No job or internship search is perfect. We’re going to make mistakes.
One mistake you can’t afford to make as a during an active job search, however: with every application, you (the “seller”) must pay close attention to what the employer (the “buyer”) wants.
Here are 10 reasons you, by not focusing on the needs of the employer, will not get the job offer. More important, each of the 10 mistakes come with quick fixes, enabling you to turn a fail into a way to stand out among your job seeking competition:
1. Not Paying Attention to Your Online Reputation
I call this the “invisible problem” because most job seekers won’t know it happened to them. With 80% or more of employers doing an online search about an applicant before contacting the individual for an interview, job seekers who don’t know what Google or Bing will show employers are taking a big chance, particularly if they don’t have a LinkedIn Profile to back up what is on their resume. While no one can completely control this aspect of a job search, you must be aware – and consistently manage your online reputation.
Quick Fix: The best defense is a good offense – know what is associated with your name and address any of the issues up front, if possible. A good LinkedIn Profile is a great offensive move in this particular game. See: Defensive Googling: How to Find (and Fix) What Could Be Sabotaging Your Job Search and Unlocking a Successful Job Search: Online Reputation Management for more details.
2. Applying for the Wrong Jobs
Applying for a job that is perceived as clearly inappropriate (wrong level, wrong field, wrong location, etc.) is the number one thing job seekers do to disqualify themselves. If you aren’t clearly qualified, resist the temptation to apply!
Quick Fix: Pay close attention to the job requirements to ensure that the job is appropriate, and then apply with a customized resume targeted to that specific type of job.
3. Lack of Focus on Specific Companies and Opportunities
Because of the level of competition, job hunting today is more like a marketing campaign than a job search. And few can be as well-prepared as they need to be without narrowing their focus to some specific employers and just one or two job titles. You simply must have a narrow focus on exactly what you want.
Quick Fix: It is so much more effective to focus on a group of target employers and a few specific jobs that are good matches for your skills, experience, and interests. Then, the LinkedIn Profile and resume as well as networking efforts function “in sync” to help make real impact. Without focus, everything (resume, etc.) is too generic to look like a good match for anything.
4. Failure to Demonstrate Genuine Interest
With so many job seekers “blasting” out generic resumes, applying for every job they see, employers are skeptical of any job seeker’s real interest in their job. If the recruiter can’t tell you are really interested in this job and this company… they’ll move on.
Quick Fix: Demonstrate your interest by sending a customized email or letter to the correct address, spelling individual and company names correctly, indicating which job you are applying for (title and any other identifier they might use), and where the job is located (if they have multiple locations). Then, list a couple of their key requirements plus how you meet those requirements.
5. Failure to Conduct In-depth Research
Job seekers who apply for jobs without knowing anything about the employer or who show up for an interview without having done enough research to have solid questions ready to ask, are going to lose out to better-prepared competitors.
Quick Fix: Take the time to thoroughly prepare for an interview. Follow the advice in “What Research Should I Do Before an Interview?“
6. Poor Personal Presentation
This can be everything from typos and misspellings in the resume, cover letters; to inappropriate comments on social media; to dressing sloppily or answering a cell phone during an interview.
Quick Fix: Be consistently thorough, careful, and professional. There is simply no room for error in this area!
7. No Expectation of Success
In a long job search, bad luck can turn into a poor attitude that sabotages opportunities. Some job seekers feel that no one will hire them – because of their lack of experience, or perhaps their sex or their race or some other unchangeable personal characteristic. That approach does not help them be perceived as a positive candidate.
Quick Fix: Expecting failure contributes to just one outcome: failing. Expect success. Greet every interviewer and networking opportunity with a big smile and a firm handshake. Good will happen.
8. Lack of Time Spent Networking
Someone referred by an employee is hired twice as often as someone who was not, according to recent research. In today’s job market, you must do everything possible to network your way into every company before you apply!
Quick Fix: Spend as much time networking as you spend online applying for jobs. And, networking isn’t listening to boring talks given in large rooms filled with strangers. Networking can be volunteering in your child’s school (particularly if you want a job there), helping your favorite candidate get elected, sitting at the sign-in desk for the Chamber of Commerce events, or talking with the people around you in the line at the grocery store or cheering at your daughter’s soccer game.
9. Failure to Follow Up
After an interview, follow-up isn’t just appropriate – it is mandatory. The failure to follow up may be interpreted by the employer as lack of interest. You don’t want to be a pest, but you do want them to know that you are very interested.
Quick Fix: Be sure to send thank you notes (or emails) after an interview. I would reach out after an appropriate interim (at least a week, in most cases), to ask what the status of the job is. Many recruiters will assume that you either are not interested or have found another job if you don’t follow-up. This particularly applies after you have had at least one interview.
As a job seeker, you have control over many critical aspects of your job search – but not all of them. After every interview and rejection, try to think of things you could have done better. Ask for feedback, and you might get it. And stay in touch with the people you have met in your job search. This effort will pay off, particularly if you were the candidate ranked No. 2 or No. 3.
Recruiters remember the good ones. Be a good one – make these quick fixes – and get the job offer!
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Work Coach Cafe!
About the Author: Job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased WorkCoachCafe.com; Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since. Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.