How Applicants Try To Get Your Attention… In A Bad Way

With popular job openings receiving tens to hundreds of applications, it makes obvious sense for an applicant to want to stand out for the best chance of getting hired. As an interviewer, after looking at many different resumés and cover letters, they begin to seem similar and meld together. So much so that even the smallest things can help set it apart. At which point then, should an interviewer be alerted to an applicant that is trying too hard to get your attention?

Here are 6 points to look out for:

Keyword/Buzzword Sprinkler

If you find terms that are related to the industry, it is a good indicator that the candidate cares enough about the open position to either be aware or research about what’s going on in the industry. To an extreme, though, if the resumé or cover letter is littered with buzzwords all over the place, you’ve found yourself a keyword maniac. What does this mean? More likely than not, the applicant just did a quick Google search for related terms and stated using every keyword they could find to attract your attention. While there is the off chance that the candidate may just be extremely knowledgeable about the industry, it may be worthwhile to speak to these key terms during the phone interview to confirm.


Applicants are always more attractive when they cater their resumé and their cover letter to go over tasks that can be assumed on the job. Similar to the previous point, to format their documents in a way to highlight comparable experiences makes the candidate seem more professional and more serious about applying for the position. The problem arises when you’re looking through the documents (namely the cover letter) and find that the entire job description is re-worded. Bonus points if you find it to be exactly the same as it was described on the website.

QR Codes

Unless the applicant is applying for a job at a tech company dealing specifically with QR codes, having a QR code on the resumé is the applicants way of  showing that they are tech savvy enough to know what it is, but, not quite savvy enough to realize how limited its actual use is in the real world. While it was supposed to be the next big thing, the few places QR codes can be found, are in popular social sharing or messaging apps (such as Snapchat and Whatsapp) for adding friends locally using a camera. Simply put, if you’re looking for a marketing or tech “guru”, this candidate may not be the ideal choice.

Too Many Jobs

In many instances, it is better to have more information than less. On a resumé, however, only the most relevant positions should appear. If during the screening process you find a resumé that is 20-pages long, it may be an indicator of the candidate wanting to impress you with their archive of work history, but, also that they need to put more work into figuring out exactly what the job position expects of them.


Based on a resumé alone, a candidate is only as good as they present themselves to be. That is until they present themselves to be “too good” for the open position. Why might that be an issue? Consider the “why” behind why a candidate is looking for a position. In the first scenario, if it is a job meant to tie them over until another opportunity, this can cost you, as the employer, in time and training costs. In a second scenario, did something occur in a previous job that you should be aware of as an employer? Why is the applicant applying for a job that may not be suited to their level of expertise? Lastly, in the instance that the applicant checks all the boxes, are they looking to expect a larger salary for the position because of their qualifications? These are concerns that are worth looking into, because if it is too good to be true, it probably isn’t the right fit for you.

Splash Of Colour

Colour always helps with getting noticed in a pile of otherwise similar looking sheets of paper. Colour, on the other hand, does not mean an artistic masterpiece that will take the entire ink cartridge.  Remember, the entire goal of the resumé and the cover letter is to show relevant experience and tasks involved. Even if the candidate is looking for a design-related job, you would want a candidate that is sharp enough to know that their portfolio goes on a separate web page.

Are there any things that catch your eye in a bad way as an interviewer? Share with us in the comments below!


Post by Acwin Wong