Hey job applicants, stop doing these dumbass things


chihuahua-puppy-958203_960_720Hi everyone. I went to get my tattoo touched up today, and holy hummus, it hurt like a federal contract! Luckily, Game of Thrones is back. Watching GOT with a sleeping newborn on your chest while imbibing one or more bottles of hard apple cider to blunt the pain of your tattoo touchup is one of the joys of life.

All of that to say, I am not sure how coherent this post is going to be. Last week, we talked how to treat job candidates nicer. See “Hey, can we be a little nicer to job applicants and stop treating them like crap?” I remember how stressful and even existentially horrifying it was to find a job. A moment that I will always remember was an interview I bombed. So tell us about some of your strengths, the interview panel asked, to which I replied, “I, uh, um, well, I am, you see—uh, um, I have excellent communication skills.” Did not get that job.

So I have a lot of sympathy and empathy for our colleagues who are trying to find work. This week, I asked the NWB Facebook Community as well as ED Happy Hour’s Facebook group to name mistakes that job candidates frequently make. I got nearly 350 comments. I’ve combed out a few key ones into a list of not just dumbass things you should avoid, but also some things you should do. This list is by no means comprehensive, or groundbreaking. Please add other advice, or argue any of the points, in the comment section.

  1. First, don’t use Comic Sans. Apparently people really hate that font! (However, it is helpful for people with Dyslexia, so we shouldn’t be too dismissive)
  2. In fact, don’t try to be fancy with your resume. Unless they’re a design firm or something, nobody cares for artistic resumes with infographics and crap. It’ll just annoy people. Use a simple, easy-to-read, well-designed-but-not-fancy format. Says one colleague, “A word cloud of your skills will make me homicidal.”
  3. Do follow instructions exactly. Many reviewers put small tests into job postings to see how well you can follow instructions. For example, “Please put your last and first name in your file name.” I always have “Send in your resume and cover as one single PDF attachment.” If you send me two separate attachments, it’s not an automatic disqualifier, but it does negatively affect your chances.
  4. Do not call if the instructions say not to call. Says a colleague, “No calls means no calls. It also means do not show up at my office unannounced, even if your mom says it is a good idea and even if you bring cake. I don’t know you. The cake is weird.”
  5. Don’t have an “Objective” part in your resume. We all know your objective is to get a job. Have a summary of your qualifications instead.
  6. Do keep your resume to one or two pages. Extremely detailed resumes are called CVs, and they’re usually for when you apply for more academic positions and need to list out all your publications and workshops and stuff. If that’s not the position you’re applying for, no one is going to read your 5-page resume.
  7. Send an actual cover letter if requested: “Please see attached resume” is not a cover letter.
  8. Don’t start your cover letter with “Dear Sir.” Apparently this happens a lot, and the sexism is irritating. Research who is doing the hiring and address them. If you can’t find out, address it to “Dear Hiring Committee.”
  9. Customize your cover letter. Says a colleague, “tell me exactly why you are the best person for THIS job. Don’t make me connect the dots and don’t waste my time with a laundry list of jobs you’ve held before; that’s what your resume is for.”
  10. Don’t get organization’s name wrong in your cover letter. You should always proofread your application for typos and grammar mistakes. Those things are not always deal-breakers. But huge errors like getting the org’s name or mission wrong will automatically get you rejected.
  11. Do use PDF for your resume and cover. It preserves formatting and makes everything look nicer. And it avoids your accidentally sending in a document with track changes.
  12. Don’t send a picture of you with your application. I know this is a (terrible) practice in many countries, but it’s not common in the US. Since judging applicants based on characteristics like ethnicity or age is illegal, your picture will freak everyone out.
  13. Don’t use a dumbass email address: SugarBooty_420@gmail.com is not appropriate. Do use your full name as your email address.
  14. Don’t have a dumbass voicemail greeting message. Your chances to get hired greatly decrease if someone calls to schedule an interview with you and they get an unprofessional voicemail.
  15. Do research the organization you’re applying to: You will be asked how your skills and experience are a good fit. You will sound a lot more impressive if you can say things like “I saw in your last blog post that you have a challenge with blah blah. I have experience working with blah blah, etc.”
  16. Do dress up a bit. It doesn’t matter that you’ve seen most people at an organization wearing casual in general. This is an interview. As one colleague puts it, “Athletic attire, yoga pants and leggings are just an excuse to be a slob. And leggings are really just underwear.”
  17. Don’t show up late: Unless you got mugged or some other emergency happened, be on time. If you are late, apologize and give a quick reason, and then move on. But it’s best not to be late at all.
  18. Don’t show up too early: 5 minutes early is perfect, 10 minutes is fine. Any earlier and it makes it awkward for everyone, because chances are, we’re reviewing your application to brush up on questions to ask you. If you are 15 or more minutes early, just stay in your car. Meditate. Or better, use your smart phone to do further research of the org.
  19. Do treat everyone with consideration and kindness. Learn the receptionist’s or admin assistant’s name. Be nice to the lowly, unwashed intern. If you come off as an arrogant jerk when you walk into the room, you won’t do well anywhere except maybe US politics.
  20. It’s OK to be a little nervous. In fact, a little bit of nervousness is endearing. Way more endearing than being overly confident and coming off as arrogant. Just say, “I’m sorry, I’m a little nervous,” smile, and continue on.
  21. Do have a notebook and take notes. For some reason, it irritates a lot of us on interview panels when candidates don’t have a pen and notebook. You may have an amazing memory, but it will not hurt your chances to at least pretend to jot down things during the interview.
  22. Don’t lie on your resume or cover letter or during the interview, ever: If you do, heck, you may even get the job. But you will likely get fired as soon as someone discovers that you lied about something. And even if you don’t get fired, that possibility will always hang over your head. That’s not fun at all.
  23. Don’t say “That’s a very good question” after every interview question. We know they are good questions. That’s why we’re asking.
  24. Do have a plan for what you would do during the first 90 days on this job. Chances are, you will get asked this question, and no, “I will talk to everyone and build relationship and orient myself” is not a good answer. That’s obvious you’ll be doing those things. Have a few concrete ideas in mind.
  25. Don’t trash your former boss or job: Your last job may have been hell and your boss a sociopath, none of it matters. If you bad-mouth them, people will think you may do the same to this new org. Remain professional by saying something like, “We did not agree on some key areas and were not able to reconcile our differences, so I left [or was let go].”
  26. Do watch whom you are addressing in the interview. You may not be aware that you may have an unconscious bias, such as only talking to do the dude in the room, despite the fact that it may be the woman sitting next to him who may be your boss, and maybe even his boss.As a colleague says, “If I, as a non-white female, tell you I am the hiring manager and my female director is also part of the team, don’t spend the whole interview speaking to the white male in the room who is not making the decisions!”
  27. Don’t overshare. Your relationship problems, drug habits, or childhood trauma are probably not relevant to the job, so don’t bring them up.
  28. Do follow simple instructions during the interview. Says a colleague, “If I tell you to call me Steve, please pay attention. That’s not just my dislike of unnecessary formality coming through, it’s a subtle check to see how well you pay attention to simple instructions.”
  29. Don’t insult the sector you’re applying to. Says a colleague, “Don’t say that the reason you are applying for a job with a nonprofit is because it is less competitive or less stressful than a job in the private sector. First of all you are wrong, and second of all it sounds like you are planning to take it easy. Also, don’t mention that you are starting your own small business but still need a regular income.”
  30. Do ask questions at the end of the interview. It’s not good if you don’t have any questions and end the interview early. Have a list of questions you came up with ahead of time and write it down in your notebook. Don’t ask questions you can easily find on an org’s website. Don’t only ask question about the hiring process. In case you’re stuck, here are a few to keep in your pocket: “What do you each love most about this organization?” “What are challenges you anticipate with this job?” “If you can give me one piece of advice if I get this job, what would it be?” “If this position is wildly successful by this time next year, what does that look like for the org?”
  31. Don’t attempt any mind tricks that make it irritating for the review team. I had a candidate once who insisted that she be interviewed last. We tried to accommodate by asking other candidates to go first, but that made things complicated with everyone’s schedule. She kept insisting, and was available for other time slots, but just wanted to make sure she was interviewed last, probably to leave the last impression. Well, the impression she left was not good.
  32. Don’t use your partner as a way to prove your cultural competency. As a colleague says, “Don’t try to prove your diversity bonafides for a job at a small PoC community organization as a white person by saying ‘my partner is [insert ethnic group here].’” Yup, I’ve seen this happen also. Just because you’re married to someone of color does not mean anything. If asked, focus instead on your journey in understanding diversity as a White person and how you see your role in addressing institutional racism and systemic oppression.
  33. Do have a good closing statement. It doesn’t need to be long or complicated. Just thank the interview panel and show some enthusiasm about the job and how excited you are at the opportunity to work there. Something like, “Thank you so much for taking time to interview me. I love blah blah blah about [the org]. I know you’ll have lots of qualified candidates to choose from, but I would love the opportunity to help [the org] achieve its goals of blah blah.”
  34. Do follow up with a thank-you email or handwritten note. But do it right away, especially for a handwritten note, since it takes longer by snail mail. I actually prefer email thank-you notes, since they are faster. If you are applying for a development job, though, where handwritten notes are the norm, it may be helpful to do that.
  35. Don’t list people you didn’t work closely with as references. You may be tempted to list the Executive Director of an org you worked at, but if you barely spoke to him or her, it’s not a good reference.
  36. Do Google yourself to see what come up. More and more employers are doing social media research before hiring. As a colleague says, “Drunk or mostly naked photos and hate speech memes don’t bode well for a position where you will represent the organization to others.”
  37. Don’t involve your parents in anything. Don’t list your mom as a reference. Don’t bring your mom with you during the interview. Don’t have your mom call to set up an interview on your behalf. Alarmingly, quite a few colleagues mentioned this! Says one, “If you’re younger and applying for one of your first jobs, don’t allow your parents to talk you out of a great opportunity. And when you receive an offer don’t reply with, ‘I need to talk to my parents before I accept.’”
  38. Do be transparent about whether you can legally work in the US. As one colleague puts it, “Do not conceal the fact that you are not authorized to work in the US until you are offered a position and then as for help with your visa. We are a tiny org and we put a lot of resources into hiring, which you wasted since we specified that we do not have the means to assist in immigration situations, as much as we would like to.”
  39. If you don’t get the job, be gracious and don’t burn bridges. You don’t know who knows whom. Your angry rants about how the job is beneath you anyway or how sucky the hiring process is may cost you other jobs.
  40. Finally, If you’re applying for a position at my organization, Rainier Valley Corps, do make sure you use the Oxford Comma. #OxfordCommaForever!

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63 thoughts on “Hey job applicants, stop doing these dumbass things

  1. Julie Edwards

    Yasssss!!!!! To all of it. I wanted to submit to this post but had a terrible week last week interviewing people. Let me add one thing… BE RESPONSIVE. You don’t have to email me back in 4 seconds, but 24 hours would be nice.

  2. Deborah Stein

    Use 11 font or larger–especially for older people like me tiny font is hard to read. Your resume doesn’t have to say everything about you, it just has to tell me you are worth interviewing. Also don’t overstate your qualifications. One three hour course does not make you a trained mediator. Adding up numbers of cases handled does not mean you did data analysis. If I care about data analysis I will ask what you did and If I learn you exaggerated it will make me distrust everything you said.

  3. Eric Thompson ED

    Hahaha. And make sure your cover letter doesn’t still reference some other random organization to which you previously applied.

  4. Cloggie

    Ahh, how I struggled with #25 in my last job hunt. I knew how it would look, so I tried to focus on the things that were pulling me into a new sector and new organization instead of the ones that were causing me to run screaming.

  5. Kim Simmonds

    I always combine my resume and cover letter into one document unless otherwise directed in the job posting. I also write in the email to the organization that that is what I’ve done. Last week, I applied for a job, and within seconds the hiring manager emailed me back saying that they needed my cover letter. They didn’t open the doc, and they didn’t read the email (and yes, I triple checked that both my cover letter and resume were in the document I sent). When I returned their email and re-attached my cover letter, I never heard back from them!

  6. Christine

    23 is my pet peeve (“Don’t say “That’s a very good question” after every interview question.”) Don’t do that in any circumstance! Everyone knows you are just buying time!

    1. Nichole

      What do you recommend for a candidate who needs to buy time to think? Sometimes I’ve said, “Let me think about that for a moment.” and then took a pause. Don’t know how that goes over, however….

      1. Jill Connaway

        I often use non-verbal cues to show that I am considering my answer. I nod, smile, make a “thinking face,” and then answer the question. Early in my career I would catch myself rushing to say something – anything – just because I was nervous and desperate to fill the silence. I think most interviewers expect that you’re going to take a moment to consider the question unless they are asking something very simple.

        1. Conflicta Vinterest

          Honesty, expressed as articulately and b.s.-free as possible…that’s the only way to go.

  7. Jennifer Laurie

    Interesting re #12 the photo. My friend in HR has said that if you post a profile picture on any social media platform, but especially LinkedIn, it lets employers pre-screen by image.

  8. Mehitabel

    My biggest pet peeve with candidates are the ones who are totally enthusiastic about the job right up until the second I make the offer, and then they tell me that they aren’t sure they can accept the job at the salary I’m offering, and they need “a few days” to think it over. I always post the salary [range] when I advertise a job; if you don’t want that salary [range], then don’t apply. My response in such situations is to tell the candidate that they have 24 hours to make their decision, after which the offer is rescinded. But what I really want to do in such situations is to rescind the offer immediately — that’s how annoying this is to me.

    On the other side of that coin, that goes back to not treating candidates like crap: If you intend to only pay $X for a job, regardless of who you hire, don’t post a range and create the impression that the salary is negotiable. That’s nearly as bad as not posting a salary at all.

    I have a secondary pet peeve that I’m starting to see a bit more frequently than I used to. This is the candidate who has an impeccable resume and cover letter, who when hired turns out to have had someone else write or edit them, and who in reality can’t construct a coherent written sentence. I’m to the point where, if it’s a job that requires the ability to write clearly, I administer a writing test to candidates.

    1. Christina

      Even with salary range posted, taking a day or two to make sure that the *potentially life-altering decision* you’re making is the right one seems very fair to me. The person may even have multiple offers, and really be enthusiastic about all the opportunities. I find that no different than having several highly-qualified candidates you feel good about, and needing a day or two to make sure the decision you’re making is the best one for your org.
      Now, if they are specifically citing salary, I know that probably grinds. But the experience is so stressful for everyone, I’d just rather take the extra day and make a good decision rather than a rushed one.

      1. Mehitabel

        I don’t mean to suggest that it bugs me when someone wants to take time to consider an offer for legitimate reasons such as the ones you mention. That’s perfectly understandable.

      2. DinaClare

        Exactly this! I knew the salary range of the job when I applied and was really open about it being a hurdle for me throughout the hiring process. I was coming from a very well-paid job in the for-profit world, and I live in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

        Our ED was kind enough to give me a week to think it over and talk it over with my wife – something I am so grateful for!

    2. AsamiSato

      @Mehitabel That is very interesting to me… I went to a negotiating your salary workshop offered by my university (a reputable large state university) and they told us to never accept an offer as given right away, to always try to negotiate for more. We were told that employers generally assume that you will negotiate and will often low-ball your first offer in hopes that you will just take that. So what you are saying here goes against what a lot of people are taught is the right thing to do.

      1. Mehitabel

        I am rarely in a position to negotiate, because I am generally working with budgets that don’t have much, if any, flexibility. If there *is* flexibility, I’ll post a range when I post the job, but that range is going to be what I have to work with. In the spirit of not being a jerk to candidates, I am not going to (for example) post a salary range of “$40K to $50K” if I can’t go higher than $45K . And I’m clear with candidates about this when I talk to them. If I failed to do this, then I’d understand the candidate’s desire to try to negotiate, certainly.

        What bugs me is when the candidate does not indicate during the interview process that the salary is an issue, but then raises it as a barrier to acceptance when the job is actually offered. Maybe I’m unreasonable for being irked, but it does irk me.

        1. AsamiSato

          That makes sense to me; I can understand being annoyed at people seeming to knowingly wasting your time. This is helpful for me because I imagine I would be scared to mention salary as an obstacle in an interview, but it is good to know that employers on a tight budget would prefer to know that.

          1. Mehitabel

            My advice to you would be – it never hurts to ask about salary, and it may help. And I truly don’t have a problem with someone asking if there is any room to negotiate on a salary; it’s a perfectly reasonable question. It just becomes a problem when they convey the impression that the salary is acceptable right up to the moment they are offered the job, and then suddenly it’s a problem. And when the response I get is “I have to think this over for a few days” it starts sounding to me like they’re hoping that I’ll get desperate enough to up the offer if they make me wait.

        2. Carol Clarke

          I’ve been schooled to never mention or negotiate salary until an actual offer is made…

      2. S NV Nonprofit Info Ctr

        A lot of jobs have pay scales. You start at the bottom at $x amount and after a period of time, you’re at the top of the scale. What bugs me are all these “how to ask for a raise” seminars that don’t seem to understand pay scales. Only way I can get a “raise” is to move up to a more senior positon (besides COL increases every July).

    3. twf

      Let me suggest that when offering a position, in addition to the salary range, the employer should outline the EXACT benefits the employee will receive in addition to the pay.

      In today’s world the hours worked (flex-time, hours of operation, etc.), premium for health insurance (employee contribution), health coverage details and personal/vacation/holidays are a big part of the package. Government jobs calculate the benefits as valued to nearly equal the salary for a mid-range worker. Any salary sounds a lot better after you calculate those benefits into the offer. For some reason these things are rarely laid out in the job offer.

  9. betty barcode

    Don’t use *any* next-of-kin as references. I once got a resume where the applicant gave her husband as a reference and thought it would fly because they had different surnames.

    Skip the presentation folios and binders. If your resume does not impress, glossy packaging won’t compensate, especially when it is (alas) a part-time, paraprofessional position.

    I part company with our esteemed Vu over the design & layout of your resume. Disciplined margins and consistent use of grown-up typefaces (no script, stencil, or anything you’d see on signage for a restaurant, gym, or yoga studio) show respect for appearances. If you use Letter Gothic for your headers in your resume, use Letter Gothic for the headers in your list of references. Appearances matter if you will be interacting with the public or writing for the public.

    If you have a direct familial connection to an organization, consider applying elsewhere. We once got an application from an immediate relation of a past board president. It put us in a lose/lose situation: hire him and face criticism for nepotism. Don’t hire him and face consequences from a friend and supporter. We hired someone else, held our breath, and fortunately did not get hassled by the former president.

    1. Jill Connaway

      I accidentally sent my resume from the wrong email address once (rebelgrrrlnumber1). I did not get a response to that one.

  10. LisaSJA

    #24 is essential. I prepared a 30-60-90 day plan for the interview for my current job. I was told after I was hired that it sealed the deal. I was the only candidate to provide one. Find example plans on the Internet and tailor to the job you are seeking. I had two friends review mine and they provided excellent feedback. It takes some time, but it is so worth doing!

  11. Sherrie Smith

    Great list! But I will say that with arriving early… we give out printed interview questions (something you recommended in your last post) 15 minutes before the interview process. Just in case that’s a possibility, you might want a little more than 5 minutes to review questions.
    15 is an absolute max tho.
    I had one person write me this super hateful letter in response to my very nice rejection letter. Dumb move. She was in AmeriCorps – if I felt nasty I could have contacted the branch and forwarded that letter which could have had her kicked out from the entire program.

    1. Mehitabel

      I call letters like that “Dear Butthead” letters. It feels good to write them, but then they should be burned. I write them sometimes, but always in longhand — in part because it’s cathartic to me to write such a letter by hand, and in part because a letter written in longhand (and then burned or shredded) isn’t ever going to even accidentally get sent to the butthead in question.

      I received a “Dear Butthead” letter once, in circumstances similar to yours (after sending a nice rejection letter). It was from someone quite young, so I just chalked it up to immaturity, allowed myself a moment of relief that I had not hired him, and then destroyed the letter.

      1. Sherrie Smith

        haha yeah, she was quite young and immature. It was petty of me but I responded with this super sweet, very condescending letter advising her on a better way to handle it.
        She LOST HER SHIT in a response to me. I didn’t respond again but I was amused. What can I say? I was a little young at the time too bwahaha

  12. Patricia Garza

    I have had TWO people cry during interviews. They were reflecting on a past experience (one was a joyful memory, one was not) and they teared up. It was not professional and made me super uncomfortable.

    1. DinaClare

      Please consider that for some of us, especially in stressful situations like job interviews, it isn’t exactly a matter of choice to well up a bit. For me, it’s more of a physiological response.

      1. Jill Connaway

        As I enter menopause I find that I often tear up even when I have nothing to cry about. It happens all the time now including during work meetings (including with my bosses!), and I finally had to explain that it’s hormonal and I can’t help it.

      2. Patricia Garza

        This was due to specific topics they chose to bring up that were not directly asked about by us. I was suggesting if there is a topic or area that you know is a danger zone for you that maybe it’s not the best to bring up during an interview so you can stay cool and collected. I totally get the nerves thing but then simply acknowledge it so we understand what is happening.

        1. Jill Connaway

          Excellent points. I would definitely not bring up a topic that I *know* is going to make me cry in a job interview. And now I’ve gotten to where I just warn people that I may cry for no reason and to please just ignore it.

  13. Carol

    Loved this; laughed out loud, as usual. Here are some of my personal favorites, all experienced when hiring Development Directors –
    (1) Don’t use the word “B@#ch” in the interview even if you think its a funny story (each time this happened it was a man being interviewed by all women).
    (2) Don’t tell me what we do is “not rocket science” over and over and over during the interview.
    (3) Don’t tell the interviewer they are wrong about something regarding their own agency, and especially, do not insist they are wrong.
    (4) Do not tell me you raised $2 million when you were at the agency for 6 months.

    1. Mehitabel

      You just prompted me to recall a doozy. Interviewing a guy for an ‘executive assistant’ – level job. I wasn’t terribly impressed with him, but I’d asked in advance for him to bring his references with him, so at the end of the interview I asked him if he’d brought them as requested. His reply was, and I quote, “You will get my references when there is an offer on the table.” o_0

  14. Jill Connaway

    #4 is one of my biggest pet peeves. Seriously. Do not call if the instructions say not to call!

  15. Allison Fuller

    Great List! As a nonprofit recruiter, I’m always shocked at how many of these basic rules are repeatedly broken by “seasoned” staff and, as a non-white female, #26 is an especially big pain point. But I also want to point out that not only is my 990 public information (which I will skewer you for not reading prior to the interview), but so is yours, and I’ve read it. So please don’t tell me about your private fundraising initiatives when I can see from the 990 that the organization was funded through foundations.

    Also, please please stop reading those articles that challenge you to answer negative questions with a positive. No one is buying the “I work too hard” or “My expectations are too high” weakness answer.

  16. Bokeum Audrey Ko

    I totally agree with all of these! I would also add “customize your resume”, in addition to customizing the cover letter. The general format of the resume might not change, but you might want to highlight some of the duties that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.

    1. Mehitabel

      It hardly seems worth the effort to customize a resume when odds are you’ll never hear from them — and even if your nicely customized resume gets you an interview, odds still are that you won’t get the job and you won’t even get the courtesy of a ‘no thank you’. I’ll customize a cover letter but that’s about as far as I’m willing to go.

      I applied for a job once — got a reply from them asking me to write an essay on “emotional intelligence”. I spent probably 8 hours working on that essay. Sent it off — and never heard from them again.

  17. A. Nia Austin-Edwards

    Athletic attire, yoga pants and leggings is TOTALLY acceptable interview attire for my institution…but I also work in pajamas and drink wine at staff meetings 🙂

    The moral of the story is to remember that every rule doesn’t apply everywhere so read/listen closely and trust your gut.

  18. Rashad

    “SugarBooty_420@gmail.com” will have me laughing for the rest of the day. Vu, you are a genius.

  19. Carol Clarke

    It seems to me that once you’ve made the shortlist, and have interviewed at least once with an organization, you should receive some sort of message about not getting the job…(after 3 interviews just to leave you hanging is just not on)…

    1. Mehitabel

      Yeah, well… that’s been standard operating procedure for at least 75% of the organizations I’ve interviewed with.

      My latest horror story is the potential employer who had me in for a first interview, then crickets for a month. I’d written them off when they called out of the blue and asked me for a second interview. Then crickets for two weeks. Then a request for my references. I sent them a list of five names. They emailed two of my references asking to schedule a phone call. Both references replied promptly with a variety of dates and times they were available for calls — and never heard from them again, not even when both references contacted them again to follow up and try to get a call scheduled. It’s bad enough that these folks treated me like crap, but then they were also pretty inconsiderate to my references, which IMO really goes over the top as far as inexcusable behavior. It’s really hard not to feel utterly demoralized by experiences such as this.

      1. Carol Clarke

        Oh, you are so right Mehitabel, I had completely forgotten about how my references have been terrorized, orgs sending them multi-page documents to fill out – including essay answers about my skills, experience, and predilections – and subjecting them to telephone ‘interviews’ that made them feel like they were being grilled by a psychotic despot, all for part-time gigs paying peanuts.

    2. S NV Nonprofit Info Ctr

      When I first moved to Las Vegas in 1993, I interviewed for a hospital job. As of today, I still am waiting for the rejection letter.

      1. Carol Clarke

        …it got to the point where I was so grateful to actually GET an interview, that the subsequent weeks of non-contact and then the sinking feeling of realizing I didn’t get the job, became normalized. How great, expending all that energy and expectation, brain power and personality, for nothing. One small consolation: having the power to decide to no longer do business with such organizations.

  20. Mehitabel

    If you’re going to list a reference, make sure that A) they know who you are and B) they know that prospective employers may be contacting them to ask about your qualifications for a job.

  21. kengg1962

    Great stuff, funny and good advice. I started reading the blog on the advice of a newly met nonprofit colleague and I have enjoyed the two I have read. With that said, an I understand that I may be a little off topic, let me offer what I hope is taken as it is intended: a constructive challenge from someone who is an open-minded person who happens to be part of a group (white men) who are – really! -generally good, compassionate people. I offer it because I think your otherwise solid advice, may never reach some good people who shut down thinking some of your views as more stereotyping. Reading other comments, I see folks who have similar concerns.

    In the two (I know – small sample) blogs I read, there does seem to be a knee jerk approach to whites (men especially) as clueless, even hostile, as to the struggles of people of color and women. As is the case with most stereotypes, this point of view does a good deal of harm. In point 32 above you state:’ “Don’t try to prove your diversity bonafides for a job at a small PoC community organization as a white person by saying ‘my partner is [insert ethnic group here].’” Yup, I’ve seen this happen also. Just because you’re married to someone of color does not mean anything.’ Really – being married to a POC means nothing in one’s worldview????!!!!! I strongly disagree . As someone who has loved a women of color, it changed forever my perspective. White soldiers fighting in WWII with soldiers of color broke down barriers, having a kid who is autistic changes how you view autism and those who live with it and having six sisters makes me, not a woman, but far more empathetic for the struggles of women than if I did not have six sisters. Why would LOVING someone of color be any different in adding to one’s compassion and understanding?

    I don’t think you need any convincing that inhumane , clueless people come in all colors and all genders. Changing how we all interact and love each other takes more than perpetuating old stereotypes, it takes adherence to what I believe is one of your organizational values “Assume the best in everyone”. That’s everyone, period.

  22. Charisse Daley

    Also do not respond to requests fro resumes via email “Hey there saw your add”….

  23. S NV Nonprofit Info Ctr

    [Warning: My brain has just woken up after a 7wk hip replacement surgery narcotic daze – which is kinda like newborn patrol in a way, so here goes…]

    I can not tell you how many emails I have on my mailing list from people along the lines of SugarBooty_420… Let’s see..

    And the one that really pis**es me off: ieatcuteanimals/aol
    I’m sure there’s more, but I can’t remember them off the top of my head.

    I would amend that email observation to include “AOL, Yahoo and/or Hotmail are not email providers to use professionally”. Nor are those providers that you have to opt -in/verify yourself before you can send the email. When a class participant signs in with optinonline.com (or whatever it actually is), I tell them I need a different email, as I don’t have the time to jump thru their hoops just to email them a 2 sentence blurb about next months class.

  24. Bill

    Great article, and a much-needed slap in the face. I share your enthusiasm for commas as well. However, I’ve been berated by editors in the past for my overuse of commas. Just saying. Sometimes it’s tough fighting the good wars.

  25. Daniel

    I just saw this article but I wanted to comment about #25 in particular (don’t trash your former boss/organization). I recently got a new job in the same small geographic area and nonprofit field as my old one. Basically everyone on the hiring committee knew I worked for a sociopath in a deeply unhealthy organization. I cited some basic philosophical differences as my reason for seeking a new position, but never bashed. After being offered the job, I was told my refusal to trash my old place was a key reason I got the new job (they even said they intentionally asked leading questions to see if I would take the bait).

  26. Samar Misra

    How do you advise applicants reacting professionally and as no doormat when a receptionist or someone else at the interview unreasonably perpetrates rude, cold and Unprofessional and unfriendly behavior to the kind, humble applicant?

  27. Samar Misra

    Lastly, how come it is always advised to applicants or readers to never burn bridges rather than to the organization at times as some organizations come to mind for burning bridges with betrayal, no sincerity in applicant or their current employees and other unprofessional behavior heard of by others?

    Would be nice if despite not getting the job and applicant thanking with acting the best the organization that rejects acts good and sincere back smoothly and such.

    What are some underlooked or innocent ways people unintentionally burn bridges?


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