discover shocking reasons why you might not get a callback—or a promotion
if everything’s going smoothly, you probably won’t interact with the folks in human resources much between the day you’re hired and your last day with the company. but every day in between, it’s their responsibility to make sure you’re doing your job well. which means they know a lot more than you might think. we checked in with human resources experts to see what your current employer is keeping tabs on—and how your next employer could be judging you based on a whole lot more than the résumé you submitted.
1. background checks have gone beyond google.
before calling in applicants for a job interview, hr will snoop around online to make sure there are no virtual red flags. “social media ‘stalking’ has become the norm—especially at larger companies,” says mary hladio, who worked in human resources for more than 15 years and is currently ceo of leadership group ember carriers. “beyond typing names into a search engine, companies will also employ sophisticated online monitoring platforms that dig even deeper. if there’s something on the internet you wouldn’t want your boss to see, it’s probably in your best interest to take it down.”
2. arriving super-early for an interview is almost as bad as arriving late.
of course, if someone shows up late for an interview, he or she isn’t going to get a callback, says amy habedank, human resources manager of pinnacle services. but she’s also hesitant to hire someone who shows up an hour early. “it feels like they have no regard for my time,” she says. if you’re headed to a job interview, don’t show up more than 10 minutes before; if you get there with time to spare, catch up on email or listen to relaxing music before heading in.
3. your physical appearance matters.
“research suggests that the decision to hire or to deselect a candidate is made within the first 90 seconds of the interview,” says human resources consultant steve cohen, author of mess management: lessons from a corporate hit man. that means you must arrive at a job interview in a clean, well-put-together outfit with neat fingernails, smoothed-down hair and fresh breath. also, think twice about any eccentricities. “some people might be able to look past pink hair and black nail polish, but it will affect their decision,” says hladio.
4. personal hygiene counts, too.
smelling like cigarette smoke can work against you, as can having body odor. because both conditions are within an individual’s control, an employee or job candidate who smells bad is viewed as lacking professionalism, cohen says. plus, an employee who smells bad is a public relations liability. most companies won’t tolerate poor personal hygiene in an employee or potential employee.
5. you won’t get hired to work from home if you aren’t a “home professional.”
if you’re applying for a work-from-home position, you need to present yourself as a “home professional” from the get-go. this means that when hr first calls to express interest, there better not be crying babies or barking dogs in the background. “when an applicant has no control over the noise level in her home, it’s a signal that she’s not ready for virtual work,” says shilonda downing, who’s in charge of hiring for virtual work team. you’ll also need a quiet home office space if you’re petitioning your current boss for work-from-home hours.
6. being overweight can work against you.
even though overweight individuals can be fast on their feet and slim people can be lazy, an interviewer might assume an obese job candidate won’t be able to keep up at a “high-performance” company. cohen gives the example of a manufacturing company that prided itself on efficiency and speed. every prospective employee was taken on a walking tour of the large plant before being hired. if the prospect couldn’t keep up with the owner’s fast pace on the facility tour, he or she wouldn’t be hired. if you’re worried your size may be working against you, cohen suggests emphasizing how adept and resourceful you are.
7. ageism (illegally) exists.
“people who have seen their 50th birthday are losing jobs to younger people, even though ageism is illegal,” says dennis kravetz, head of human resources consulting firm kravetz associates. older employees hoping for a promotion need to be extra-vigilant about staying on top of trends and technology. in a job interview, emphasize what you’ve learned from years of experience and explain how you’ve grown along with your industry.
8. your relationship is being monitored if you’re dating a coworker.
“sometimes people meet their future spouse at the office,” says cohen. “but mostly, dating coworkers is risky.” even if dating among colleagues is allowed, a relationship that ends badly is going to affect other people in the office. it gets extra-tricky if a romantic relationship between a supervisor and his or her subordinate sours. “human resources is watching behavior that could turn litigious,” warns former human resources executive j.t. o’donnell, founder of careerealism.com.
9. your internet usage is probably being documented.
don’t assume there’s any level of confidentiality when it comes to company technology, whether it’s email, voicemail or indiscriminate use of the internet, cohen says. “in a situation where an employee’s integrity or credibility is in question, there will always be an audit of her computer usage.” that means your boss probably isn’t randomly checking to see how often you log on to facebook. but if he’s looking for a reason to fire you, your computer records could provide easy ammunition.
10. your good and bad behavior matter—but the bad matters more.
“promotions have favoritism built in,” says hladio. good behavior and positive experiences have a “shelf life” of three to six months. you need to continually impress your employer in order to stand out as an exceptional employee. bad behavior and negative experiences, on the other hand, can linger in an employer’s mind for years.