Recruiting fails.

Naturally, when coaching, I often have extremely frustrated applicants sitting across from me. Not only because their activities so far have not led to the new job, but also because they have experienced in the application process what leaves them speechless and stunned. They complain about meaningless job advertisements, poorly programmed input masks, forbidden questions in conversations and disrespectful rejections. Here are the 11 most common annoyances that annoy applicants today and my tips on how you can deal with them better.

11 things that annoy job changers during the application process and how you can react calmly

1. Job advertisements with empty words, blah blah

You should be resilient, assertive, a team player and good at communicating. You must have successfully completed some degree and, ideally, have gained initial experience in an industry that is not revealed in the recruiter’s advertisement. The job title as Head of ‘Something’ sounds exciting, but the description of the tasks reads like boring work instructions from the organization manual – the main thing is that you know MS Office. Oh yes, and of course you speak English fluently for a job that obviously only takes place in German-speaking countries. No joke, just real-life examples.

Many job advertisements today are full of meaningless empty words. The tasks and requirements are described so generally that many of my clients ask me during coaching who the company is actually looking for. Either such employers don’t know it themselves or success in recruiting is measured by the number of applications received per general job advertisement. In the worst case, a combination of both.

My tip for you as an applicant: Stop interpreting job advertisements and the empty phrases in them too strongly. You don’t know what “ resilient ” will specifically mean in this job and you also don’t know what “ communication skills ” will define you in day-to-day business. Are you good at talking to customers on the phone, are you good at creating presentations or can you write good texts? This is all communication, so it is pointless to interpret too much into it in advance based on these empty words.

2. The position is advertised again and again

A phenomenon that makes many applicants extremely insecure. Positions that have been advertised over and over again for months, but candidates have since received rejections with the information that the position has been filled by a candidate who better fits their profile. “ Should I just apply again? “, many candidates ask me when their last attempt was a few months ago.

The reasons for this observation can be of various natures. Maybe the position has actually been filled, but during the probationary period both sides parted ways. Perhaps the advertisement is only online in order to be visible as a brand and employer – i.e. without any vacancies on offer. Yes, that also exists and I think it’s unfair to job seekers. It may also be a position that has to be filled from time to time in the company and is therefore constantly looking for candidates on the market. As an applicant, you can’t know and it’s a waste of time to worry about it – let alone get upset.

If the position is really interesting for you, then ask the company. Describe your observations regarding the ever-new advertisement and perhaps also your previous application and ask whether it makes sense for you to apply for the position again.

3. Guesswork when it comes to salary expectations

“ Apply stating your salary expectations ” is the requirement in almost all job advertisements today. And even later in the conversation, it is often the candidate who has to come up with a value first. You can argue about which side has something to sell to whom in the application process and who has to hold up the price tag first. But for many applicants, and especially those who are moving into a management position for the first time or as a career changer in another industry, the feeling for the salary level is more of a stab in the fog than a clear idea. Wouldn’t it be more effective in terms of efficient pre-selection if employers stated a target salary range with the job advertisement and thus ended this guesswork? In other countries it is normal, we in Germany have been discussing it for many years.

Here, too, you as an applicant can get upset about it and spend sleepless nights trying to determine your market value down to the nearest euro, but that too is a waste of energy at this early point in the application process. As long as employers expect candidates to reveal their desired salary first, the maximum you can give is a value that seems appropriate and realistic for you in this position and industry. Your application is not yet a final salary negotiation – even if you are of course setting a mark with it.

At the same time, your salary information also has something to do with self-protection: If you imagine 70 thousand euros for a position that sounds interesting to you, but this is internally budgeted at 40 thousand euros, then not only does the advertisement convey a strange picture, but this definitely won’t be your new job either. Anyone who harshly sorts you out because of this is doing a good job.

👉 Tip: The Stepstone job exchange offers a free salary planner by industry and position. Here you can get a good feel for salary levels and your market value.

4. User- unfriendly input masks for CVs etc.

You have spent days and nights creating your stylish CV and are proud of the result, but now you have to enter your entire career again into the online forms in the application portal. Neatly with all dates, the correct company name of your ex-employers and of course all degrees, certificates and an assessment of your language skills. Every now and then the system crashes and all entries are lost. You have been in business for 25 years, but you can maintain a maximum of 3 stations. So many job changers tell me that they have already canceled their application because the input masks were too extensive or didn’t work.

If you really care about an advertisement and you despair because of the poorly programmed applicant management system, then don’t just cancel, but write an email or call them and describe your experiences. No employer today can ignore such a “candidate experience” and may even be grateful for your feedback. Ask whether you can also apply by email with your documents as a PDF attachment. If the answer is no, you can still consider whether you really want to work at this company.

5. No response after receiving the application

This is the fact that understandably annoys applicants the most at the beginning of the application process. There is also the automatic confirmation of receipt the second after the documents have been uploaded and then there is radio silence for weeks and sometimes even months. A client with a lot of application experience recently told me: “ I’ve learned one thing in the last few months: If you don’t receive an invitation to an interview within 14 days, then it won’t work anymore. “I don’t think much of such blanket rules, but there may be something to his experience.

I wonder what, in times of digital applicant management systems, prevents employers from providing clarity at all times about the status of the application process and the further timeline. I hear from many job changers that they don’t even receive a rejection or that they are told ” If you don’t hear from us anymore, then it’s not a good fit .” A behavior that is not very appreciative, after all, applicants put a lot of energy into an application and are interested in a company as an employer.

Give employers three to four weeks to collect and review documents or wait for the official application deadline. If you don’t hear anything and are still very interested in this job, then ask politely how the selection process is going. Many applicants tell me that they then receive a rejection straight away because they probably reminded the recruiter that something was still open. But here too, in my opinion, it is better to create clarity than to endure uncertainty in frustration.

6. Personality tests before the first interview

You’ve made it and you’ll receive an invitation to your first interview. In the email there is a link to a personality test, which you should take before the interview. It’s exciting for many applicants because it’s new territory for them and they’re unsettled by what an employer will tell you in black and white about the test results before they’ve even seen each other for the first time. Not that it comes to light what psychological skeletons you have lying in the closet and what makes you really tick. During coaching, many applicants ask me whether they should answer the test honestly or whether they should think about what an employer’s expectations lie behind each question.

If you’ve known me for a while, then you might know that I’m not a fan of personality tests. The results always come out of the black box and they tempt people to prematurely put themselves in drawers. Sometimes it’s colors (I’m probably a blue-red mix), sometimes it’s a combination of letters.

As nonsensical as I and perhaps you too find personality tests to be at this early stage in the application process, you will also have to play this “game” in order to properly go through the recruiting process defined in the company. Don’t get worked up about it – which may even have an impact on the outcome – but use this step to give your potential new employer real insight into your personality and strengths. Answer the questions honestly without cheating. Not only do you have to show yourself appropriately later in the conversation, good tests are also designed in such a way that inconsistent behavior is exposed. If you do not receive the test result, you can ask about it during the interview and you should also discuss the characteristics with the recruiter.

7. Young recruiters with little life experience

This is particularly exciting for experienced applicants over 50. “ The girl/guy has no idea about the job and what it’s really like out there and is now supposed to decide about my professional future!? “Believe me, at this point it gets louder in my office. Especially when I have experienced sales types and real doers sitting in front of me who feel out of place compared to 22-year-old recruiters fresh out of their bachelor’s degree.

Yes, I can understand that and I also believe that the average age of recruiting employees in many HR departments is too young. Recruiting requires more than systematically comparing requirements with CVs and repeating standard interview questions that I have learned by heart – I’ll get to that in a moment. I believe that experiential knowledge from professional experience, empathy, knowledge of human nature and, above all, life experience is absolutely necessary in order to be a good recruiter and be on an equal footing with applicants of all ages.

What can you do as an applicant? As in almost all cases in this article, there is nothing wrong with the fact itself. Therefore, it is not worth complaining about it here either, but you should clarify the consequences for your future behavior in discussions with recruiters. I think it’s important to give younger recruiters a real chance, but if you have the feeling during the interview that you can’t take the person you’re talking to seriously, then you should have a plan in place. You can address it openly and ask for an experienced employee to join the conversation, or you can choose not to say anything and accept the situation. Yes, both options are not the dream in the role of an applicant, but getting upset about it afterwards is not a solution.

8. Standard interview questions

“Why should we choose you of all people? “ – “ What are your three biggest weaknesses? ” and “ Where do you see yourself in 5 years? “. It always amazes me to hear that such standard questions are still being asked in many job interviews. I wonder whether the list of questions is passed down from generation to generation of recruiters (we’ve always done it that way) or whether HR professionals believe that they can really learn something about the person in front of them by memorizing answers to such standard questions.

I understand that corporations in particular love standards in processes and may also need them for fairness and equal treatment in their recruiting process. But it makes a difference whether HR managers ask questions simply because they are defined exactly that way in the process, are on a list and the answers are recorded later in the personnel file, or whether they ask these questions and are really interested in the people in front of them . Because of course it is important to find out something about a person’s strengths and areas of development, their real motivation to change and their professional goals in the role of an applicant.

Don’t be too quick to judge standard questions like these as nasty trick questions, but instead assume that an HR manager in front of you is trying to do his job well. Either uninspired and not knowing how to find out more about you in any other way, or just as part of a process whose exact adherence to him or her will be measured. But if the density of standard questions in the conversation is too high for your taste and does not create a good atmosphere for the conversation, then you are free to decide to let the question-answer game pass you by and move on to the next round to hope, or you can bring it up in conversation and try to create more real dialogue on your part.

9. Questions about marital status or desire to have children

Yes, even obviously forbidden questions are still asked, as I find out more often from women than from men. Sometimes straight out, sometimes more hidden by the flower. I am always amazed when I learn about this in coaching. And anyone who thinks that this only happens in the small family business behind the seven mountains, whose 80-year-old owner has never heard of the AGG, is seriously mistaken. In my opinion, it is rather the employers of big brands who allow themselves such power games in discussions with insecure candidates.

Here too, the following applies even more clearly: You decide whether and how you respond to such questions. I see applicants who don’t mind being open and honest about their private life or who even think it’s important that an employer knows about the age of their children or their lifestyle. If you don’t want to talk about it, you can refuse to answer: ” I don’t have to and don’t want to answer this and I’m also wondering why this is important for you to fill the position .” Instead of getting upset about the forbidden question, you should evaluate what this interview practice might say about the culture in the company.

10. Limitation as an extended probationary period

Many employers limit contracts for new employees to two years. I’m not talking about temporary parental leave replacements or projects with a limited duration or funding. The limitation (without reason) to two years serves employers primarily as a loophole to extend the 6-month probationary period . Personally, I cannot understand this approach while at the same time complaining about a shortage of skilled workers. In addition, every employer should have a high interest in retaining good employees, and not just for cost reasons. Whether they are doing a good job and whether this is the right employer for the next few years can be clearly seen by both parties within a 6-month probationary period.

But the same applies here: As an applicant, you will rarely be able to change this mostly company-wide fixed-term policy. Clarify what the exact background of the time limit is. If it’s just a matter of an employer wanting to consider for two years whether you’re doing a good job (” That’s always the case here with new contracts “) and in this case the contract will most likely be terminated later, then see it as such formal act, rather than as a high risk. At this point I always recommend the following question to your future manager in the interview: “ How will you specifically determine in 6 months that I am doing a good job here?” “If the expectations of both of you match and you trust yourself to do a good job there, then this is a good basis.

A two-year time limit can certainly mean that you are at the top of the termination list if you need to save costs and your contract is simply not renewed. But even without the time limit, a dismissal for operational reasons would be possible at any time and often affects those who recently joined a company. It is pointless to think in horror scenarios at the time of applying that if you have a fixed-term contract you will definitely be stuck in the next application process after two years. Create clarity about everything that gives you security for this job decision and ultimately decide what the chances of a permanent contract with another employer are.

11. Rejection with standard phrases without feedback

In the end, this is always a source of excitement, especially for those applicants who have already had good, personal interviews. The rejection flutters into the inbox with the succinct justification: “ Thank you for your interest in working with us… we’re sorry… we’ve decided on another applicant whose profile fits the requirements of the position even better… and all the best for the future. Anyone who asks the company for the specific reasons or feedback on the conversation usually receives no answer.

Yes, learning from the other side’s feedback during the application process is almost impossible today. Employers are too afraid of being sued by rejected applicants who feel discriminated against on the basis of the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG).

Rejections are part of the application process. I think it’s completely okay and also important to mourn the loss of your dream job for a few days after being rejected and perhaps to be angry with yourself or the circumstances. But it’s no use complaining about not having received any feedback or not being told the real reason for the rejection. That’s how it is today. Nevertheless, I recommend that every applicant who has been in at least one interview and therefore knows the contact person personally asks for feedback. Maybe you’ll be lucky and learn something that will help you in your next conversation.

Get out of the victim attitude! As a whiner you have no chance in the application process

Your success as an applicant is primarily a question of your own attitude . If there are applicants sitting across from me who prefer to spend their time with me in coaching complaining about their understandably frustrating experiences with employers over the last few months, then it is good for them at that moment to have bought a neutral listener, but also In the next application process they will once again receive confirmation that all employers are bad and recruiters are mean to them. You can probably already guess: That’s not going to happen with the new job. Or would you hire yourself as a new colleague with this attitude?

Use your energy positively in the application process

Don’t waste your resources fussing over stupid recruiting fails or decisions you make. Instead, use your power as an applicant to influence what you can actually shape: your own clarity about the next sensible step in your career, the positions and employers that are right for you, your application documents with a clear profile and your right inner attitude as preparation good conversations at eye level. Don’t helplessly complain about the circumstances, but rather control and shape what you have direct influence on in your role in the application process.

Job changers will likely have to live with the 11 employer behaviors described here for some time in many organizations. But as an applicant, you can freely decide at any time whether you want to endure the application process as a victim of the circumstances, or whether you consciously help shape the process of getting to know yourself and a potential new employer. Because it might make your next application even more enjoyable.

What have you experienced in the application process and how did you deal with it? I’m looking forward to hearing about your experiences in the comments below. 

(Cover image generated with OpenAI’s D all-E )

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