By Susi Pihera and Brian Tibbs
Job search isn’t easy, and no one knows that better than those who are actually going through the job search process. Applications, resumes, interviews… day after day, week after week… It can be incredibly frustrating.
However, there are certain mistakes that people commonly make, mistakes that have the unintended result of lengthening the job search. And, this lengthens the period of unemployment. Nobody wants that to happen!
So, here are a few of the most common job search mistakes, and how you can avoid them.
1. Conducting a “Pajama” Job Search
Never leaving your computer: It’s very easy to fall into the trap of sitting at your computer all day, browsing job boards and filling out online applications. Yes, you do need to respond to online job postings, but getting out and networking is key to shortening your job search.
“Shotgunning” applications: It might seem like a good idea to blast out as many resumes and applications as you can, in the hope that you’ll hit something. Turns out that’s not a good approach; it is much more effective to identify jobs for which you are a strong fit, then tailor your resume to those jobs.
2. Using Ineffective “Sales Collateral”
Sales collateral are the materials used in selling a product or service. In job search, you are the product or service, and the sales collateral are your resume and cover letter.
Having an Out-of-Date Resume: Almost everyone needs some help with their resume, so don’t just assume that yours is OK. Your resume is often the first impression that you can give to an employer; make sure it is top notch. Your resume needs to convince the recruiter or hiring manager that you have the skills and experience needed to be a fit for the job.
Not Writing a Cover Letter: The truth about cover letters is that they don’t always get read, BUT a good cover letter can be the thing that makes you stand out from the pack. In your letter, spell out exactly how your skills, your work style, or your personality relate to company and to the job you’re applying for. Even though it may not be read, or it might just be skimmed, you should always take the time to write a good cover letter.
Typos and Other Mistakes: Many recruiters comment on how many typos they see, and resumes with typos usually get tossed! Take the time to carefully spell check and proof read resumes, cover letters, and email messages that you send to an employer. And don’t proof your resume or cover letter only once, do it twice. Or three times. And have someone else proofread it with a "fresh" pair of eyes. Be absolutely sure there are no typos or mistakes.
Next Impressions: Your voice mail greeting, email address & signature also convey your professionalism.
- It’s best if your voice mail greeting is not cutesy or sarcastic, just the standard message, “You’ve reached… Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”
- Your mail address should be a variation of your name, not BeerKing2015@xyz.com. Many people involved in hiring are "turned off" by a wacky email address.
- Closings on letters and email signatures should be professional as well. Do not use “Cheers!”, “Peace Out!” or “Forgive any typos…sent from my iPhone/Android.” (Then, make sure there are no typos!)
3. Blowing the Job Interview
Winging it: Unplanned, impulsive answers usually lead to a disastrous interview. Before a job interview, think carefully about the questions you’re likely to get asked, and practice your answers to those questions. It’s a good idea to do a mock interview with a friend or family member to rehearse your answers.
Not doing your homework: Most interviewers expect you to know something about their company, or the industry. Learn as much as you can about the company, and think about how your skills and experience fit with what the company does, and how you fit with the company culture.
Bad-mouthing your former employer: Making negative comments about your last boss will brand you as a complainer, and no one wants to hire a complainer!
Being a downer: Always avoid negativity in an interview. Smile and make eye contact; be positive and confident. Think of the interview as a conversation, not an interrogation. This will also help you to relax, and the more you can enjoy the conversation, the more likely you are to make a good impression.
4. Blowing the Follow-Up
Not sending a thank you: Following up after a job interview can help you stand out amongst the other candidates and reinforce your interest in the position. After a job interview, always send a note of appreciation with a statement of how interested you are in the job. An email is OK, but a hand-written note will show that you’re willing to go the extra step.
Following up a second time: Follow up with your interviewer a second time only if you have heard nothing after a suitable interval. Make one follow-up attempt (email or phone), again expressing your interest. After that, stop, or the interviewer may feel like you’re being a nuisance.
5. Social Media Blunders
Not Using LinkedIn: Sometimes referred to as the Facebook for professionals, LinkedIn can be an important job search tool. On LinkedIn you can research companies, find job opportunities, network with other industry professionals, and connect with hiring managers.
TMI (Too Much Information): Employers and recruiters routinely check the social media profiles of applicants, to weed out undesirable candidates. Here are a few mistakes to avoid:
- Use your real first and last name, not Big Booty Judy, or Steve “Smoke It If You Got It” Sanders.
- Displaying unprofessional pictures, posts or comments (including comments posted by friends).
- Bad mouthing current or previous employers, and being negative or sarcastic in general.
- If you don’t want an employer to see your posts, be sure to set your security setting to friends only or private.
Learn more about social media and your job search in our article Take Control of Your Online Brand.
6. Ignoring the Awesome Power of Networking
Most employers prefer to hire someone who comes as a referral, so networking is an essential component of a successful job search. Networking helps you acquire contacts, as well as information and helpful advice about your industry. Below are a few networking tips:
- Tell friends, family, neighbors and business associates you are looking for a new position.
- Create & rehearse your “30 second elevator speech”, i.e., be ready to talk about who you are professionally, and the kind of job you’re looking for.
- Attend as many local job clubs & networking groups as you can.
- Get out and meet new people, as often as possible. Volunteering can be a good way of meeting new people and expanding your network.
You may want to read our article Why Networking is So Important for Your Job Search.
Forewarned is Forearmed
Knowledge is power, they say, and knowing about possible missteps and mistakes is the key to avoiding them. There’s no single formula for success in your job search, but you’ll be doing yourself a big favor by avoiding the common job search mistakes listed above. And, by avoiding such mistakes you’ll also increase your chances of landing your next job!
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