For job seekers with extended job searches, panic can start to set in. Worries about paying the bills and advancing their careers can cause them to lose focus and inadvertently sabotage their job search.
What are these desperate job seekers doing wrong? Here’s a list of potential landmines to avoid as you’re hunting for new work:
If you can’t follow the directions in the hiring process, what makes an employer believe you will be able to follow directions on the job? If the job ad asks you to attach a resume, do it. If it asks for references, provide them. Demonstrate that you’re prepared and capable of following directions.
Don’t Make Errors
As an employer, I have little patience when you attach the wrong cover letter indicating your interest in a different job at a different organization. I am not impressed with a lack of attention to detail. Blatant typos or grammatical errors also demonstrate poor attention to detail and land that letter and resume in the “reject” pile immediately. And finally, do not send me your resume or cover letter in “edit” mode so I can see the changes you made.
Don’t Show Me Your Lack of Effort
Form letters are easy to spot. If you’re not interested enough in the job to customize a letter, I’m not interested in you, either.
Don’t assume you know what the job responsibilities are based solely on the title. Read the job description and refer to the job accurately throughout your cover letter. Go online and check our website. Demonstrate that you took some initiative and learned something about us. I happen to know that my name is all over our website if you just look. The fact that you found it shows me some initiative rather than receiving yet another letter to “Dear Hiring Manager.”
Don’t Cause Me Extra Work to Consider You
Many applicants don’t bother with a cover letter if the job ad doesn’t indicate that one is required. They often feel their resume is all that’s needed and that their experience speaks for itself.
Guess again! Don’t make me try to understand how your experience relates to what I’m looking for, and definitely don’t expect me to figure out what it is you really want to do next and why. Write a customized cover letter to address what I’m looking for and how your particular experience fits my specific needs.
Don’t Apply for Every Open Position Because You Like the Company
It may be easy to apply to every position that shows up on your electronic job board search, but don’t waste your time or mine. Read the job descriptions and apply only to positions for which you are at least partially qualified. Disregard this, and there’s a good chance that HR reps will get tired of seeing your name on the list and may ignore you for all positions.
It’s NOT All About You
The current record I’ve found is 34 “I”s in a single cover letter.
First of all, it’s not a good example of strong business writing to start nearly every sentence with “I.” More importantly, it is not all about you. I have a business need I am trying to fill, so your letter should demonstrate how you can help me address that need. It shouldn’t be a summary of your resume or a dissertation on what you really want or need.
Don’t Act Desperate
I’m very sorry that you’ve been unemployed for a long time and that you’re worried about making your next rent payment. However, that isn’t reason enough for me to hire you.
Acting desperate makes me think you just want any job and that you’ll leave as soon as the job market improves. While I respect your personal issues, they are not going to influence my decision and really have no part in the interview discussion. Please don’t cry. It makes my heart break for you but, again, it isn’t a reason to hire you.
Don’t Skip Your Homework
All the information you need is available at your fingertips via the Internet, so there is absolutely no excuse for not doing your research. Learn about my company or organization. Know what we do and who our customers are. See what you can learn about the department you will be interviewing with. Often you can also learn about the person interviewing you. Don’t come in and waste my time by asking what we do.
Don’t Ignore Me
If I go through the mountain of applications and identify a few for phone screens, you should be flattered if I pick you and step your preparations into high gear.
Don’t ignore my request. Don’t wait more than 24 hours to respond. Demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm by being responsive.
Don’t Forget to Say Thank You
This is the easiest way to stand out from the competition. Say “thank you” to everyone who interviews you. Send a quick email thank you and follow it up with a handwritten thank you note. Personalize each note to reference something specific you discussed. This is a great opportunity to reaffirm your interest.
An Interview Invitation Doesn’t Mean You Got the Job
I’m not going to interview just one person. Don’t assume when I ask you to interview that you have the job. Leave the cocky attitude at the door. It has no place in an interview.
Don’t Forget to Network
If you claim to be so passionate about this organization or a particular role, who have you talked to who works here or in a similar organization? Who have you talked to in order to learn more about this role?
Demonstrate your interest by showing initiative. Networking is the single most important thing you can do to land a job. Establish a network of contacts in your target companies so that when a job does post, you have someone who can deliver your resume and cover letter to the hiring manager with a note of recommendation. It works!
You should be spending 10 times as many of your job search hours networking as submitting online applications. Simply put, networking works.
Absolutely Don’t Blow Me Off
If you have an interview scheduled, either in person or by phone, you are expected to keep it. If for ANY reason you are not able to do so, you should call as much in advance as possible to notify the interviewer and ask for an opportunity to reschedule. If you are not available for the scheduled appointment and I don’t hear from you at all until three days later, you have convinced me that you do not have the customer service skills or common courtesy to work in my department.
While it seems obvious that these are things to avoid in your job search, many job seekers quickly get frustrated with the process and take shortcuts. As their anxiety level rises, they often ramp up their efforts on the wrong things.
Have a plan, review it periodically, but stick to it. Keep networking and stay focused. Avoid sabotaging your search efforts. Pay attention to the details to ensure success in your search.
Unfortunately, people desperate for a job think that sending more resumes to online postings increases their chances of getting a job. More often than not, when quantity goes up, quality goes down; it doesn’t make a difference and they end up being careless in the process, which only hurts them further.
The only tried and true job search tactics—proven to work time and time again—are the ability to demonstrate attention to detail and to network like crazy. Master those skills, backing them up with pertinent experience and a genuine enthusiasm, and you’ll be well on your way to landing that next job.
Lynne Sarikas is director of the MBA Career Center at Northeastern University, where she provides career management and job search advice to students seeking residency and full-time opportunities. She also serves as the voice of the employer from an internal standpoint, working closely with Northeastern’s corporate partners to identify their needs and support student hiring.
Previously, Lynne was VP of Development at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and held a variety of management positions, focusing on corporate relationships and new business development. She has also taught as an adjunct faculty member at Stonehill College. Lynne holds a BSBA in Accounting from Stonehill College and an MBA from Bryant University.