Bullhorn Survey Identifies Top Five Recruiter Turnoffs

Top four negative candidate behaviors

43 percent of recruiters consider “blacklisting” candidates for applying to jobs for which they are unqualified

BOSTON–Bullhorn, the global leader in online recruiting software, released the results of a survey today that defines the top five candidate behaviors that scare away recruiters and other factors that negatively impact a job seeker’s chance of landing a job. The anonymous survey of 1,500 recruiters and hiring managers revealed that applying to irrelevant jobs topped the list of pet peeves for recruiters.

Bullhorn Survey Identifies Top Five Recruiter Turnoffs


“The findings of our survey will hopefully not only help job seekers get inside the heads of recruiters to be able to better position themselves, but also help make the job of a recruiter a lot easier.”

Thirty percent of recruiters noted that their biggest turnoff was candidates who apply to irrelevant jobs (jobs for which they are clearly unqualified), with 43 percent of respondents indicating that they would go so far as to “blacklist” such candidates and suppress their names from resume searches.

The additional top four negative candidate behaviors were:

  • Exaggerating qualifications on their resume – 21 percent of recruiters say it’s a big pet peeve
  • Focusing on salary above all other job factors – 15 percent don’t want to work with candidates who think that salary is the most important factor in a new job
  • Responding to a job posting that is way beyond their level of experience – 13 percent of recruiters indicate these unrealistic applications waste their time
  • Calling/emailing more than once a week for status updates – 11 percent do not want to hear from candidates that often, unless actively discussing a specific opportunity

“Some job candidates have no idea how their own behaviors can be a total turnoff to the recruiters who are trying to help them,” said Art Papas, founder and CEO of Bullhorn. “The findings of our survey will hopefully not only help job seekers get inside the heads of recruiters to be able to better position themselves, but also help make the job of a recruiter a lot easier.”

Bullhorn also asked recruiters to disclose which attributes would set a candidate apart from another candidate with a similar background and qualifications. The survey found:

  • Fifty-seven percent of recruiters would strongly factor in a candidate’s personality fit with the hiring company
  • Nearly 50 percent said “how well they present themselves in interviews” would be a big differentiator
  • Thirty-two percent thought the names of companies where a candidate worked previously could give them a leg up
  • Twenty-nine percent thought being referred by a friend or colleague would carry a lot of weight

Interestingly, fewer than four percent say that “the name of the school they attended” will help truly differentiate a candidate.

Another red flag for recruiters are gaps in employment. If the dates of employment and education don’t line up properly in a candidate’s resume, 89 percent of recruiters will assume he or she was unemployed during those gaps. Forty-seven percent of recruiters associate the title “self-employed” with being unemployed. And 42 percent of recruiters think that “independent consultants” are actually unemployed.

Some additional recommendations for candidates out of the survey findings include:

Don’t disguise enthusiasm: Fewer than five percent of recruiters said that “sounding and acting desperate to get a job” was their number one negative candidate behavior.

Don’t stress, social media rating systems won’t hold you back: Of 663 respondents who recruit for the marketing/PR/social media industries, less than seven percent say they consider candidates’ Klout scores in deciding whether to pursue them as prospects.

Be personable: When given a choice between “someone who is socially awkward and inexpressive with a genius IQ” and “someone who is highly sociable and collaborative with an average IQ,” nearly 95 percent of recruiters chose the latter.

For an infographic illustrating the findings, please click here (or see below).


Between August 23-28, 2012, Bullhorn conducted an anonymous survey of 1,500 recruiters and hiring managers who use the company’s social recruiting platform, Bullhorn Reach®. For information about Bullhorn Reach, or to try it for yourself, please visit: www.bullhornreach.com.

About Bullhorn:

Bullhorn® creates software and services that improve the way employees and employers come together. For over ten years our innovations have powered the recruiting and staffing operations of fast-growing start-ups up through the world’s largest employment brands. Headquartered in Boston, with offices in London and Sydney, Bullhorn’s recruiting CRM and social recruiting products serve more than 130,000 customers across 150 countries.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.


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