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14 Reasons Why I Quit Your Job Application

Two people shaking hands

I’ve been on the job hunt for a better part of a year now, and it absolutely blows. You can apply to hundreds of jobs that you meet all the qualifications for and hear back from none of them.

But what makes the process even worse is how up their own ass these HR managers seem to be. It’s like these people are paid to exhibit a complete lack of self-awareness.

At this point, I’m so jaded that I hardly even apply for jobs anymore. I’ve developed a list of red flags that make me quit the job application, sometimes mid-interview. I figure if HR isn’t going to make a good first impression, they probably aren’t going to be much better on the job.

There are three main reasons why I bail on the job application process: the job sucks, the application process sucks, or the job listing sucks. Here are some of the red flags within those categories that are guaranteed to turn away self-respecting candidates from your application.

The Job Sucks

This is reason number one why I won’t follow through on an application. Sometimes, these things are clear up front in the job listing. Other times, they come out in the interview process (and more often it seems interviewing is a process, more on that later).

1. You Pay Below Market Rate

As an HR manager, when you decide to open a job, it is your duty to ensure that you are paying a fair market rate for the role in the location which you are looking to hire. That is, the pay should reflect the going rate for similar professionals in your area.

Living is expensive, and certain professionals expect a certain standard of living. You cannot simply decide on a number based on what you can spare in your budget. If you cannot afford to pay market rates, you cannot afford to hire. Do not be surprised when you only get underqualified or unmotivated candidates if you do this.

2. You Illegally Misclassify Your Employees

So many employees incorrectly hire employees as contractors simply because they believe it is a way to get away with paying less, avoiding unions, and shirking overtime. However, paying an employee as a contractor is not something you can do simply because you feel like it.

A contractor is an independent business owner, and your relationship needs to reflect that. If you are doing anything more than telling your hire the specs of the finished product, how to submit it to you, and what your business hours are, you are likely not hiring a contractor.

Here are some telltale signs that the person you hire should be an employee rather than a contractor:

  • You assign them work hours

  • You give them job training

  • You tell them the method they need to use to complete tasks

  • You make them register for software and app accounts for more than submitting work or streamlining communications

  • You have them use company equipment or tools

  • You expect them not to do similar work for other employers

  • You integrate them with a team or under the direction of a manager

  • You hire other contractors for them to manage

  • You employ them for the foreseeable future

As a copywriter, unless the job is listed as a part-time freelance role or a limited time full-time role, I pretty much always ignore listings that state that the position is contract because they are almost always illegally screwing me out of payroll taxes and overtime.

3. You Require Night Weekend or Holiday Availability Without Explanation

Look, I get that some jobs will require work hours outside of the normal nine to five. However, if you aren’t explaining the rationale and frequency with which such extraneous hours occur, I’m not interested in your position.

This is usually a telltale sign that an employer does not respect your personal time. For the most part, employees are not on call, and if they are, you need to be paying them for that according to labor law.

4. You Have No Material Advancement Opportunities

I have actually bailed mid-interview over this one. If I ask you in the interview what advancement opportunities exist for this role, you should have any or all of these three answers:

  • You can advance into a more senior role with additional compensation

  • There are regular performance reviews with the opportunity to get a raise for good performance

  • There are regular raises based on time spent with the company

Additionally, if you promise one or more of these things in interview and I don’t see it transpiring after a year or two, I’m looking for employment elsewhere without following up. This is on you.

The Process Sucks

Sometimes HR managers have such little empathy that they make their application process unnecessarily arduous. You should assume that good, qualified applicants are short on time.

Here are some things about the application process that will make me quit midway through.

5. You Make Me Manually Enter My Resume

This is the worst one, regardless of whether or not you ask for a digital copy of my resume. If your screening software relies on people punching their resume information into form boxes, even if it supposedly scans a digital resume, you need a better way of screening applicants.

Most people know to make their resume as concise as possible. You can skim through the resumes you receive without the assistance of an automated system.

6. You Have Multiple Essay Questions

This is probably the most frustrating one. Most people have a ready made cover letter or at least the skeleton of one to customize for the job they are applying for. When you ask for multiple paragraph-long responses, you are simply piling on more work to already busy people, and it will turn good, qualified candidates towards other opportunities.

If you want something specific to be addressed in your preliminary screening, ask for it to be included in the cover letter. But honestly, I find most of these short answer response prompts are better left to the actual interview process.

7. You Want Me to Do Work for Free

There is nothing more presumptuous than an HR manager who asks for a custom work sample. In lines of work where a sample could be applicable, most people have a portfolio of previous work they’ve done for which they’ve already been paid.

I applied for this one job that I was actually kind of excited about, but when they asked me for a 1500 page writing sample, I bailed on them. To put this in perspective, 1500 words is about one and a half pages, and rounds out to around 3-4 hours of work and a freelancer could expect to earn around $75 at the very minimum (and that’s honestly below market rate).

When I asked them if they were intending to pay for this sample (which could have easily been passed on to a client as a finished product), they assured me that they weren’t going to be using it for anything, as if that makes it any better. Like I don’t care if you keep a printed copy by your bedside to jack off to, any professional worth their salt expects to get paid for that amount of work.

8. You Have Video Response Prompts

So many HR departments are doing this now, and I have no idea why. This combines the horror of the previous two reasons I bail on job applications into the worst medium possible.

Like first, you’re asking me to compose an off the cuff verbal essay for you. Second, if the job entails video performance, this is free work you are asking for. Also this method of preliminary screening smacks of discrimination.

9. You Do Multiple Interviews Before Narrowing Down Your Selection

There is absolutely no reason why I should need to do one on one interviews with every level of management at your company. If you want to ensure that I am a good culture fit for multiple people, do a panel interview.

I get having multiple rounds of interviews as you narrow down your selection (within reason–honestly, three rounds is kind of pushing it), but having me do back to back interviews just communicates to me that you do not value your employees’ time and will likely bog me down with unnecessary meetings that will impinge upon my ability to complete actual tasks.

10. Your Preliminary Interview Is a Pitch of Your Company and the Job

Honestly, I haven’t had an interview like this in a while because I’ve learned how to spot job listings that lead to this. But if your interview is just you selling me on the position and asking nothing of me, something is obviously wrong with what you are offering.

This is especially bad (and also especially common) when it is in the form of a group interview. I have bailed mid-interview on these kinds of interviews before. If you’re looking for low-rent warm bodies to work solely on commission or whatever, just state that in your job listing and quit wasting everyone’s time.

The Listing Sucks

The last reason I bail on a job application is if the listing itself sucks. This one is pretty handy as it requires me to invest no time on the application beyond reading the listing (or lack thereof).

If you don’t put the time in to draw up a complete and compelling job listing, I’m not going to waste my time trying to find out what the job entails. I’ll just move on to a listing that makes that apparent.

Here are some of the ways that you job listing will turn me off.

11. You Don’t Describe the Actual Job

This is the biggest way to shoot yourself in the foot. Because of HR managers’ training to be as callous as possible, they are so monomaniacally focused on what they want from candidates that they forget that candidates are looking for something too.

You should take the time in your job listing to explain, preferably as a bulleted list, what the day to day responsibilities of the job are. You will likely find that this approach will save you from having to write long wishlists of qualifications which are honestly more likely to turn mostly qualified candidates off if they lack one skill that you aren’t even dead set on requiring.

12. You Don’t Describe What Your Company Does

Look, I don’t want to have to Google your company and try to figure out which company with your name is in fact yours. Your job listing should briefly explain what your company does for its clients or customers, so I can have an idea of what industry I will be expected to be familiar with.

Failing to do this will result in a combination of potentially qualified candidates like me simply moving on to another application, and other applicants with wildly irrelevant experience applying for a role with your company.

13. You Describe Yourself As a Startup but Have No Niche

A startup is a very specific kind of business. Startups begin as small organizations and plan for astronomical growth on the basis that they are filling a niche with few or no competitors. Startups either service a specific clientele within an industry that is underserved by more generalist firms or they are pioneering a new industry entirely.

If you are doing the same thing as your competition, you aren’t a startup. You are a small business with delusions of grandeur, and a round of layoffs are likely on the horizon after your hiring spree.

14. You State a Keyword to Include in the Cover Letter

Look, we all had that one teacher in grade school that tricked us into reading all the directions by including something silly. But we are adults now. A job application is not the time for games.

Your decision of whether or not a candidate is qualified should not hinge on whether they ended their cover letter with the word “strawberry.” If you are willing to toss aside an otherwise good application for something so trivial, I can only imagine what kind of stupid decision making you will have managing me in the role I was about to apply for.

Think About What Your Job Search Says About Your Company

The moral of the story with all of this is these are all red flags that you do not value your employees’ time, their work, or their competency. When you do these things, you are turning away the very applicants you are looking to hire: people who know their worth.

The next time you put up a job listing, think about what your application process feels like from a busy candidate’s perspective. As special as you think your opportunity may be, to most qualified candidates, it’s just one in a sea of job listings. You may be trying to narrow down qualified candidates, but keep in mind, qualified candidates are doing the same to you.


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