During the course of a job search, there are some common "blunders" that candidates seem to make over and over. Here are some of the most common that I have experienced over the course of a couple decades in recruiting.
1. Spelling and grammatical errors on your cover letter or resume. Take the time to use spelling and grammar check tools every time you update your resume, it is so easy. When a resume is riddled with errors, it suggests a lack of attention to detail and can easily ruin your chances of getting a foot in the door for your next position. Have someone proofread and edit your resume, preferably someone with a strong grasp of grammar and spelling! Seriously, another set of eyes will help a great deal.
2. Applying for multiple jobs within one company. This job search "blunder" can hurt your credibility as a viable candidate and quickly put you at the bottom of a company's hiring list. I ask why? Why does this seem like a good idea? It will get the attention of recruiters and hiring managers, but not in a good way (think eye roll, loud sigh or shoulder shrug). Be thoughtful and targeted in what position you are applying for based on your actual skills and relevant experience. Choose one position closely aligned to your experience and one that feels like the next step in your career whatever that may be for you. The first step is to get your foot in the door and get the initial interview. So, stay focused.
2. Failing to engage your network. Having spent over decade or so in various internal recruiting roles, I can tell you that candidate databases can be overwhelming and time consuming to muddle through. The unfortunate reality for qualified candidates is that a lot of very unqualified candidates apply to posted positions. It is easy to miss qualified talent sorting through a sea of resumes. It is not always the case, but happens more than you think. Most companies prefer to use an Employee Referral Program (like getting set up on a date), so engage your network of colleagues, friends and family to get direct access to the companies and positions you want to purse. Try to get introduced to a company by someone who can vouch for you. If you don’t know anyone at the company you are interested in pursuing, you can often research who the job poster is on LinkedIn and write a thoughtful note directly to that person. There is a caveat here, don't harass that person after you send the note!
3. Being unprepared for an interview. Arriving late to an interview, not having done any research on the company, not knowing about the position you are interviewing for or having any questions prepared is unacceptable. You have gotten a foot in the door and a seat at the table and you didn’t prepare? What? Take the time to prepare thoroughly. It demonstrates your level of interest in the opportunity and can set you apart as a superstar. Think of the interview as an audition. You won't get the role if you don't know anything about the play, understand the part or take the time to learn the lines. The bottom-line here is prepare, prepare, prepare! Consider doing a run through or practice interview with a friend, family member or trusted colleague.
4. Having a negative attitude. Whether you hated your last boss or you have had a string of bad luck in your last few jobs, stay positive! We all learn from bad experiences and failures, but the job search process is the time to create the upside of the story and remain positive. Think about how you will communicate any career setbacks or mistakes. The reality is that we have all made them. Be able to demonstrate what you have learned and how that will that prepare you moving forward? Keep negative opinions of past employers and managers to yourself. It’s like a first date; no one wants to hear about your ex!
5. Rambling on, not being concise. Get to the point, prepare to answer questions and provide examples about the position you are interviewing for as it relates to your resume and work experience. The job interview is an opportunity to position yourself for the role. Think about who you are and what it is that sets you apart from other candidates. Know what you bring to the table for the position and be prepared to communicate that effectively. When you see the interviewer's eyes start to wander, glaze over or look for time time, that is a bad sign.
6. Not doing your homework or assessing your potential manager. Do research the person who will be your potential manager. Check out the company's website, LinkedIn or Google. Inquire about the overall department structure, team turnover, and success stories. This is a good set of questions for human resources and/or recruiting while interviewing. You should also ask the hiring manager about his or her management philosophy.
7. Negotiating salary too early in the process. It's okay to share your current compensation and relevant salary history, but use the terms negotiable and commensurate in answering any money questions out of the gate. The reason is that you can price yourself out of a position or conversely, settle for too little. First, get the ball in your court by presenting yourself as the best candidate for the position. Then, you can focus on negotiating the right compensation package for the position you are being offered.
The list of job search "blunders" could go on and on, but these are the most common and avoidable in my experience. Finding the right job takes time and effort, but if you are prudent in the process, your chances of finding the right role for you will be much better and worth it in the end!