March 17, 2015

Talent Tip #64: Lookin’ Out My Back Door: Following Application Instructions

By: Claire Kittle Dixon

unnamedFor some reason, I can’t get CCR’s “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” out of my head. This might be a result of watching The Big Lebowski a few days ago. Or, it could be that I’ve recently encountered some candidates attempting to “backdoor” the stated hiring process.Here’s the scenario:

The job advertisement asks candidates to send application materials to a hiring manager (a department head, an HR team member, or, in Talent Market’s case, a third party entity assisting with the search). The candidate, in a moment of enlightenment, decides instead to send his/her application directly to president, CEO, board member, or other VIP involved with the organization.  It’s hard to fully grasp the candidate’s motives, but one would suspect the candidate believes this approach will serve him well in the hiring process.

The only hitch in his giddy up, though, is that it usually works against him.

In my experience, this leads to one of three typical outcomes:

  1. Over Before It Started: In this case, the back door leads you nowhere. On the rare occasion a candidate attempts to back door the hiring process with one ofBackdoor my clients, I often get the application forwarded to me with a note indicating displeasure that the candidate didn’t follow instructions. Case in point, I recently received a forwarded application from my client with a note that read, “FYI only. Please do not pursue this candidate. We have no interest in someone who can’t follow instructions.” And that was that. It doesn’t matter how nice the resume is, my clients are turned off by someone who either doesn’t read instructions or believes he doesn’t need to follow them like everyone else.
  2. Starting With A Deficit: In this case, you start out in the hole. The VIP receiving the application is irritated and sends it straight to the hiring manager who was supposed to receive it in the first place. Now the hiring manager is irritated, too. Yikes – the candidate has turned off two key people without even meeting them! He may or may not be considered as a candidate aunnamed-1t this point; but if he is, he’s starting the process with a deficit.
  3. Back In The Stack: In the very best scenario I’ve seen, the candidate’s attempt to backdoor the stated process has a neutral impact on his chances at the job. The organization puts the candidate right back in the stack of applicants and considers him just like everyone else.

So, here are some tips for candidates considering the back door route:

  1. Follow the application instructions.
  2. If you have a personal connection with someone in a VIP role, feel free to alert that person to the fact that you have applied for the job. Heck, you can even ask him to put a good word in for you if you think that makes sense.
  3. See #1.

So, candidates, I’ll see you at the front door – not the back door. And remember, the Dude abides.


Claire Kittle Dixon is the Executive Director of Talent Market.