Easy-to-avoid mistakes which will diminish your chances when applying for a job

Danny Buerkli, 04 September 2019

This article was originally published on the Centre for Public Impact’s Medium page.

I have been involved in a few recruitment rounds over the past years. There are recurring, easy-to-avoid mistakes people make which unnecessarily but very significantly diminish their chances.

Sometimes those mistakes correlate with a lack of competence. But a lot of times it seems to be more due to a #hiddencurriculum issue. People may have never had the benefit of being told these things (or of being in an environment where these are taught as self-evident).

A few remarks upfront:

I’ve seen all of the things listed below happen a lot. These aren’t cherry-picked. All quotes are made up.

Let me be super clear about my intention: I want people to avoid these traps so they can shine and show us what they’re capable of.

We invest a lot of energy at @CPI_foundation into trying to hire in a fair and unbiased way. That’s why we use the @beapplied platform (which lets us review answers to work-related questions anonymously rather than review CVs and cover letters) and structured interviews.

That’s why we care about how people perform once they decide to submit an application with us. We want to get the best candidates and that might well include people who don’t come across in the best possible way for reasons that don’t correlate with competence.

For applications that we run through the @beapplied platform, we ask applicants practical questions (e.g. “how would you handle situation x?”). We then review the anonymized written answers. The way we do this is by reviewing all responses to question 1, then all those to question 2, etc.

This is quite different from the usual CV plus cover letter system. While most items below apply universally in any job application or interview situation, some are more specific to systems that use anonymized written answers.

With all of that out of the way, here we go:

That’s it for now. This isn’t a comprehensive list and it’s always hard to get all the nuance across in short posts but hopefully, this is of use to some out there. If you recognize having done some of these things yourself don’t worry too much, I’ve certainly done the same! :)

This post started out as a thread on Twitter. It seemed to resonate and I’ve turned it into a Medium post to make it easier to refer to it.

I was inspired to share this by @jhaushofer (who recently shared a #hiddencurriculum doc he gives to Research Assistants and students: https://twitter.com/jhaushofer/status/1156853146985086976…) and by @patio11 who made a different-but-related point that there’s lots of value in capturing implicit knowledge and making it explicit (https://twitter.com/patio11/status/1069422308526239744…)

Many thanks to my colleagues @MargotGagliani@_AdrianBrown, and John Burgoyne who helped me pull this together.