Watch CBSN Live

Why Aren't You Getting the Job? Because You're a Jerk

I got an e-mail today asking a generic question about why the writer could get interviews, but was unable to land the job. When you send me an e-mail, you get an auto response saying:

Thanks for your e-mail. If you are asking a question, thank you! Without questions Evil HR Lady would be very boring.
Unfortunately, I cannot answer all of the questions I receive. If I do answer your question, I will send you an e-mail telling you where it will appear.

Everyone, including the Nigerian Princesses and the people from the British Lottery (I swear, I've won so many British Pounds I'm richer than J. K. Rowling), gets this e-mail. Most people, I presume, think, "Oh, that makes sense. I hope she answers my question."

But, not this person. Instead I got the following response:


Ahh, to be screamed at by someone who wants me to do her a favor. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Doesn't it have that same effect on you? In fact, I suspect my e-mail inbox will soon be overflowing with requests for this woman's contact information so you can offer her a job. Just think, she can do sales for you. "I WANT YOU TO BUY THIS PRODUCT!!!!! MAKE IT A PRIORITY!" Your clients will love her.

But, because I'm nice, I'll answer the original question: You're not getting the job because you're a self-entitled jerk.

Now, there are lots of people who are able to get the interview, but not able to land a job who are not jerks. They either need to work on their interview skills or have just been having a run of bad luck. But, I suspect that if you're willing to be pushy and obnoxious to me, you're willing to do the same to other people.

Now, it's possible that this woman isn't the only person being held back in her job search by her rudeness. Here are some characteristics of jerks in the job application process. If you fit these, it's time to change.

Rude or dismissive to the front desk person. Most buildings have someone sitting at the front desk. Usually, this isn't a high level job. Jerks tend to think that this person isn't important and are rude or dismissive. Always, always, always be nice to the person at the front desk. If you're not, you're a jerk.

You call and hang up, call and hang up, repeat ad nauseum. I know you want to speak to a real, live person. But, if you get voicemail, leave a message. When you keep calling back, it's annoying and you're treating the recipient like someone who should be sitting there just waiting for your call. Everyone has caller ID and sometimes, we're sitting right at our desks when you call, we see your number and we don't pick up. Why? Because you've called 15 times in the last half hour. Stop being a jerk. Leave a voice mail or send an e-mail.

You look at your watch, sigh, or use other mannerisms that show you're bored. Yes, interviews are not the most thrilling thing in the world. Got it. But, for heaven's sake, these people are looking for someone to pay money to. If you treat us like you're not interested while we're talking to you, why would we want to bring you on board?

The interview is all about me, me, me. You're wonderful. We know. Your resume was impressive, which was why you made it into the interview in the first place. But, if you spend the entire time talking about how wonderful you are, we'll choose someone else. Make sure you let your interviewer get a word in edgewise and make sure to ask good questions. Real questions that show you've done your research about the company.

You're late to the interview. Yes, we know all about traffic. Yes, it's likely, if you're interview is later in the day, that your interviewer will be running behind (that's rude, too, but we're talking about candidates here, not hiring managers), so what does it matter if you're late? It matters because it demonstrates that you believe your time is more important than other people's time. "You should wait for me!" Leave with plenty of time to get to the interview. If unforeseen circumstances are going to make you late, call. (We know you have a cell phone. Use it.)

You don't write a thank you note after the interview. Sure, lots of people don't and they still get jobs. But, it doesn't hurt and it might help. It doesn't take a long time to write a quick card or send an individual e-mail to each person who interviewed you. Saying thank you is always appreciated.

You write e-mails in all caps or text speak. All caps=screaming. Text speak in a business e-mail=idiot. Both=screaming idiot. Text your friends all you want (although you should leave your phone in your car, or turn it off and leave it in your bag during your interview), but when you are doing anything business related--even e-mailing an advice columnist, use proper grammar. Your e-mail program has spell check in it. One typo, I'll over look. (Heaven knows, I make enough typos myself.) But, when you write C U L8ER or whatever the current text speak is, that isn't something that will be overlooked.

If you see yourself in any of these categories, stop being a jerk. I promise it will help you in your job search.

Got a workplace dilemma? Email your questions to

Photo by Paris_Corrupted, Flickr cc 2.0