Don’t Annoy the HR Manager: Avoid These Common Pet Peeves

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ComputerSearching for a job can be exhausting. Applying and interviewing require nerves of steel, impeccable social skills, and the ability to think on your feet. Having the human resources manager as your ally can go a long way in reducing your stress.

The HR manager will likely be the first person to read resumes and recommend who should get an interview. They also may have a big influence on the final decision. Getting this important gatekeeper on your side will keep you one step ahead of your competition. A good way to start is by steering clear of some their common pet peeves:

Bad Spelling and Grammar

Almost every job description includes “excellent communication skills” as a requirement. If your communications with the HR manager include spelling or grammatical errors, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Even small mistakes can torpedo your chances. Spell check is a start, but it’s not infallible. Proofread your resume, cover letter, and every email several times. If possible, have someone else to check them all, too.

Unprofessional Social Media Conduct

Clean up or lock down your social media accounts before you start applying for jobs. HR managers now routinely check the accounts of prospective employees, and there are any number of red flags that could ruin your chances with the company.

It’s not just scandalous spring break photos that cause problems. Things like venting about a previous workplace or boss, edgy memes, or even strongly expressed opinions can work against you. Scrub anything on social media that might raise eyebrows – or make your accounts private. Also, check your LinkedIn profile. An unprofessional or unflattering photograph there is a sure way to annoy an HR manager.

Rushing to Define Title and Salary

It’s important to know what you want out of a position, but HR managers say bringing up compensation too early in an interview signals a lack of genuine interest in the position. The hiring team wants to know you’re interested in the job itself, not just in what you’ll take home each pay period.

Win the HR manager over by communicating your enthusiasm for the company, its mission, and your role in its future. Talk about the reasons why you and the organization are a good match. Mention non-monetary motivations for wanting to working with the company, such as the culture, technology, or mentors. After you’ve built genuine rapport, you can hammer out the details.

paperOverselling Yourself

Interviewees who only talk about themselves get on HR managers’ nerves. The hiring process isn’t just about proving you’re qualified – it’s also about showing you fit into the company’s culture and vision for the future. Do your research and be prepared with informed, respectful questions about the job and the company. Listen intently to the answers and show a genuine interest in what the interviewer has to say.

Underselling Yourself

It also drives HR managers crazy when a candidate can’t explain why they are the best candidate for a job. No resume is so impressive that it speaks for itself. You need to be able to make a case for yourself during the interview. Awkward pauses and long silences show a lack of confidence and preparation. Be prepared to articulate the reasons you’re changing jobs, what you want out of your career, and the philosophies and ideals that drive you professionally.


It’s great to be excited about an opportunity, and it’s smart to follow up promptly – just don’t take it too far. HR managers are bothered by candidates who flood them with voicemails and clog up their email inboxes. It’s not simply annoying – it comes across as desperate or even creepy. The hiring process may not move as quickly as you’d like. HR managers are busy, and there may be a lot of conversations that must happen before they can move to the next stage. Be patient and respect their space and time.

Jodie Shaw is the chief marketing officer for The Alternative Board  (TAB).

By Jodie Shaw