You may be the most qualified person for a particular job, but you shouldn’t forget that presentation is everything. Using certain tactics can significantly hurt your chances of landing an interview. Fortunately, most of these faux pas can be avoided.

A new survey by Accountemps reveals some of the most important job search trends for 2020, including what hiring managers want to see and what turns them off.

Don’t get too creative

“Our survey found the biggest turnoffs include cartoon images and bright colors on application materials,” says Michael Steinitz, executive director of Accountemps, a Robert Half company. Since cartoon images and icons (e.g., Bitmojis, Animojis, emojis) have become mainstream, he says some applicants might think it’s fine to use them on job application materials. “However, it’s best to avoid colors and images on resumes and cover letters,” Steinitz warns.

On the other hand, 40% of senior managers thought that highlighting accomplishments in an infographic could actually tip the scales in the candidate’s favor.

Michael Solomon, co-founder of 10x Ascend, believes the aversion to Bitmojis or dynamic colors and images is the result of a generational workplace tussle. “On the one hand, the managers like infographics because they see the value in data being delivered in a visually interesting way, but they don’t want any other messaging to take that approach,” he notes.

“This is purely a result of management generally being Gen X or boomers, while the candidates who use those digital icons are most likely Gen Z or millennials.” While Solomon is a Gen Xer and says he would never use a Bitmoji in his presentation materials for a job, Solomon says that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to use these tools. “I would also not be able to use certain digital tools with the skill and dexterity of Gen Z and millennial candidates — the point here is not to judge a book by its emojis,” he says.

Get social

The survey respondents were most impressed when candidates network on social media with their employees and when candidates have an online presence.

Steinitz recommends cleaning up your digital profile. “Our research found employers take job seekers’ digital presence into account, including social media, online portfolios, or personal websites when evaluating candidates. But if you have questionable content, you may want to delete it to avoid creating a negative perception.”

Steinitz also recommends connecting on social media. “Candidates who do this demonstrate a passion for their profession and the company of interest,” Steinitz explains. “They’ve done their homework and researched the business online.”

Elaine Varelas, managing partner at Keystone Partners, agrees that job candidates should take their online presence seriously. “Candidates who make it easy for the hiring manager to get to the core of their expertise will most often get the interview, and the job,” she says. “When hiring managers see actual work on LinkedIn, they can assess real capability.”

Always include a cover letter

Steinitz provides three reasons to include a cover letter when applying for a job:

  • 58% of senior managers prefer to receive them and find them valuable.
  • A well-researched cover letter demonstrates a candidate’s knowledge about the company and its industry.
  • A cover letter is a candidate’s opportunity to showcase the way they communicate through writing. Often, resumes include experience and a bulleted list of tasks and accomplishments. A cover letter lets job seekers elaborate.

In addition, he says it’s usually the first thing the person screening your resume will look at, so it’s really the first chance to make a good impression.

“Tailor your resume to the position and employer,” Steinitz says. “Describe your skills and experience in terms that relate to the opportunity you’re applying for.” He does admit that there may be some leeway in creative fields for you to be more artistic. But as a general rule, it’s best to maintain a formal/professional writing style on a resume and cover letter.”

Varelas agrees. “Cover letters, when well-written, gain great responses from managers.” However, the operative word is “well-written,” and she warns that a full content page in small print doesn’t add much value. “An easily read page, with bullets highlighting important points, is welcome by managers.”

She provides another reason for you to present a well-designed and well-thought-out cover letter. “How you approach sharing information with a hiring manager will demonstrate what it would be like for that person to work with you,” Varelas says. “Will it be easy and professional, or way too hard and not worth the effort? Your choice.”