10 Common Mistakes Job Seekers Make
Do you know someone who has experience and skill in their field (not to mention commitment, drive, and great references), but despite their best efforts, they can’t seem to find a job? For anyone in this situation, as application after application is filled out without any results, you may wonder, What am I doing wrong?
Many well-meaning, enthusiastic job seekers unknowingly sabotage their efforts because they don’t realize their strategy is full of mistakes. Fortunately, when you know which errors to avoid, you’ll probably find that your stalled job search gains the forward momentum you want.
Here are 10 common mistakes that job seekers make in their campaigns:
Failure to prepare for your job search. People spend more time planning summer vacations than learning what it takes to conduct a job-search campaign. It’s little wonder they have a hard time landing the right job!
The most qualified applicants do not always get the best jobs; however, outstanding candidates always get the best offers. Your objective in preparing for a job search is to learn how to present your skills through your accomplishments, which most people can’t do effectively on the fly.
Going after jobs that no longer exist. Every day, thousands of job seekers look for jobs identical to the one they just left, when in reality, that job has gone away—or at least evolved.
Check with human resource departments of target companies to see what jobs are unfilled before preparing your résumé, references, and interview talking points. Realign your campaign early where there is a need rather than chasing after something that is not there.
Using poorly prepared letters and collateral materials. When applying to advertisements or writing to company executives, take time to think carefully, edit, edit some more, and proofread. Your reader is thinking, This candidate will never do better for me than what she is doing for herself. So if your submission is poorly written, not focused on what the company is seeking, loaded with clichés and boring, or sprinkled with typos, it is sure to be eliminated.
Poorly prepared letters and collateral materials will rule you out, even if you are the most qualified candidate—and you’d be surprised by how often this happens. When writing résumés, documents, and letters, read them slowly out loud. It is one of the best proofing tools you can use.
Not addressing what the company is looking for. When applying to a job posting, take the time to itemize exactly what the company is looking for and match your accomplishments to the company’s needs, demonstrating in your application that you have the required skills.
Don’t send the same materials to multiple companies. If you do not have what the company is looking for, do not waste your time and theirs in responding.
Forgetting to thank people who help you along the way. It’s amazing how many candidates refuse to acknowledge the help they get from networking contacts with a short but pertinent thank-you note. Don’t forget that these people gave you their time and perhaps information that helped you meet more people or, better yet, opened a job opportunity.
Sending an e-mail or short handwritten thank-you note says much about your personality and character. Furthermore, your contact may reply with even more help.
Relying solely on mail campaigns in lieu of meeting people every day. People get jobs from people. It’s a fact. And as many weary job seekers can attest, sending out résumés in response to advertisements can be a futile exercise.
Candidates who stay glued to their computers sending out a continuous flow of résumés lose the opportunity to develop their communication skills. A good rule to follow: Answer online ads before 7:30 a.m. and after 7:30 p.m., and use your day to get out and meet people. Remember, the Internet is open 24/7. One great networking meeting is worth more than 1,000 mailings.
Failing to do research on industries, new jobs, and companies in your area. Chances are, you don’t want to pick up and move for a job (or even settle for a long commute) if you don’t have to. Good news: Your best job could be just around the corner. Get a map of your home area and draw a circle at a distance of 20 minutes from your home at 7:30 a.m. Then search for companies within the perimeter you’ve created using online company databases.
Use weekends to drive around the area and physically note companies in industrial zones. Your campaign should include visiting these companies—not to ask for a job, but to drop off your résumé and a personal business card and inform them of your availability.
Putting all your effort in chasing recruiters. If you are seeking a position where your skills are unique and hard to come by, then approaching recruiters makes sense. A well-written cover letter and résumé to the recruiter is all you need. Likewise, if you are seeking a job with a salary lower than $70,000, a recruiter mailing will put you in front of recruiters in your area. And executives can use specialized lists like ExecuNet or Ladders (both for a fee). But here’s a fact you may not have known: By and large, recruiters prefer selecting candidates from successfully employed performers at competitors of their client companies.
In speaking to recruiter friends, we asked what percentage of candidates they selected from unemployed applicants in their database. It bordered on 1 percent. While recruiters can help if they have an assignment that fits your background and are willing to present you, our preference has always been networking as a way into target companies.
Not practicing interviewing techniques before going out into the market. If you had a role in a school play, would you rehearse? Of course. You would learn the lines, practice out loud, record how you sound, and even have friends and family critique your performance. Well, you are certainly on stage when you are networking or interviewing with companies, so practicing is a must.
Think about and rehearse your responses to difficult questions like, Tell me about yourself, What are your skills?, Why were you let go from your previous employer?, and How much money do you want?.
Not taking time to learn how to use the Internet as a research and communications tool. We may be living in the Age of the Internet, but that doesn’t mean every job seeker knows how to effectively use this resource.
We are often surprised by how little people know about the Internet and social media, at least when it comes to tools for communicating, searching for a job, and professional networking. If you are one of those people, devote one hour each evening to viewing training videos and webinars, which can be found by doing a Google search on ‘Training in LinkedIn’ or ‘Facebook’ or ‘Twitter.'”
Job hunting is challenging enough without pouring your time and energy into the wrong tactics. It’s one thing to be told ‘no’ after doing your best to obtain a position. What you don’t want is to inadvertently close that door yourself because of mistakes you could have avoided.