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 judgments, 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.


Your Resumé: Is It Time for a Digital Upgrade?

First of all, let’s put to rest the rumor that resumés are dead. Passé. Outdated. Sorry, but they’re not. While the demise of the resumé has been predicted for years, currently they are still a standard requirement for most companies. Yes, you can direct people to your website or LinkedIn profile, and they may check you out on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and lots of other places online, but all of that is secondary information. The reality is that, once you get into the hiring process, most companies will expect you to produce a resumé.**

So, since you still need a resumé, let’s make it a great one! It’s important to have a modern and digitally-compatible resumé, especially in the creative industry. Take advantage of the opportunities technology provides to showcase your work, your skills, and your experience.

Leverage free software and tools.

There are plenty of online tools to help you compile and format a great-looking resumé. Templates are available in any document program, design software programs, on portfolio websites, and even places like Etsy. There are sites to create your own infographics, or you can build a separate resumé page on your personal website. There’s no shortage of choices, just find something you’re comfortable with that can create what you need.

Keep it simple.

Take advantage of digital abilities of the software you’re using, but avoid the temptation to overdesign your resumé. This document has one job–to provide information about your work history, education, experience, skills, background, and qualifications. Don’t let clever design get in the way of clear communication. You can use a nice color palette, tasteful fonts, and a few design elements, but let your portfolio showcase your creativity.

Communicate clearly.

Keep it simple applies to written content as well. Even if you’re a writer by trade, save the clever words for your portfolio. It’s okay to have a little style, but never at the expense of communicating clearly and concisely what you do, what you’ve done, and what you can do for the company or client. Skip the industry jargon, abbreviations, and txtspk; the reader may not be as familiar with these terms, and an ATS may not translate the words.

Make it compatible with an ATS.

See what I did there? An ATS is an Applicant Tracking System, and nearly every company that hires people uses a tracking system, human resources software, or some type of database to organize their information. Your resumé MUST have text that can be read by these systems. Confirm that any software or template you are using keeps the text “live” and does not convert it to an image. Don’t build your resumé in Photoshop, don’t convert the text to a graphic or image, and don’t reverse light text out of a dark background.

Include links.

An embedded link in your resumé brings attention to something you want to highlight and lets the reader easily get more information. Use them strategically and judiciously. Link to a few key items, like your portfolio, a website you designed, or an article you wrote. However, don’t rely on links. Readers may not click them, or they might print out the resumé to give to someone else, so be sure all of the important content is included in the document. Consider links interesting bonus material for the reader.

Emphasize skills and results.

Your resumé should communicate both what you’ve done, and what you can do. Highlight your skills, results, and achievements, either in text or graphics. A chart or infographic can be useful here, just keep it simple and clear.

Make it mobile.

Whether you use an online software, template, design programs, or create a web page, test your resumé on mobile devices. Send it to yourself and a couple of friends to test how it looks on various devices.

Have a printable version.

I know, it may seem completely old-fashioned, but you need to have a standard printable version of your resumé. It might be the online version saved as a PDF or a completely separate document. There are circumstances where you’ll need to email a document or bring a printed copy to an interview, so be sure that paper version looks just as fantastic as the digital one.

Have it proofread.

Don’t rely on spellcheck, have an actual human proofread your resumé for you. Spellcheck is great, but it doesn’t realize when you’ve used the wrong word, as long as it IS a word. The most common example of this we see is people listing their title as “Manger” instead of Manager. Both real words, two totally different meanings. There are also good online tools like Grammerly that can help catch these type of mistakes. 

Keep it current.

Always have a current resumé readily available. Even if you haven’t changed jobs, at least once a year check all the links, update your skills and experience and make sure the design is fresh and current. You never know when an opportunity will come your way


**I realize that someone will comment to prove me wrong with a story about how they got their job with a YouTube video or their Instagram account. That’s awesome and rare. Like a unicorn. Don’t rely on being a unicorn.