8 common mistakes to avoid when job hunting

A job search is a tough process. As much as good (and not-so-good) advice is available online to help guide you through the apparent minefield that comprises the job search today, it’s hard to figure out the best way to apply to a job and stand out. After all, for every ninety-nine recruiters and employers who prefer chronological resumes to functional ones, you might come across one employer who likes them!

That being said, there are some common mistakes that job seekers make that make many hiring managers cringe. Here are a few to avoid:

When you’re submitting your job application:

  • Not responding appropriately to the job posting or following the directions. To make the best impression, demonstrate in your response that you understand what is included in the job description and have followed the directions. (In fact, not following directions is a big pet peeve for employers.) The job description may specify a particular way for applicants to respond or may include a question to be answered in the response, so pay close attention.
  • Not proofreading: Hopefully, everyone has heard that this is a serious problem, and, yet, the lack of basic proofreading of submitted job documents still remains a significant factor in disqualifying applicants.

If you need more support on how to analyze a job description before applying, read my article, How to analyze a job description before submitting your application.

When you’re interviewing:

  • Dressing and behaving inappropriately. Yes, this seems straightforward, but needs to be said: dressing too informally appearing unprepared and disinterested in the job and the organization are certainly problems to avoid. Yet a common concern is interacting with personal technology during the interview – answering the phone, texting, checking Facebook, wearing headphones, and giving other indicators that the interview is not the top priority.

While being invited in for an interview is an important step in the hiring process, it is by no means the guarantee of a job offer. Be sure to prepare!

Other mistakes to avoid:

  • Selecting bad (or fake!) references. References are almost always an after-thought for most job seekers, yet this is a big mistake: Nearly half of employers (47%) had a less favorable opinion of the job seeker after speaking with their references (23% had a more favorable opinion). A late 2012 CareerBuilder study showed these mistakes made by job seekers:
    • While 80% of employers contacted the references provided by the job seeker, over half (62%, in fact!) of those contacted did NOT have anything nice to say about the job seeker. Oops!
    • 29% of employers discovered that a reference was fake, while 15% of job seekers admitted to providing fake references. Clearly NOT a good idea!

The best approach is to avoid the instinct to apply-apply-apply for every job you see! Take the time to apply for the jobs you really want with employers who interest you. You’ll do a better job of applying. Consequently, you’ll be more likely to land interviews, and you’ll be more impressive in those interviews.

Good luck!


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Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and former Visiting Scholar at MIT's Sloan School of Management, Susan is editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org and WorkCoachCafe.com. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.
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