Real-Life Job Hunt Fails: What (& What NOT) To Do In The Job Search

It’s hiring season at AIMCLEAR (it’s always hiring season!). That means we’re regularly culling through numerous inquiries to find the next awesome AIMCLEARian. While “how to get hired” posts can be a dime a dozen, some tips are worth highlighting, remembering… and circling in red.

Our focus is on whether you have the skills we need, the drive and determination to learn them, and whether you are someone we want to hang around with all day. Be yourself from start to finish in the hiring process. If you spill your water during the interview, laugh at yourself. We regularly dribble as we talk here, too.

As I was writing this, I asked AIMCLEARians for their anecdotes and tips. There are some all-time winners here!



Please don’t share information that we don’t need to know: date of birth, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, and ethnicity… Do you see a trend here? Federal and state law (as do basic human rights) prohibit us from making any decisions based on whether someone belongs to a group with protected status. We would never do that. We want you because you’re awesome at what you do, bring new ideas and energy, and are fun to be around — those are the qualifications we need to know. All the rest of your personal story is just that — personal. You don’t need to share it, and it won’t make us like you more or less if you’re transgender, Latino, Muslim, divorced or disabled.

In some states it’s also illegal to discriminate based on other factors, such as marital status, criminal records, familial status (e.g. do you or don’t you have children), etc. So, as a cautionary note — leave out these types of data. None of that matters to whether we’ll get along or whether you can do the job.

Also consider whether other identifiers (can you say psychographic targeting?) may tip off protected classes. Perhaps you’re an activist in a particular cause. If it’s somewhat controversial, leave it off your CV. You could say something like, “Active in leadership positions in several community/political organizations.” Again, our focus is on your ability to perform the job and get along with our team.

Caveat: Family issues are dicey. Certainly whether you have children or not, are married or not, etc. has no bearing on whether you have the skills to do the job or whether you are fun to be with. We also know that family is important and that you want to understand the work-life balance at AIMCLEAR – or wherever you are interviewing. You may even have restrictions on your availability due to family issues, which could be about anything from children to elderly parents to a disabled spouse. As Amazon is finding out, not everyone shares your ideas of what work-life balance may be. Spend time understanding the flexibility of the work assignments, work hours and expectations for “after hours” availability, but don’t feel you need to tell us the details of your personal life. As the process goes on, there may be an appropriate time to discuss any constraints you may have. Appropriate conversations can happen then. It shouldn’t be your opening salvo.

Attention to Detail


We say “attention to detail” is a critical skill. Why? Because a misplaced decimal point could cost a client thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Simply stating in an interview that you possess good “attention to detail” isn’t enough. Prove it! How do you prove it? To begin, here are some ways to disprove it:

  • Typos in your cover letter, resume or LinkedIn profile. Really, have someone else proof it before you press send. Please.
  • Not reading the job description and applying for a job you aren’t qualified to perform.
  • Poor grammar and punctuation.
  • If you are using a form letter, be sure to read it each time it goes out and that all “search and replace” functions worked properly. Really. Don’t tell us you are so excited at the opportunity to work in Seattle when we are in Duluth, MN.
  • Oh, and please shower before you arrive at your interview. If the room smells after you leave, we will remember you for the wrong reasons.
  • Show up on time for your interview – or at least let us know you are going to be late.

Know Your Audience


When interviewing, don’t speak disparagingly of “nerds” in front of our tech team. They take that personally.

Don’t talk about the U.S. tax code being unfair or dumpster diving as a birthright sport.

If you’re reaching out to someone you know at a company (good for you for networking), don’t send them your form cover letter – personalize it. Don’t make them feel like all they are is a way to get your foot in the door – they could be your biggest advocate if you do it right.

When you arrive for your interview, don’t demand a cup of coffee from the person you assume to be the receptionist/secretary. How you treat those you aren’t directly interviewing with will get reported back to the hiring team.

We are a data driven team. Be specific. You’ve heard great things about us? Cool. What in particular resonated? Was there an article or an encounter with one of our team members that left an impression? You think you are a great cultural fit? Awesome! Why? Don’t leave us hanging…

Read the Job Description


First, read the job description before you apply. An account manager one place is not the same as it is somewhere else. Client services at a bank (i.e. a teller) isn’t the same as client services at a marketing agency.

Second, make sure your skills fit the job. If there isn’t an obvious fit, explain how your skills can work for us.

Oh, and if the job requires you to use certain tools, don’t tell us you hate them, can’t work with them because they are lame and think Google is conspiring to take over the world.

Don’t be Dumb
Here are some doozies we’ve experienced over the years:

  • Can you pay me in cash so I don’t have the report the income for child support calculations?   (Ummmmm… no.)
  • From a form on our jobs page: Do you have any job openings? (Well, they are listed on the same page you emailed from. Oh, and state what kind of job are you looking for?)
  • Don’t list your parents as your references. If you worked for the family business, have someone unrelated field the reference call. And, your LinkedIn profile should show more contacts than just your fraternity brothers as your network.
  • Don’t tell us that you are excited to learn how we operate as a company because your goal in two years is to open your own agency to compete against us. (Yes, really we get that.)
  • Don’t tell us that you are excited to work with us because you want to get free marketing for the business you just started.
  • Don’t name drop unless that person gives you permission to use their name. It will backfire on you. Don’t oversell your connection to someone at the company.
  • Don’t tell us you are stressed because you have five other interviews today after you see us.

Interview Skills


We have a thorough interview process. It helps ensure the candidate is both a skills fit and a cultural fit. You may be asked similar questions by several different people (though we try to avoid that). Don’t tell us you’ve already answered that question — clearly we think the information you are about to give is important — or that you won’t answer something because it’s already been asked.

Don’t assume others believe the same as you. Some see Donald Trump as a breath of fresh air. Others find him repulsive. Do you know which camp your interviewer is in?

Admit if you don’t have the answer.

Be comfortable in what you are wearing. If you don’t wear a tie often, it will show when you fidget. Similarly, wear shoes you can comfortably walk in.

Don’t disparage your last (or current) employer. Obviously, you are looking for something different, but it often reflects poorly on you, not them when you criticize others.

Informational Interviews
AIMCLEAR HQ is in a college town and we have strong ties to the local colleges. As a result, we often receive inquiries for informational interviews. It’s a great way to give back to the universities that supply us with such rock star talent. If you have an informational interview, here are some tips:

  • Don’t say, “My dad said to call you. What does AIMCLEAR do?” In other words, please research who you are talking to before you show up.
  • Don’t say you can’t wait to move to NYC for a job because you are sick of the college town, and then at the end of the informational interview ask if we are hiring.

Trick Questions
Legally, there isn’t much personal information we can ask, so we’ve come up with some clever ways of learning more about you:


  • Dog or Cat?
  • Packers or Vikings fan? (Throw us for a loop and say Bears and see what happens…)
  • What is your position on the Oxford comma? (This one could get heated.)
  • Favorite movies/TV shows?
  • Mac or PC?

So, there are some tips to get you started on your job search. Who knows, maybe you can put your skills to the test in front of our team. Pssst, we’re hiring.

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