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Career confidential

You know to bring two copies of your resume with you on interviews, give a firm handshake and immediately answer that your greatest weakness is that "I care too much."

But when you're looking for a job, what's really going through the mind of the person reading your resume, checking out your LinkedIn profile or appraising you from across the desk?

So we thought we'd ask for you. b approached some of Baltimore's top CEOs, HR reps and managers to help break down the unwritten rules for job suitors as they hunt for that new job, raise or promotion. They've seen a lot of applicants; they've hired plenty but have turned away many more. Here's the unvarnished truth on what goes through their heads.

Hiring is work. Don't make me work harder.

"I will trash any resume if [the applicant] did not follow ad directions or does not meet our qualifications (over or under qualified)."

— Agora Inc. CEO Myles Norin

Employers don't write up job ads because it's fun. Their business has a need, and if you'd like to meet that need, you should be able to follow direction from the start with limited improvisation.

Show what you know.

John Maroon, CEO and president of Maroon PR, is impressed with people who are able to do their homework.

A very qualified woman responded to a job ad from Maroon's public relations and marketing firm. On the email's subject line she wrote "Top Ten Reasons to Hire ---------." Using David Letterman's bit as a template, she listed 10 reasons she should get the job.

"It wasn't just funny. She referenced our clients and our business, and she showed that she did her homework and knew our industry," Maroon said.

Going above and beyond what's asked of you helps you stand out. Couple that by showing knowledge of the industry, and you can really get noticed.

It can be OK to get (a little) personal.

Within the bounds of good taste and common sense, you may use personal information that's widely known about the potential employer in order to stand out.

"I had an applicant mention something about my greyhounds — I love and talk about my greyhounds," Maroon said. "It's personal because I love my dog, but it's personal also because it shows that they put forth the effort to learn something about me."

Keg-stand pictures aren't your only social media issue.

Eric Chessler, a principal at RockIt digital marketing in Baltimore County, ran into a snag when looking to hire a copy writer. Chessler admits that writing is not his forte, so when he was unable to stomach the grammar and spelling on an applicant's Facebook page and blog posts — it was a telling sign that this applicant should not be paid to write for him.

Don't make assumptions.

Ari Magwood, general manager at The Brewer's Art, has years of experience in the hospitality industry. Working in a field populated by career-minded professionals and by students trying to earn beer money, Magwood has seen a wide spectrum of applicants walk through his door.

"There is a perception sometimes in the hospitality industry that because we deal with booze, things can be slightly informal," Magwood said. "I have had people show up for interviews with the smell of alcohol on their breath. Or, when asked if they would like something to drink ask for a Jack & Coke."

Just because the workplace is informal, don't take that to mean the interview is anything less than professional. When in doubt, err on the side of being too formal at first.

Apparel indicates interest level.

Magwood primarily hires people in their 20s — and nothing turns him off more than when MICA and Hopkins students show up in torn and ripped jeans.

"Coming not dressed for an interview, whether you're applying for a busboy position or management — it tells me you really won't take this job seriously," Magwood said.

I may know the person you're badmouthing.

Potential employers know people — probably some of the same people you do. For instance, Magwood's professional experience in the Baltimore-D.C. area has left him with roots around town. This could be harmful if you're talking trash.

"Don't badmouth your last boss. This is 'Smalltimore,' and if you're in the restaurant industry there's a good chance I know your boss," Magwood said. "We may trust their opinion more than yours."

That applies across industries — you don't know who has worked with whom.

Credentials do not equal entitlement.

Lauren Asghari, director of recruiting at Vision Technology Services, works at connecting Baltimore companies with local IT talent. She points out that schooling is great, but it's better to show what you know before showing off where you learned it.

"If you have minimal hands-on work experience, then schooling is important. A degree from a well-known school is impressive, but it is not always a key factor in determining the right hire."

Maroon takes it a step further.

"Just because you and your folks set out the expense to further your education, doesn't mean I'm responsible to finance it," Maroon adds. "Don't get me wrong. It's not bad to further yourself. But don't expect me to hand over anything."

You are not in a position to play hard to get.

Maroon recalled an instance in which a young woman won over his firm and gained a highly coveted job offer but didn't call or write back for two days.

Maroon rescinded the offer when his applicant not only stood him up, but actually came back asking for money.

If you want the job, it works out better when you actually act like you want to work there.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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