16 job search behaviors that are causing you unnecessary stress

Refresh-refresh-refresh goes the inbox.

“What if I made a typo in that last application?”

“Are they going to call me already, or what?!”

The wait to hear “You’re hired!” (or even, “When can you come in for an interview?”) can be very daunting even for the most patient among us. Whether you’ve been refreshing your inbox every few minutes or spending precious time searching for the latest news about your favorite organization, taking a step back and noting the effect these behaviors have on your well-being and morale can be quite eye-opening.

It’s natural to want to feel like you are being proactive every moment (especially when you need to find a source of income), but some of these behaviors just won’t help your cause. Review the list below for some a-ha moments and tips for combating the urge to behave in those ways:

Applying for the job

  • Tinkering with margins and fonts to keep your resume one page. ← It’s not uncommon for resumes to be two pages. If you have relevant, wow-worthy content, you can go on to a second page. Don’t stress this one!
  • Applying for a job you were excited about and then reading negative employee reviews. ← Sure, you may need a job, but take reviews with a grain of salt as most of them will biased one way or another. If you are selected for an interview, you can use it as an opportunity to make up your own mind. Or, if what you read is so egregious you can’t bear to accept, decline the interview.
  • Not having a contact at the organization. ←  It helps when you know someone, but don’t keep yourself up at night trying to make a connection. Instead, focus on the contacts you do have and how to reconnect with the people who are currently in your network. (Who knows, maybe they will know someone who knows someone!)
  • Noticing a typo…after submitting your application. ← If your application has already been sent, it’s a little too late to worry about that now! If you find that you sent something with a typo or other error, it’s best to move on and do better next time. (Also be sure to get someone to proofread your documents!)
  • Avoiding an application because you don’t have X experience. ← The decision to hire is made up of many factors. Having the right experience is of course a notable one, but organizational fit, personality, and passion for the cause also carries weight. If you meet the 80/20 rule (you can meet at least 80% of the requirements assuming the remaining 20% aren’t major), consider applying.

Waiting for a response

  • Refreshing your inbox to see if you missed an email. ←  You can easily overcome this by doing a search in your inbox for the company name and being sure to check your spam folder on a regular basis (once or twice a day is sufficient- you don’t need to keep refreshing).
  • Checking your phone to see if you missed a call or voicemail.  ← Be sure to personalize your voicemail greeting and state your first and last name so the caller knows they called the correct person. If you are uncomfortable stating your full name in your greeting, give your phone number (“You have reached 555-555-5555”).
  • Continuously checking to see if the listing has been reposted or updated. ← What good does this do? Like this article from The Muse suggests, a reposted listing does not work as a good indicator of whether you’re no longer in the running for a job. Instead, do a search for recently posted jobs that match your criteria, and select the one you want to apply to next.
  • Sending a box of chocolates or a plant to the hiring manager. ← These efforts are likely to annoy rather than impress. In fact, a hiring manager recently shared with us that she cannot legally give preference to candidates who send such gifts. (So save the flowers for a loved one and put your efforts—and funds—elsewhere.)

Preparing for (or during) the interview

  • Matching your interview outfit to the organization’s logo colors ← A fun idea, but totally not necessary!
  • Fretting over the pronunciation of a hiring manager’s name. ← If you are unsure, simply ask! If you have the number to their direct line, you can call it after hours and listen to how they pronounce their name in their voicemail greeting.
  • Memorizing every detail of the organization. ← Not necessary. You’ll want a few facts to be top of mind—like any recent news or programs—but you can alway include a “cheat sheet” in your folder or portfolio to help jog your memory. You won’t be expected to remember everything.
  • Finding out whether your interviewer is a cat person or a dog person (and other personal details). ← It’s nice to connect on a personal level, but it’s better when it happens naturally and isn’t “forced.” In your attempts to establish rapport, focus on having a conversation with the interviewer by asking questions throughout and having a few good stories of your own to share.
  • Trying to figure out how the competition stacks up. ← Chances are you will never get an inkling of insight into this. Definitely not worth your precious sleep and peace of mind to worry about this. Better to put your emphasis on being your very best “you.”
  • Having only one suit when you have multiple interviews at the same organization. ← You have a few options here. If your suit is in a dark/neutral color and doesn’t have anything particularly distinguishing about it, just swapping out a different colored shirt, shoes, and jewelry/tie might be all you need to change up the look. Also, now that you’ve seen the office environment, decide whether it warrants wearing a formal suit. You could pair the jacket with a pair of dress slacks or a skirt, or vice versa.
  • Playing around with an online portfolio or website. ← It might help, but if you aren’t savvy in this area and the jobs you’re applying for don’t require the skills necessary to create something like this, don’t stress yourself out about it.

Some of the items on our list may seem funny or even silly (and they may have been added for that very reason!). You may never have worried about matching your outfit to an organization’s logo, but you can probably relate to taking on some other interesting behavior when you’re entrenched in a stressful job search. If you found yourself nodding your head in agreement with any of the items on the list, we hope our insights have helped squelch the urge to act in these ways and adopt practices that are a little more productive.

What behaviors were (or are!) causing you stress during your search? Share them in the comments.

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I became acquainted with Idealist in late 2000 while working in the career development office at a private liberal arts college in NYC. I used it almost daily to help students and alumni find meaningful careers. After a 12-year stint in higher education, I worked as a career coach for professionals in various industries (and still used Idealist). During one of those many searches, a listing really caught my eye- the one for the newly-created position, Careers Program Coordinator. So... I jumped at the opportunity. Since then, I took on the role of Manager of Career Content for Idealist Careers, creating career content for job seekers, leaders, and other nonprofit professionals. Understanding the roles that a positive outlook and holistic self-care play in career success, I've shared with our readers time-honored methods for improving confidence and productivity. Now, as Manager of College and Professional Development, my focus is on lifting the advice from Idealist Careers "off the page". Drawing from my experience in career development, I propel job seekers and career changers towards taking control of their searches with confidence and removing fear, uncertainty, and other blocks to success via in-person workshops and seminars, webinars, and conference programming. My great loves are cooking (preferably without a recipe, otherwise I doctor it up), dancing, live cultural performances, identifying the tasting notes in a good cup of coffee, exploring neighborhoods for hidden gems, and anything else that sparks the senses and allows me to experience all the beauty, dynamism, and intrigue that vivaciously living in a remarkable world offers.
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    • dindc
    • April 14, 2015

    I am definitely guilty of the “email refresh” obsession. Helpful article.

    • Amy
    • April 14, 2015

    Second-guessing all of the phrasing in my resume after I’ve sent it – “Oh! I should have put that first, and written this up the other way!” I do this under the guise of improving my next attempt but it never works. Every situation is so different.

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