Diana’s Big Move: Learn from my job search mistakes

Don’t wait as long as I did to send your post-interview thank you notes. (Photo by Adam Selwood via Flickr/Creative Commons)

For those of you who’ve been following along, you know that I’ve spent the last few months preparing for my move to Boston. Now my move is just six days away. I’ve been spending my time packing up my apartment in New York, saying goodbye to friends, and of course, waiting to see if I get a job offer.

I finished up a few second round interviews since I last checked in and now I’m trying to stay patient. (I’m mostly failing. Props to Kim, my cubicle-mate at Idealist, who’s valiantly trying to keep me from wearing out the refresh button on my inbox.) I thought I could redirect some of my anxiety into a roundup of things I wish I’d done differently. Here’s hoping you can learn from my mistakes…

The search

Early on, my mindset was “I need to know about every single job that gets posted anywhere!” Seeing a huge list of opportunities every day felt reassuring, as if every job on that list was proof that the economy is on the mend and the world is full of possibilities. Obviously, not all of these jobs fit my interests or skill set. Consider this:

  • Current number of jobs in the Boston metropolitan area on Idealist.org: 695.
  • Number of jobs remaining after I refined the search to match my needs: 86.
  • Number of minutes wasted in manually sifting through irrelevant jobs: too many.

I quickly became overwhelmed and started deleting my alerts unread. Let our website do the work for you: target your Email Alerts to your needs. You may receive our notifications less frequently, but when you do, you’ll be certain that they are worth your time to read. If you need help setting up your search, just reach out.


Be smart about your online networking. Once I decided to move, I dove into my search so fast that I might have easily forgotten the basics. Before you start sending in applications or asking people for informational interviews, Google yourself and see what comes up. Try your best to keep your professional online presence separate from your personal one. If you tweet off-color jokes to your friends, you might not want to set your Twitter account to sync automatically with your LinkedIn profile.

As for meeting with people face to face: remember, we have tons of free networking resources, as do Ask a Manager, Echoing Green, and others. And check out this “Networking for Introverts” article we pinned on Pinterest today.


In college, my career center drilled into our heads that a resume* should never be longer than a single page, so I used tiny font sizes and messed with page margins to make mine fit. Guess what? One of my interviewers apparently had different printer settings and walked in with my resume on two pages anyway. So your time may be better spent re-reading your application for typos and making sure your resume is elegant, or going out for a breath of fresh air.

*Note: CVs are different; submit what the employer asks for.

Post-interview etiquette

We’ve hired a few new folks at Idealist recently and I’ve noticed that the hiring managers are surprised if they don’t receive a thoughtful thank-you email within a day or so. If you’re going to send a handwritten note, send it soon. I waited a little bit too long; by the time I was writing mine, I couldn’t recall as much detail as I would have liked. If I could do it all again, I’d jot down notes for myself immediately after each interview and write my thank you notes more promptly.

On that note (no pun intended), don’t leave your contact hanging. One hiring manager asked me to complete a written exercise after my interview; I got to work on it right away but didn’t think I needed to reply until after I’d finished the requested tasks. A few days later, I got a concerned follow-up from my interviewer, asking if I was still interested in the position. Oops. Should’ve sent an “I’d be delighted to submit this additional writing sample and will have it to you by [date]” email immediately.


One day, an employer I’d been in touch with said they’d make a decision “next week.” A week later, here I am, checking my email what feels like a hundred times a day. (I’m on email check #8 since starting this paragraph, no joke.)

Kim has suggested that I give myself a time—say, Thursday at 2pm—when I’m allowed to start to worry that someone else has received an offer. Until then, I’m supposed to log out of my email, assume the hiring managers are busy, and relax. This strategy has clearly not worked for me, but I wanted to pass along the advice anyway in case one of you out there will benefit.

Did I miss anything?

As always, please reach out with your own job search stories, advice on how to pass the time, or just to say hi. Leave a comment or email me at diana [at] idealist [dot] org.

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Diana's Big Move: The first job interview Diana's Big Move: I got a job offer! Now what?


    • Joanne Francis
    • May 21, 2012

    Thanks for the tips, it was very helpful.

    • Liz
    • May 22, 2012

    Being British, searching for the first time in a US job market, I didn’t know that there was a difference between a resume and a CV. I thought it was (like so many other things in British vs. American English) two terms for the same thing! Thanks for that pointer. And a good, sensible summary of helpful hints over all.

    • Liz
    • May 22, 2012

    PS – Good luck with your move!

    • Saint
    • May 22, 2012

    After so many tips, advices, creating a job-site excel spreadsheet for myself and implementing suggested reworks by career counselors, it is hard for me to think that I could do more than what I did; In other word, it is not something wrong in the application, the resume, or the way they look like.

    I am near the point of thinking that applying is not worth the emotional price I am paying (I do check the e-mail like you), the result is the same, a lot of the hiring people (not exclusively HR members) don’t act like professionals while expecting the utmost professionalism from the applicants, they forget people, lose e-mails and documents, and sometimes just go by recency effects.

    Outside of an insider (Networking) connection, applying has very small value, am not sure what else to do anymore. Applying is part of the problem, Networking is the only solution.

    • Tanya
    • May 22, 2012

    Thanks for the tips Diana, they are definitely not to be ignored!

    I do tend to agree with Saint above. It does seem like the application process is a waste of time sometimes and very emotionally tasking. As also mentioned, the requisite professionalism demanded from applicants is not encouragingly reciprocated. I think a simple note (email being the easiest) letting one know they did not make the cut is better than fruitlessly waiting after the interviewer and others concerned have promised to get back within a stated time frame.

    • Ronsheeka
    • May 22, 2012

    Good luck Diana and thanks for the tips!

    • Linda
    • May 23, 2012

    Thanks for sharing your experience Diana!

    • Alex
    • May 23, 2012

    Thanks for some advice that wasn’t idiotic. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read similar columns that amounted to “Take a shower before the interview.”

    Your advice was good.

    • Sasha
    • May 24, 2012

    Thanks for all of these posts. On top of the advice, it’s nice emotional support to hear from you and everyone else who is also job searching. I have a few thought related to your post.

    1. In reference to the email checking, I had an interview on a Monday which I thought went very well and was told that I would hear from them in about a week regarding a second interview. The following Tuesday morning rolled around and I tried to calm myself, not assume that they had picked someone else, and remember that hiring managers are busy people. Guess what? The call to schedule my second interview came Tuesday afternoon, which was about a week after my first interview.

    2. Yes, job searching is very difficult and emotionally taxing and, in many ways, not fair. What is expected of interviewers and interviewees seems entirely different. We, as interviewees, can’t do a lot about this. But we can ask what the interview process is, when we can expect to hear more, etc in a first interview (or pre-interview phone call). When I have asked this question, people are honest even if it means saying that they are not sure how long the full interview process will take. Most employees have a good idea of the time frame, because they know when they need to fill the position.
    We can also keep this in mind when we are on the interviewer side. As I am job searching, I am also hiring interns and trying very hard to provide them with the respect that I hope to be treated with.

    3. I’ve had 3 interviews so far. Two were related to connections, so I don’t know how much my networking played a role and how likely I would have been to get an interview on my own. One interview was for a job I applied for without any networking or connections. Just something I found on Idealist that I thought I was qualified for. This is just to say don’t give up hope on sending it applications.
    That said, networking obviously helps. There’s a lot of networking that you can do online, easily. I’ve looked at where my FB connections are currently working. When I apply to a job, I look up the hiring manager, executive director, etc on LinkedIn and see if we share any connections. I actually found out that an old boss, who is one of my references, knew a couple of people at one of the organizations I applied to work for. I contacted her and she immediately agreed to send a note recommending me.

    I’ll stop there, because this has gotten really long for a comment. Hope this is useful and good luck searching!

    • Saint
    • May 25, 2012

    Adding to what I and Tanya said above, the application process is too slow when applying for jobs that require “the ability to work in fast paced environment” jobs. As it stands, I have received three polite “unfortunately we are not considering you” letters today. Of course I don’t know why and I don’t expect to be told so which essentially means that I am probably going to continue shooting blanks in the dark.

    I will repeat again to my fellow job searchers, don’t fall into the trap of “some resume formatting/wording” , there is so much tweaking you could do after a rejection, find an insider as hard as you can, don’t rely on HR based applications, they are the black hole; I believe I got the “courtesy” responses only because the application correspondence was with someone who is not the HR but someone who actually spearheading the talent search on his/her own.

    If you can bypass HR, do it in a heartbeat, what is the worse that can happen ?

    • Anita
    • June 6, 2012

    Not to be a downer, but I have all but given up in my job search. I have been actively job searching for 2 years and have barely had 3 interviews. I have a college degree, federal experience and obtained a real estate license so I am not unemployable. The longer it takes the more it feels like nothing I try will help. I have tried networking and every other avenue I can think of. The rejection letters are growing and my confidence is shrinking. I have never shared these thoughts with anyone so thanks for the outlet and for the tips. Good luck to everyone.

    • Saint
    • June 10, 2012

    I have given up myself, I search halfheartedly and apply with zero expectations [and No, I have my resume and Cover letter reviewed to make sure they are mistake free since HR people and Hiring managers are professionals who don’t make mistakes].

    Thing is, will people remember this feeling after they get a job, will they have it when they are one the hiring side as opposed to the looking side ? who knows ?

    The only thing I know is that the facade of electronically advanced application process is more important as an image for the organization as opposed to finding qualified people.

    The only talent one needs is being an electronic keyword inserting genius and/or a sycophant to get to the interview and a double faced responder in the interview, no one understands and no one cares to, people make their minds with minimal knowledge of the humans on the other side.

    Sorry but this process has gotten to me. 🙁

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