Well, it’s a brand-new year, the time for renewal, looking back and setting goals for the New Year. One of your goals may be to get a better job this year. Or, maybe you just want to be a superstar at your regular job. No matter what your goals are, January is a good time set some goals–personally and professionally.
If you’re looking for a new job, you’re probably busy setting up your resume, looking over job openings and maybe doing some networking. Looking for a job is a job. And it can be a frustrating job and unrewarding especially if you’re making some of the most common mistakes job seekers make.
So you need a job or need to find a better one. You do want to do everything you possibly can to get that job. But you can scare off a potential employer by being too anxious and annoying. On one hand, you want to show that you’re interested in the position. On the other hand you don’t want to drive an employer crazy by constantly calling, emailing and texting, demanding updates on the job status. You can come off like a pest and the last person an employer wants around the workplace.
Job seekers don’t realize how much of an impression they make by their actions during the job search phase. They think the most important thing is having a great resume and cover letter. It’s true you need those, but there’s a lot more that goes into making an impression on an employer.
After many years recruiting for all types and levels of positions in a variety of companies, I’ve found there are several mistakes job seekers make that drive an employer away. They can put you in the “no” pile. You may have heard these things in a career seminar or read in an online article about how to find a job. Even though you have the best of intentions, you could be closing the door before it has a chance to open. So here are some things to check, think about, or even avoid if you’re in a job search.
1. Follow directions. If the job posting says that you’re supposed to apply online, attach a resume, and a cover letter, then do it. If the employer wants a additional information, like a portfolio, writing samples, and references, they’ll ask for it. If they don’t ask for it, don’t send. It’s not that sending additional information is bad or incorrect. Every part of the job search is important. The ability to follow directions, take direction and follow-through is important in any job. An applicant who can’t follow directions won’t make her way to the top of the “call for interview” pile.
2. Attach your resume and any other documents to the email. I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten responses from potential applicants without a resume attached. They take the time to compose a lovely cover letter, and may even attach an application. The resume is the first thing that an employer is going to look at, because it not only tells you what the person has done but tells you how they organize information. It demonstrates how well they understand a standard resume format, spelling, grammar and formatting. It also reveals what they think is important and how well they express themselves. Without a resume it is very difficult, if not impossible, to determine whether a person is fit for the job. It also screams that this is a person who doesn’t check and double check his work. If a candidate can’t do a simple task like attaching a resume to an email, I wonder how they are going to perform on the job. And don’t expect the employer to contact you and ask for the missing resume. There are too many other applicants who follow directions to bother with someone who doesn’t bother to double check before they hit “send.”
3. Check and double-check. I used to say run spell check before you send your resume in, but if you don’t know how to spell it’s going to be very difficult to pick the right word out of the drop-down box on spell check. Most of the time the correct spelling is the first word in the list but not always. Spell check also doesn’t pick up real words that were just used incorrectly or were typos but just happen to be real words. Spell check is great, but you really need another set of eyes looking at your resume to make sure that it is letter perfect. One way to get your resume quickly filed in the “circular file” is to send it in with a spelling or grammar error. Your resume is supposed to be the best example of your work and if it has even has one error, an employer sees a big red flag saying, “Do Not Hire.”
4. Don’t just “show up.” In the past hand-delivering your resume to an employer made a huge impression. In today’ workplace, it’s very unlikely that showing up without an appointment and asking for”…just a few minutes of your time” is going to make a positive impression. More likely you’re going look like your someone who doesn’t have the good sense to call ahead to make an appointment or is so inconsiderate and self-important that you think the a hiring manager is going to drop what she’s doing to sit down and talk with you on the spot.
How you handle this most important aspect of your job search is going to give an employer a clue to how you would function of the job. Are you the kind of person that just walks in and expects everyone to drop what they are doing? Are you the kind of person who is insensitive or inconsiderate of others? How you handle your first encounter with a prospective employer indicates how you’re going to work on the job. You always want to make the best impression.
5. Keep it short. Resumes should be no longer than two pages. You’re not that wonderful, and what you have done is not that important that you have to write five pages. A busy HR Manager most likely won’t read five pages. He will first look at the first page summary. The same goes for cover letters. A cover letter is a teaser—a short ad to peak an employer’s interest. Use your cover letter to highlight and showcase those things that you’ve done in your past jobs that fit like puzzle pieces to the responsibilities in the job posting. Hit the key areas. Express your interest in the job and in the company. Thank them for their time, adding, “I’m looking forward to speaking with you and looking forward to meeting you in an interview. Regards.” Finished.
6. Don’t apply for jobs that you don’t have a snowballs chance in Miami of getting. Healthy self-esteem is a good thing, but if your background and experience don’t meet the minimum requirements and cannot be easily translated to the job posting, don’t bother applying. It’s a waste of your time to even send a resume and annoying to an employer. And we do remember names. There may be a job coming open that might fit you like a glove. But if you’ve already applied for three jobs that you were not qualified for, an employer will conclude you’re desperate or don’t know what you want. Not everyone is qualified for every job. Also why would a candidate with experience apply for a salary position paying $60K and an hourly position at $10/hour?
It’s one thing to lose out to a better candidate. Those things happen. But you first have to get the interview. You do that through connections or referrals or just responding to a job posting. If you are the right person with the right personality and the right credentials, you have a good shot at getting the interview. How you handle the first steps are critical. Handle them well, and you can be on your way to an interview and a new job.
Photo Source: Freedigitalphotos.net/Stuart Miles