Even the savviest job seeker is bound to make a mistake here and there, but in a highly competitive talent market, a small mistake could cost you the job of your dreams.
“It is easy for even the savviest of job seekers to make mistakes. By learning how to navigate potential pitfalls from the outset, your job search will be more productive and yield more positive results,” says Ford R. Myers, career coach, speaker and author of “Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring. Here are the top 10 mistakes job seekers make and our experts’ tips on how to avoid them.
Mistake #1: Responding to Online Job Postings
In general, job postings and “want ads” produce little value, says Myers. Instead, he suggests spending no more than five percent of your valuable time on public job postings, and devoting the bulk of your time to productive networking.
According to the Jobvite 2014 Social Recruiting Survey, of the 1,855 recruiters and hiring managers surveyed, 60 percent said their best hires were made through referrals, reinforcing the importance of networking as a job search tool.
Mistake #2: Sending Unsolicited Resumes
Unsolicited resumes are considered garbage, scrap paper and wasted effort, according to Myers. Career consultant, speaker and job search expert Rick Gillis, agrees, pointing out that your resume is likely to get rejected by a business’ Applicant Tracking System (ATS) unless it’s specifically formatted and targeted to an open position.
“I advise my clients not to even waste their time. There are ways to beat an ATS, but that comes into play if you’ve made certain your resume is targeted to a specific, open and available job. If you’re blindly sending resumes, you’ll never get a response, and you’ve expended valuable energy that would be better used on networking or other activities,” Gillis says.
Mistake #3: Looking Only for Job Openings
More than 40 percent of positions are created for the applicant, often during an on-site interview; these positions didn’t exist before the right candidate appeared, says Myers. The key is to shift your focus from “openings” to “opportunities,” which exist nearly everywhere.
“We had a woman come to interview for an administrative position,” says Doug Mitchell, CEO of direct sales company Solutions, “She knew everything there was to know about our company, what we did and while she’d technically applied for a specific position, she knew so much about the other aspects of our business and had suggestions for how she could address challenges and help out in other ways, I hired her on the spot – for a different job. Now, she’s our support and training specialist.”
Mistake #4: Ineffective Networking
“Networking should be the primary focus of every job search,” says Myers. “The best networkers are listeners rather than talkers, have a clear agenda, and are not shy about asking for feedback and guidance. To network successfully, it’s best to remember that networking is a “long game” that may evolve slowly, but that can pay off over time. It’s best to have a structured, professional approach that you can easily track and that will keep you accountable, says Jayne Mattson, senior vice president of Client Services at Keystone Associates.
“Every month, set a goal for yourself of reaching out to three people. It doesn’t have to be in person; it could be sending a short note via LinkedIn or via email to catch up and see how they’re doing. Or, if you can schedule a face-to-face interaction, invite your connection to lunch and spend the time updating each other on what’s happening both at work and personally,” says Mattson.
Mistake #5: Leaving Yourself Open to Many Kinds of Jobs
While you do need to remain open to opportunities rather than specific job openings, it’s important not to cast too wide a net, says Myers. “Another key to a successful job search is to focus on finding the right opportunity — not ‘just any job. Before you even start your search, be absolutely clear on exactly the type of position you want, rather than focusing on one specific job role, and then spend all your efforts pursuing that sort of opportunity,” says Myers.
Mistake #6: Being Unplanned in Your Search
Finding a job or changing careers is a job in itself and should be approached systematically. Myers suggests coming up with a well-thought-out methodology, allocating time to daily introspection and planning, setting aside dedicated space in your home for searching, applying for and tracking the results of your search. You should also have a system set up to make sure you’re holding yourself accountable – applying for a certain amount of positions each day, making networking connections, reworking resumes and the like.
Mistake #7: Doing It Alone
Don’t discount the expertise of career coaches, resume writers and job search experts, says Myers. “Career coaches and other job search professionals provide objective guidance, help you think ‘outside the box,’ and provide a proven system for job search success. Many offer excellent advice on salary negotiations — often resulting in a salary that far exceeds the job seeker’s expectations. There are many kinds of career support, at various levels of investment. By all means, do get help in the search,” says Myers.
Mistake #8: Letting Others Control Your Job Search
While working with a career coach, resume expert or job search professional can be helpful, make sure you, as the job seeker, are always in control. Myers suggests working with only a small selection of professional recruiters that you’ve vetted yourself to make sure they are aligned with your values and your job search goals — they can serve an important role in your search, he says, but you’ll need to maintain control over the whole process. For example, don’t let recruiters alter your resume without your permission, and make sure you approve before allowing them to approach companies and opportunities on your behalf.
Mistake #9: Not Preparing Well Enough for Job Interviews
According to Myers, all job interviews are comprised of five basic elements: articulating your value, conveying your knowledge of the company, asking intelligent questions, negotiating compensation and following up.
Be sure to do extensive research on the company and the interviewer beforehand, as that can be one of the best ways to ensure you’re the top candidate for the position, says Mitchell.
“When you’re interviewing for that dream job, you need to be genuinely interested in the company and the interviewer. If it’s a public company, you can research it online or through sites like Glassdoor and Indeed,” Mitchell says.
Don’t be afraid of small talk, either; making a personal connection can be a great way to gain an edge. “Find a common interest, even if it’s just the fact that you’re both huge fans of that company. If you know everything there is to know about the company, what their goals are, who their competition is, what their challenges are and how you can make a difference, it will show outwardly and you’re more likely to be hired,” says Mitchell.
Mistake #10: Not Knowing Your Market Value
You must research and assess your value in the marketplace before you attend a single interview otherwise your negotiating without understanding the data. “The time to talk money is when the employer has made it clear that you are their top candidate, and after they make an offer and knowing what your skills, knowledge and experience are worth can make negotiating less painful, ” says Myers.
Tools like compensation benchmarking can help you decide what your market value is based on your technical skills, experience, and even geographic location, says Rebecca Bottorff, chief people officer at Bandwidth.com.
Bottorff uses PayScale.com to do compensation benchmarking and planning to determine the value employees have to her business, and also evaluate how new knowledge and skills should be rewarded. “I have the tools to see how my workforce has matured, and I know I’m paying for the skillsets they actually have and have learned. My jobs can keep up with the value of the employee to the business, and by recognizing that they are becoming more valuable to the market and paying them accordingly, I can reduce the chance that they’ll leave,” says Bottorff.
Mistake #11: Not Asking for the Job
One of the biggest flubs job seekers make is in not asking for job, according to Gillis.
If you’ve managed to avoid the previous 10 pitfalls and made it through a round or two of interviews, you may think you’ve got it made. However, Gillis warns, “Don’t forget – as much as you may think you’ve nailed an interview and that an offer is forthcoming, you need to assuage any lingering doubt in a hiring manager’s mind. The last thing you need to do after an interview is stand up, shake your interviewer’s hand firmly and state, ‘Thank you so much for your time. I really want this job.’ You must make that clear and firm, and oftentimes that has made the difference for my clients.”