Burning bridges: 5 professional mistakes that writers should avoid

Having a hard time landing a job? Is it difficult finding someone to write you a letter of recommendation? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you may have unknowingly done one or two things to interfere with your professional advancement. Here are a few ‘what not to do’s’ from hiring professionals.

Mistake #1: Poor Interview Etiquette

Dressing appropriately is the cardinal rule for any job interview. Dressing provocatively, or, on the other hand, showing up to an interview underdressed, can make for some amusing stories around the office. It’s definitely not a good look for you, the interviewee. Not only will you jeopardize your chances of getting hired, word of your brand of professionalism can spread rapidly in small cities like Austin.

Here’s what one hiring manager had to say about interview sabotage:

Q: As a recruiting manager, have you ever come across an applicant that bombed their interview before even speaking a word?
A: “I once had an engineer show up to his interview wearing jeans and a t-shirt,” says Kindall Heye, Aerotek Account Recruiting Manager in Austin. “Needless to say, this guy did not get hired, nor will he be considered for future positions.”

Q: What was the most awkward interview that you have ever experienced?
A: “I held a panel interview with a candidate who asked to remove her sweater, revealing an inappropriate top. She claimed it was hot (in an air conditioned room). It was an uncomfortable situation for me and my colleague and the interview was swiftly terminated. Suffice it to say, she wasn’t the candidate we were looking for. – UK Creative Professional

Mistake #2: Not Respecting the Business

Treating recruiters or colleagues like they have the intelligence equivalent to Peter Griffin may not be the best thing. In towns like Austin, everyone is connected in some way or another, especially in the writing community. Word of one mistake can easily spread and result in you developing a reputation that can get you blacklisted.

Q: How easy is it for someone to be repudiated in a small community?
A: “Recently I saw an ad on Craigslist writing gigs. This guy tried to come off nonchalant, asking someone to write him a letter of recommendation,” explains PWA founder Riki Markowitz. “He wrote, ‘I could get anyone to sign it. [I’m] just feeling too lazy to write it.’ He even offered to pay for the forged letter. I forwarded the listing to a popular job blog and several recruiters talked about responding to the ad to find out who would have such huge cojones. If his identity is ever discovered, he could be blacklisted from the industry for life. No kidding.”

Q: What is a sure way to lose professional recommendations?
A: “I hired a freelance ‘picture professional’ to cover me for a week while I was going on vacation. At the time, I was working for a major advertising agency. All his credentials were checked and I was happy with my choice. On his first day, I received an emergency call late in the morning from the studio director asking where my cover was. No show, no cover, no contact. I managed to eventually get in contact with him shortly before midday and it turns out he was sick — a simple phone call from him would have sufficed. After chatting with my colleagues, we decided not to ask him back. It was unprofessional and he put my office in a comprising/difficult position. I have not recommended this person since.” Creative Professional, U.K.

Mistake #3: Lying

Hiring managers can see through the B.S. When attempting to make a great first impression, it’s always best to be honest. Being untruthful — lying — is a sure way to taint your name in this industry.

Q: Have you ever caught anyone in a lie while interviewing them?
A:Definitely. One tip I have is to be straight forward about the things you do and don’t know. It’s ok if you don’t have all the answers or haven’t done something before, but if you try to get one over on me and I know, I won’t hire you. I’d rather have someone that doesn’t know everything and is willing to ask questions and learn than someone that will fake it and does it wrong.” -Solar Power Systems Engineer, Austin

Q: Have you ever found intentional inaccuracies or fabrications on a resume?  
A: “One time, after interviewing a prospective candidate, I found out that two of the full time jobs he had included on his resume were actually internships. He didn’t get hired.” -Head of Business Development, Creative Shop, S.F.

Mistake #4: Thinking ‘Out of Office’ Means Out of Office Behavior

Going to happy hour or dinner with a superior is not the same as going out with a buddy.

Q: Can you a recall a time when you let go of someone based on their demeanor outside of the office?
A: “I took a group of candidates out for dinner and drinks one time and there was one girl in particular that quickly took the night to the next level. She acted like your typical party girl and drank far too much. I never helped her again.” -Head of Business Development, Creative Shop, S.F.

Mistake #5: Not Filtering Your Social Media Sites

It’s a well-known secret that recruiters Google applicants. My advice: if you intend on posting personal photos,

videos and messages, create two accounts. One that is private and one that is strictly public and professional. This way, you can have your fun and remain professional at the same time. Be sure to double-check your security settings. Even the founder of Facebook, Marc Zuckerberg, learned the hard way.

Q: How crucial is it to maintain professionalism on social media sites?
A:Recently a few candidates came into the office to interview for a position underneath our Customer Experience Manager. After the interviews were over, the office communicator asked me to come to the manager’s desk. With a grin on his face, he told me to check out this guy’s Facebook page. The first thing I saw was an oversized photo of the candidate. We couldn’t help but to erupt with laughter. It wasn’t inappropriate, but he looked like a cross between Zoolander and a Ken doll. We looked further into the candidate’s page and we realized that every photo was of him — it screamed arrogance. Our customer experience manager chose not to hire him. The applicant may not have had inappropriate photos on his page, but the feeling the hiring manager got from it was enough for him to skip over this fellow.” -Solar Energy Company Receptionist, Austin

Have you ever been passed over for a job you were certain you were qualified for? Any thoughts on what could have gone wrong? Or have you ever interviewed anyone who turned out to be a wrong fit — in more ways than one. We want to hear your stories below!

Alisha Thomas graduated from Cal State Monterey Bay University in 2010 year with a BA in human communications. While studying for her postgraduate degree in London, Thomas interned at Runner’s World UK and Gaz7ette magazine. In 2010 to 2011, Thomas served as art director of Kingston University magazine, which was shortlisted by the BBC for Best University Magazine in 2011. Thomas came to Austin in 2012. Her goal is to work in publishing, marketing or communications.

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