From crappy resumes to terrible interviews, these 11 issues keep popping up for the modern job seeker.
Too bad, because the job market remains tough. Not as bad as it was in 2009 when nearly one in every 10 Americans were unemployed. But even in today’s job market, most jobs have dozens of qualified applicants.
Which means the most successful job seekers must avoid the most common job hunt mistakes…
Spelling and Grammar Issues
Let’s just get this one out of the way right now. It’s never been acceptable to have spelling or grammar issues on your resume. However, with today’s technology, it’s practically inexcusable. Here are a few tools to help you out:
- Grammarly | It catches more errors than your standard word processor and has a browser plug-in to help you with those online applications.
- Microsoft Word | Built in spell check for decades now. Use it.
- Google Docs | It’s a free online word processor with built in spell check.
It’s possible your resume has a few gaps on it. It could be the time you saved up and went to Europe for a summer, or the time you were laid off for six months. Don’t just leave these gaps. Always have an explanation ready.
Try not to use the words “fired” or “vacation.” Use “cut-backs” or “educational trip.” Failure to explain gap years sufficiently can cut your chances of landing the job. Employers don’t like question marks, so don’t leave any.
Not Following Instructions
This is a great way to ruin your chance of getting a job as soon as you hit apply. The modern job seeker must follow all instructions to make life easy for the person sifting through applications. If you don’t follow instructions, your resume may not be viewed at all.
- Did you attach the required portfolio samples?
- Are you applying using the right methods (online, in person, etc.)?
- Did you answer all mandatory questions?
Applying If Obviously Under or Overqualified
It just wastes time. With so many perfectly qualified candidates, don’t waste your time trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Unless the job ad says they’ll consider all skill levels, they almost certainly won’t.
However, you do have a slim chance if you’re slightly overqualified. In a tight job market, it may be your only option. Generally speaking, don’t do it. It doesn’t often work.
Not Personalizing Your Application
It’s absolutely brutal when people use the same application information and cover letter for every job they apply for. It’s very obvious when people use terms like “to whom it may concern” and “applying for a job at your company” What company?
Templates are fine for your cover letter, but make sure the first paragraph directly relates to the job you’re applying for. Change all the “your company” references to the actual name of the company. These little details can go a long way for the modern job seeker.
Trashing Previous Employer
This does absolutely nothing for you. Nothing. There is no reason to trash a former employer. It may be easy to highlight how you were better than them, had better ideas, better ways of doing things, but it makes you look small and petty. Also, it’s a small world. The business community isn’t very large. You’d be surprised who the person interviewing you knows.
- Have a positive attitude at all times.
- Highlight what you’d change, while still speaking highly of the former employer.
- Don’t talk about differences; talk about similarities.
That 1980’s metal band t-shirt is great for an interview as a roadie on a local band tour, but deadly for an interview with corporate America. They always say “dress for the job you want, not the one you have” so that you’ll dress appropriately. You want to be seen as someone who would slot into the job nicely. If they can see you in the job, you’ll get the job. Do your research, and know what to wear.
The Modern Job Seeker Needs A Cover Letter
If you’ve never written a cover letter before, now’s the perfect time to start attaching one to your resume. Your resume is just your work history. Your cover letter is your sales pitch. It’s a chance to talk about all the great things about you that your resume doesn’t say.
- Be brief. Don’t fill it up with a summary of your resume.
- Talk about successes and accomplishments.
- Make each cover letter unique to the business you’re applying for.
- Be polite, and thank them for their time in advance.
Focusing On Past Jobs Instead of Past Accomplishments
Sure, your past job title is important. But what’s more important than the fact that you were VP of Sales, is that you increased sales by 440% in your first two years on the job. Potential employers care more about what you’ve done, than what you were called. Try to focus on results, and your interview will be much more impressive.
Just because someone knows your name, doesn’t mean they’ll make a good reference. Here are four of the most common poor references the modern job seeker must avoid:
- Family members | Of course they’ll be positive. They don’t carry much weight when it comes to helping you get a job.
- Anyone who fired you | This should go without saying, but people still use them. Even if the employer says they’ll give you one as they’re firing you, find someone else. They didn’t like you enough to keep you around.
- Friends and roommates | Almost worthless. They’ve never worked with you. They might as well be complete strangers.
- Anyone you didn’t inform first | If you’re using them as a reference, let them know. It’s not a great surprise. It can catch them off guard and who knows what they’ll say.
Great references from people you’ve worked for, people in community organizations (Scouts, local church, Rotary club), and those that hold positions of power (police chief, mayor, etc.) help. Secure as many as possible.
Not Preparing for the Interview
Preparing for an interview doesn’t involve much. A modern job seeker should visit the company website, check them out on social media, think of any questions you want answers to in advance, ask around about the company and expect the unexpected, etc.
Walking into an interview with nothing but confidence may work for some people, but most people need more. Bring an extra copy of your resume. Lots of managers are busy and don’t have the one you sent handy. Show up a few minutes early and don’t be afraid to ask questions. This shows you’re interested in the job and want to make sure it’s a good fit.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Come Recommended.