductory email can make all the difference between being passed over or given a second look.

You definitely want to make that personal connection and leave a positive first impression on the hiring manager.

But some candidates try too hard — and wind up insulting the very person they are hoping to impress. Or they allow their anger to boil over in an email or a cover letter. And that lack of personal control is hard to ignore.

Our team at Aha! is fortunate to meet lots of diverse people applying for jobs every day, and we know that it can be difficult to predict what will appeal to a hiring manager and what will not. It does take some insight and practice to get it right.

We understand that more often than not, the person you are addressing is a mystery to you. That is why it is smart to keep all of your communications professional — at least until you know them a little better.

Here are four ways in particular that you can wind up insulting the hiring manager if you are not careful:

Subjective humor A little humor in your cover letter or email can be disarming, but what one person finds witty and insightful, another person may interpret as juvenile or unprofessional. If you are not sure, share it first with someone you trust and see if they find it as amusing as you do. Or, err on the side of caution and leave it out. You can unleash your wit after you have landed the job.

Stating the obvious Some candidates take pains to spell out details that anyone can automatically grasp, like explaining that you know how to use Microsoft Word. You want to aim for clarity but do not waste precious space and time highlighting the obvious. Assume the other person can make the mental leaps required to complete the basic picture of you. Instead, focus on your accomplishments and what makes you great.

Overselling your skills Hiring managers scan hundreds of emails and resumes per week and are adept at spotting exaggerations. If you are bragging about achievements that were actually accomplished by others, beware: the truth has a way of finding its way to the light. Just be honest about your achievements and call out team accomplishments where appropriate.

Excessive follow-ups While it is good to check on the status of your application, do not harass the hiring manager to the point that they finally have to unsubscribe from your emails. Once someone says you are not a good fit for a role, take their word for it and move on gracefully. They may keep you in mind for a future role (but not if you pester them).

Everyone makes mistakes when they are looking for a job — and sometimes you just wish for a do-over.

It takes time and effort to get job searching right. Make sure to present the truth of what makes you special and what you have to offer. Be creative, but keep working to strike that careful balance between humility and confidence, kindness and strength.

Over time, you will learn that you can speak clearly without being condescending. You can be a little irreverent without being off-putting. You can communicate your skills without padding your resume with exaggerations. And hiring managers will notice. What are other ways that people insult hiring managers?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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