Monday, October 08, 2012

12 Most Egregious Job-Search Mistakes

Do you want to waste time on your job-search and not actually get a job you’re interested in? Just make as many of these mistakes as you can!

1. Leaving Mistakes on Your Resume

Spelling errors, repeated words or phrases (in one resume I recently viewed, one entire bulleted point was repeated, with slightly different phrasing, right below it), deleted words: all of these make you look unprofessional.

It’s easy to not notice mistakes in your own resume, which is why it’s important to have a friend with a keen eye look at it before you send it out. If you actually want to get a job, that is.

2. Not Customizing Your Application

The very point of a cover letter is to communicate your fit for the particular position you are applying to; sending a generic email that doesn’t even reference the position or the organization makes you look lazy. And having “work with a large organization” in your resume objective when you’re applying to a start-up doesn’t help your case.

3. Not Following Instructions

If the job posting asks for a cover letter and a writing sample, just sending your resume isn’t going to get you anywhere.

4. Plagiarizing

Responding to a call for a customized cover letter with a cover letter copied from an article probably doesn’t win you points. If they asked for a writing sample or a cover letter, the employers want to see how you communicate, not how good your Google skills are.

Out of curiosity, if you got hired, were you going to continue covering up your lack of communication skills by regular plagiarizing?

5. Lying

Blatantly lying on your resume and cover letter about your experience? You get asked about your experience in your interview, and you’re not going to be able to fool an interviewer who’s knowledgeable about the field.

6. Applying for Jobs You’re Obviously Unqualified For

If the job specifically asks for “at least two years of experience in online marketing” and you’ve only worked in traditional media or are just out of b-school, you probably won’t get called in for an interview. Why waste your time applying to jobs that are obviously outside of your area?

(Note: if you have one year of experience, you might get shortlisted if you send in an excellent cover letter that explains why you should be considered in spite of your relative inexperience. By all means, be ambitious, but you need to have the skills to be able to actually do the job you’re applying for.)

7. Being a Prima Donna

I don’t believe employers have all the power in a hiring decision: good (let alone great) candidates are hard to find and smart employers woo them eagerly. But making demands before you’ve been offered the job (and as I recently found – before sending your resume) makes you look arrogant and naïve. Wait to ask for special benefits until you’re sure you’re even being considered for the position.

8. Displaying Your Lack of Ethics

Talking volubly about your willingness to bend the rules and engage in shady tactics for your previous employer doesn’t make you a smart candidate: it makes the hiring manager wonder what else you might be up to.

9. Bad-Mouthing Previous Employers

Don’t crib about your current job and show your bitterness towards previous employers. It only makes the interviewer wonder if you’ll badmouth your next employer, too.

10. Not Listening

Don’t start speaking before the interviewer’s done asking the question. If she interrupts, stop and wait politely – she might be trying to head you off if you’re going on the wrong track. Listen carefully and understand the question: don’t answer the question you want to answer instead. And never interrupt the interviewer: if you do, apologize immediately and wait respectfully for her to finish.

11. Being Pushy

Such as calling twice on the weekend to let the hiring manager know that you’ve sent her your application. No, annoying the hiring manager usually isn’t a good way to get hired.

12. Not Trying

I’ve been there – updating my resume on Monster and sending it in to a few companies in a different industry who don’t have an open position listed, and telling myself I’ve been job-searching. You’re not really trying until:

  • You’ve told as many of your friends and acquaintances as can help, and asked them to let you know if they hear of an opening
  • You’ve looked at the websites of all the companies you’re interested in, in the location you’re interested in, for available openings
  • For any openings you’re interested in, you’ve tried to find out someone you know in that company, and tried to route your application through him
  • You’ve sent in well-written cover letters with your resume for c)
  • You’ve sent in well-written cover letters with your resume to the companies you’re really interested in, even if they don’t have a current opening listed

Well, then, what are you waiting for? Go start trying!

And tell us – what mistakes have you made while job-searching?

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