You’ve been looking all over for a job. But it seems no matter what you do, you just can’t land one. The stress kicks in. Constant rejection destroys your confidence. And your actions are showing that you’re getting desperate. Learn the top 10 job application mistakes everyone makes and how you can avoid them.
You ask yourself, “Why?”
You are probably committing one or more of the ten job search blunders of a typical high activity online job hunter.
#1 Your online presence is shocking
The first thing professional hiring managers will do when they are interested in you is to check you out online. So if you’re someone who regularly posts rants online: beware. Whinging, ‘venting’ and racy statements and/or photos turn off hiring managers in a nanosecond.
Posting angry twitter rants about popular personalities can reflect negatively on you. Same goes for half-naked photos, sexist or racist remarks and intimate details of any kind.
#2 You are addressing “To Whom it May Concern” in your cover letter
If you’re starting your cover letter with “To Whom it May Concern,” you’re not as concerned as you should be. What would you think if someone mailed you a cover letter with such a greeting?
File this greeting with smoke signals and pigeon post under old fashioned communication strategies. The employer should say who they want the letter to be addressed to. In other words, using “To Whom it May Concern” as a default greeting, particularly when the name of the appropriate addressee has been listed in the job ad or job description, is one of the worst job hunter missteps. If the job post doesn’t specify whom you should address, it’s not wise to resort to guessing games.
My recommendation is not to use a salutation at all but to use a subject line. Generic salutations are work-arounds that don’t work very well.
#3 You are all over the place
You are regularly booked into free or paid webinars, you download lots of job-hunting e-books and you pay for subscriptions to job lists. Yet you still don’t have a job. But you definitely have ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’.
Your high buying activity mode can trick you into thinking you did something productive. The reality is that you most likely fail to apply what those e-books and webinars coach you to do because you’re busy chasing the next shiny object. You’re trapped in a cycle of consumption with little or no action.
My suggestion: Focus on what you need to know and do. If a product or service is redundant or doesn’t help you achieve your goal, ignore it.
#4 You are a using “crazy” or inappropriate email addresses
e.g. pistolpete (at) hotmail.com (enough said).
Choose something that’s neutral and that won’t cause embarrassment if you have to spell it out for your conservative grandparents. An email like [email protected] is ideal. Avoid numbers, ‘XXX’, ‘xoxo’ or any nicname no matter how innocent or hilarious you think it may be.
#5 Your greed dictates your job search
Never let the job hunt be all about the money. Money is important, we all know that, online or off, but don’t let it be your only requirement. Doing so will blind you from considering other aspects of the job that may later put you in a position you’d pay a lot to get away from.
Instead of making it all about the dollars, look into:
- Relationships: how does this contractor, client or employer work with freelancers or employees?
- Career development: can this company help you with your professional growth?
- Work-life balance: what is on offer with this employer?
- Autonomy: Will you have creative or other freedom(s)?
#6 Your heart is not in it
If you fail to customise and update your cover letter, resume and online profile — or you don’t even have all of the above — then you better start now. Update your skills and use the right keywords for the job you hope to land. If you’re a freelancer looking for online work, optimise your profile on job sites.
The jobs don’t come to you. You have to do the work:
- Network and reach out to make the connections.
- Work on updating your skills or acquiring new ones to avoid intellectual stagnation.
- Commit to regular exercise and take care of yourself.
#7 You come across as smug and it’s not helping your cause
How cool… You held a senior position in your previous job? You were the CEO of a Start-Up? You were a big shot in Uni? You are the Stephen Hawking in your field?
Let me tell you what you really need. You need to get over it. Surely, no one wants to come across as needy when looking for a job. But that doesn’t mean you should refuse to ask for referrals or even ask around for job opportunities.
Asking for help doesn’t make you less of a professional. It shows humility and more importantly activity, which is something that is not only important for your own sanity, but also for the sanity of those who support you. (Click here to Tweet this thought.) And many employers would rather work with a humble yet confident person than a self-entitled smarty-pants.
#8 You are firing off hundreds of blanks
You fire off applications to too many different job openings without caring about the detail in the posted qualifications hoping that you’ll just get lucky. Seriously?!
The most crucial gluttonous mistakes you can commit when you do this, includes:
- Applying for positions that require qualifications you lack.
- Sending the same application to multiple recruiters and hiring managers without customisation.
- Submitting the same application for different positions in the same company (yes, this does happen, I’m not kidding).
When you apply for a job, take time to get to know the company. If you play it like a game of luck instead of a professional application process, you hurt your chances of getting employed.
#9 You radiate stress instead of inspiration
I like career success stories like most people who are involved in job hunting. They are great because they give proof of what’s possible. But watch yourself once you start feeling jealous of the success of others. Use success stories as inspiration and not a source of envy.
Don’t diminish your own successes because of other success stories. Be kind to yourself and stop comparing your accomplishments, or lack thereof, to others’.
- Your job hunt is about finding the job you want, not somebody else’s.
- Redeem yourself.
- Knowing which mistakes to avoid can go a long way in helping you secure the job you want.
- Apply for the positions you’re qualified for, work a little harder and focus a little more, so you can shorten your unemployment period.
#10 You are inventing careers and skills
Some studies I read recently have indicated as many as 35% of resumes contain some form of deceptive past employment information. There are even websites that have a network of phoney companies that will act as a past employer, verifying a job history that never existed. I have seen resume cases where the applicants declared they have worked for an employer that had already gone out of business. Many times applicants will claim a degree or qualification they have not earned.
Most hiring professionals generally expect this sort of dishonesty, which means they are on the lookout. Not every company checks these things, of course. But the world is increasingly smarting up and there are tonnes of tools available to check your story. So, keep it honest and simply stick to the truth if you want the job.
No one wants to buy a complicated story. Keep your job hunt focused, keep your energy up, remain structured and disciplined, stick to the truth and always remember to hunt wisely!
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