Your Career: Five Common Job Search Mistakes

By Kristen Harris

Looking for work might seem like a fairly straightforward process but, in fact, it’s quite complex.

There are several steps, a series of interactions, and multiple people involved in your search. Each stage of the process is filled with nuance and details. One false move can take you out of the running, and you may not even know it. The job search process is challenging and stressful enough without putting barriers in your own way.

Check yourself...are you making any of these five common job search mistakes? Be honest, or ask someone you trust for feedback. Sometimes we’re so close to a problem that it’s hard to have perspective. Once you’re aware of an issue, it’s much easier to correct and avoid that mistake in the future.

  1. A Mismatch between your skills and the role. It’s important to really know yourself. What are your strengths? Skills? Experience level? Interests? What stage are you at in your career? What you do you want from your next role? Once you’re clear on these things for yourself, then compare your answers to every role in which you’re interested. Do your strengths and skills align with what the company needs? Are you at the right career stage for the role? Does it align with what you want, personally and professionally? Do you like the company? Are you interested in what they do? No job is perfect, but if there is a significant mismatch in several areas, move on to the next opportunity. This is not “the one”.

  2. Cookie-cutter communications. We live in a customized world; don’t send the same message to every contact or in response to every job opportunity. Customize your resume to highlight the exact skills and experiences the company is looking for. Highlight how you’re a great fit for that specific role and company in your cover letter or introductory email. Technology means every communication can be specialized to the recipient, yet people rarely receive truly personalized messages. Make the person on the other end feel as though you’re speaking directly to them and their needs.

  3. Typos in your resume. Typos and bad grammar reflect poorly on you and your work. Resume reviewers will immediately make judgements, and often it’s a shortcut to the trash bin. Not everyone is a great writer or speller, I get it. But, even if you are, find someone to proofread everything for you...your brain often fills in the gaps, it’s easier for someone else to find your mistakes.

  4. Not being prepared for the interview. As an interviewer, there are few things more painful than trying to connect with someone who is clearly not prepared for your conversation. Research the company before your interview (actually, before you apply...otherwise, how do you know you want to work there?). You’ll know what to wear (if you’re still not sure, ask the person scheduling the interview), and you can ask about something they’re working on or a project that was recently announced. Have questions prepared; this is a two-way conversation, and you need to know if it’s a good fit for you too. Be interested and engaged, do your part to make it a good conversation.

  5. Not using your network. Go beyond searching job boards, it’s important to utilize your network. Start with people you already know, personally and professionally, in your community or school, through alumni associations or industry groups. Connect with people online through platforms like LinkedIn. Attend events where people in your industry would be, catch up with people you know and ask them to introduce you to someone new. Then follow the cardinal rule of giving before asking. Even though you want someone’s help, first ask what you can do to help them. By giving first, you’ll establish trust and truly build a relationship; people are much more likely to help or recommend people they know and trust.

Whether looking for your first job, next job, or dream job, eliminating these five mistakes will help you get out of the way of your own success.