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8 Job Search Mistakes to Avoid and What to Do Instead – Career & Professional Development

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There’s good (and not-so-good) advice to guide you through your job search, but not all of them will get you a new role. Every time you read our Cover Letter Templates and Resume Formatting Guides, there are plenty of other guides that will point you in a completely different direction.

That said, I think every recruiter can agree on a few objective things to avoid when looking for a new position. Below is a list of eight job-hunting mistakes you never want to make, and what you can do instead.

When submitting your application:

Mistake #1: Not reading job postings or ignoring instructions.

To make your application look good, double-check your job description to make sure you haven’t missed any important instructions or clarifying questions from the recruiter. This includes sending all the material in one PDF file and addressing specific points in the cover letter.

Mistake #2: Apply indiscriminately.

Job hunting is not a “numbers game”. The more jobs you apply for, the more likely you are to get a job. Choose a job that matches your skills and experience, and choose an employer that really interests you. The next time you see the job description, think about the type of work that energizes and inspires you and whether this role matches those values.

Mistake #3: Not Proofreading.

We all know that it is important to check application materials for obvious errors and typos. Nevertheless, the lack of proofreading of submitted job documents remains a significant factor in disqualifying applicants. Before submitting the filled application to the recruiter, he should check the cover letter and resume twice (or thrice!). If you find yourself making the same mistake in your documentation, see below.

At interview:

Mistake #4: Ruining your previous employer.

If you speak badly of your former employer, they may perceive you as not an easy person to work with. In addition, the recruiter will take your remarks and consider how you fit into this new role: What if I don’t like my new boss?

Even if you left your previous job on bad terms, don’t dwell on that experience in your interview. Think about what you have learned and how you will move forward (hopefully in this new organization!).

Mistake #5: Not paying attention.

Interview by phone or via video conferencing software may be easily distracted by their surroundings. Recruiters can tell if you check out during a conversation, or if you’re looking at your phone or other browser tabs even if you’re not in the same room.

If this bothers you, find a place free of distractions so you can focus during the interview.

Mistake #6: Not emphasizing role interests.

Of course, we all have our own visions of our careers and needs (financial and other) that influence our choices. But if you’re interviewing for a role, there must be something that sets you apart from all the other jobs you could apply for.

Recruiters want to know why you applied to work for their organization, and how to add to the culture as a team member. Remember to emphasize this point when preparing for your interview. Then I’m pretty sure you want the job.

Other mistakes to avoid

Mistake #7: Ignoring social media.

Failing on social media is embarrassing, but it can also cost you a job opportunity. To find out what Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo are telling the world about you, search your name on your friend’s computer or use Incognito His window. If you find something you don’t want potential employers to see, consider cleaning out your digital footprint before applying for your next job.

Mistake #8: Choosing bad (or fake!) references.

If you haven’t considered who you want to refer to before applying for a new job, let this be your wake-up call: Candidates get rejected 10-20% of the time after a reference check has been made.

Your reference list should include former managers and colleagues who can speak positively about your skills and experiences. For this reason, before sharing information with potential employers, it is a good idea to ask the recommender how they feel about speaking on your behalf. If they do, they’ll let you know in advance so they have time to ask others.

Overall, avoid applying to every job posting you find. Taking the time to read the role description and make sure the position you are applying for matches your background and interests can save you a lot of time and unnecessary stress.


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