The 5 Biggest Mistakes Of Job Seekers

Experienced workers have a job search lasting about 43 days, and fresh graduates can expect a longer wait. Your search will be much harder if you make one of the following very common mistakes. Avoiding all 5 will not promise an interview, but hitting any might mean you are missing out.

Errors In Your Application

crumpled resumeWhen you are applying for a job, you should be triple-checking everything you want to send to your potential employer. Every job posting gets over 250 applications, and every hiring manager is looking for the fastest, easiest way to chop down that pile into something manageable. If you have typos in your resume, or misspell the manager’s name in your introduction or cover letter, chances are you will never get a call back.

Even earnest job applicants fall into this trap. If you are applying to many jobs, and making tweaks to your resume for each one (as we recommend), it is easy for a typo or two to slip in the cracks.

How To Avoid It

Your secret weapon is checklists. Surgeons use checklists to make sure they never skip steps, and you should too. You may want to customize the checklist for your own job search, but you can find a good template below.

  1. Does my resume and cover letter include everything I want it to?
  2. I have at least 2 keywords in my resume.
  3. I have at least 3 keywords in my cover letter.
  4. My resume has no spelling errors.
  5. I have the correct company name, job title, and hiring manager name (if applicable) in my cover letter.
  6. My cover letter is free of grammar errors
  7. My cover letter has no spelling errors
  8. I have included the correct attachments on the email I’m sending to the hiring manager

Applying for jobs you are not qualified for

tossed application

Another way to get rejected, and blocked from applying again

This mistake will come up more often the longer your job search drags out. As your savings start to run low, you may try to stretch your qualifications and apply for more jobs outside of your element – this can cripple your chances of getting an interview (and an offer).

The problem arises from what are called “Blacklists”. These are lists of applicants that a hiring manager was hit with such a bad impression that they basically strike the applicant from consideration at any other posts in their company.

If you are on a blacklist, that means that the hiring manager felt that you wasted their time, and so your name is removed from consideration from all jobs at that company. The most common reason to be blacklisted is applying for jobs that you are not qualified for. If the hiring manager thinks you are stretching your qualifications to the limit, or not meeting their baseline application requirements, you are risking the blacklist for that company, so not only will you not get a call back for this post, but probably any others too.

How To Avoid It

This is a tricky one to avoid. Hiring managers usually put far more “essential requirements” for a job than are really needed. You can usually safely apply to a job where you meet 50% of the required qualifications because of that. The real trick is finding out which of the qualifications you can ignore, and the ones that can get you blacklisted if you ignore.

Required education (bachelor’s degree, associates degree, MBA) are usually strict requirements. If you do not meet the education requirement, you better have quite a lot of experience to make up for it.

Certifications can be trickier. If a position requires a certification that you do not have, read about that certification before applying. If it is something that requires sponsorship from your employer, then you can usually apply so long as you express your intention on obtaining it as soon as you start. Having a pre-certification, like our Series 7 Course, is also a great way to get your foot in the door.

Being able to use specific software or have a specific skill is more lenient. These are usually more of a “wish list”, so having a couple of these will help, but you can confidently apply even if you just have one or two (if you have none, that is a red flag). Always use your head – if you are applying for a Graphic Designer position but you do not have the required proficiency in Photoshop, that can be just as bad as missing the Education requirement.

Cutting your job search short

confident business student

Just got his first call back

If you have been searching for a position for more than a couple weeks, there is no bigger relief than a call back or an invitation to an interview. Searching for positions to apply for, writing new cover letters, and constantly tweaking your resume can be an exhausting process, and getting that call back seems like a light at the end of the tunnel.

The only problem is when you decide to put new applications on hold while you wait to see how your interview goes. Before you know it, 2 weeks have passed, you finally send an email to ask how the interview went only to find out they went with another applicant. Now you are 3 weeks behind on your job search, with nothing to show for it.

How To Avoid It

To avoid this one, first you should understand the “Hiring Funnel“, as John Sullivan puts it. You were one of the 200 or so people who applied for this job, and the hiring manager picked out probably around 20-25 for a first-round interview. If you are one of these, you have passed the 90% mark, but you still only have about a 10% chance of getting the job.

If you are called back for a second round interview, then you know it is serious, but the hiring manager probably called another 4 or 5 people, so you are still only looking at a 20-30% chance of getting this job. Even if you hit the final interview stage, you are still competing with 2 or 3 other people. Until you actually have a job offer in-hand, probability says that you likely will not get this be their first pick, but there will probably be between 2 and 4 weeks between when you first get a call for an interview and when the final decision is made.

If you are called back for a second or third round interview, you can safely put your search for new jobs to apply for on hold for a couple days to make sure you are fully prepared. The most important thing to remember is that your job search “isn’t over until its over”.

Applying for too many jobs

Exhausted job seekerThis pitfall is the opposite of the previous – you are so concerned with getting an interview that you tried to cast a very wide net and make sure you always have applications sent out. This is a common problem because it is also a productive habit. Maybe you set a goal for yourself to find and apply for one new job every day, or spend 8 hours searching for a job every week.

The problem does not usually come up until a couple weeks of trying to meet your “quota”. As you move farther into your job search, the grind of constantly finding and applying to jobs will begin to wear on you, and quickly. This means you are much more likely to start cutting corners (not properly optimizing your resume for keywords and the job you’re applying for), make mistakes (more typos, less likely to follow your checklists), and apply for jobs for which you are not fully qualified.

How to avoid it

This might be the hardest one to avoid, if you are a dedicated job seeker. Setting goals for yourself is one of the most important ways to stay motivated and keep your job search running. It is equally important, though, to recognize when the grind is getting to you, and take a break.
If you have been at your job search for more than two weeks, ask yourself the following questions before you start to apply for a new job:

  1. Am I applying to this just to say I’ve applied today?
  2. If I saw this posting last week, would I have skipped it?
  3. If I got this job, would I probably quit within the first year?

If you answer “yes” to any of these, it may be a good idea to skip this posting and take a break from applications for a day or two, and come back with fresh eyes later.

Starting Too Late

out of timeAs we said in the intro, the job search process will last around 43 days for experienced workers, longer for fresh graduates. This application time is going to be stressful – probably a lot more stressful than any job you secure, so you should count your job search time as work.

A very common problem with graduating students or people who are looking to leave their current position is that they do not start their job search before graduating/quitting. This is done for a variety of reasons, but some of the most common are wanting a “clean break” (some space between school and work, or between jobs) and underestimating the competition in the job market.

If you start your job search too late, the total time you will spend unemployed will go up, but you also increase the chances of making any of the mistakes above. If you get call backs for interviews right away, you will probably underestimate the competition and think that your break was justified. If you don’t get calls for interviews right away, you may begin to panic and apply for too many too quickly, without giving yourself adequate time to customize your application for each job you apply to. Either way, you will always wish you started the job search sooner.

How To Avoid It

A question we get all the time is “when should I start looking for a job”? The answer is always right now. Even if you will not graduate for another 3 years, start looking for jobs right away. You may not start applying, but you will get to know the job market, and the skills that employers are looking for in the jobs that you want. This will give you an opportunity to cater your educational path towards the skills employers want.

If you are graduating within the next year, searching for jobs now can help you find what certifications you can start working towards right away to get you a leg up over the competition.
If you are graduating at the end of this semester, you should be searching and applying for jobs or internships as soon as possible. Companies generally hire entry level positions in cycles, so try to get any interviews you can lined up before you graduate.

Applying while you are still in school, getting ready to graduate, is also a great way to show initiative to potential employers.

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