Given continued unemployment and an unstable economic recovery, you would expect job seekers to be doing everything possible to put their best foot forward in their job searches. In a competitive market they need to differentiate themselves from the many others seeking the same positions.
Imagine my surprise when I posted an open position in my department and began to review the mountain of applications I received. More than half of the applicants were immediately eliminated from consideration. They were making basic errors to sabotage their own job search efforts.
Don’t Follow Directions —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 it asks you to attach a resume, do it. If it asks for references, provide them. Demonstrate that you are prepared and capable of following directions.
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 your 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. 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 are 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 on the title. Read the job description and refer to the job accurately in 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 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 it doesn’t indicate that it is required. They often feel their resume is all that is needed and that their experience speaks for itself. Guess again. Don’t make me try to understand how your experience relates to what I am looking for. 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 am looking for and how your experience fits my needs.
It is NOT All About You –My current record is 34 “I”s in a single cover letter. First of all, it is 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. 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 have been unemployed for a long time and that you are worried about making your next rent payment. That isn’t a reason 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.
Don’t Skip Your Homework —Information is available at your fingertips via the internet. There is absolutely no excuse for not doing your research. Learn about the 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 and then 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 that 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 this 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.
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 are regularly sabotaging their own 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. It doesn’t make a difference and they are being careless in the process which hurts them further. They need to demonstrate attention to detail and they need to network like crazy. Your behavior throughout the process is an indication of how you are likely to behave and perform on the job. Be sure you are putting your best foot forward.