7 Tiny Job Search Mistakes Even The Savviest People Make

How to get your dream job.

Woman feeling deaf eater applying for jobs Ron Lach | Pexels 

It can be discouraging to be on a job search with no success, and your self-esteem can take a beating. But getting hired doesn't have to be so difficult when you know the best ways to present yourself. Even if you're the perfect candidate, you might unknowingly be making some of the most common job search mistakes around — ones that are stopping you from landing your dream job.

If you feel stuck and exasperated with your search, you're not alone. Some people have sent out scores of applications only to get called for a handful of interviews — if that. Some jobs indeed receive hundreds of applications, and competition can be very tight, depending on the role.


That being the case, it pays to make sure that you get yourself in the recruiter's "yes" pile. After you get past the first hurdle in the selection process, you need to keep up the momentum and present your best self to keep the hiring team interested in you. So, what are recruiters and hiring managers looking for during the hiring process?

  • Evidence that you've read and understood the job posting and application process
  • Use of keywords that scream "job fit"
  • Demonstrated enthusiasm for the role and organization
  • Confidence that your experience and behaviors will predict your future job performance
  • A compelling reason to hire you over other candidates

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Here are 7 tiny job search mistakes even the savviest people make:

1. Jumping into a job search

Many candidates want to jump into the job search mode immediately after losing their job, but it usually doesn't help you find a job sooner, or the right position, either. Regardless of whether you're recovering from job loss or testing the waters to see if the grass is greener somewhere else, it pays to give yourself some thinking time. At a minimum, reconnect with your strengths and accomplishments and explore what's important to you in your next role. Deal with any negative feelings about your current situation, and you'll be in a better place to present your best self to an interviewer.



2. Applying to every job posting

There may be some merit in practicing your job search skills. Sometimes it helps to get out of your comfort zone and leap into the job market. But applying for every job you're remotely interested in is likely going to discourage rather than encourage you. Only a small percentage of candidates get shortlisted for an interview, and unqualified applications tend to annoy recruiters.

Instead, submit fewer, better applications. Take the time to assess whether the job is an all-around fit for you. If you've got the essential qualifications and you're intrigued, absolutely apply. But if you're not overly enthusiastic about the job, be honest with yourself about why you're moving ahead with an application or take a pass.


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3. Using an outdated resume format

If it's been several years since you've put together a resume, you're going to want fresh eyes on it. A lot has changed, and hiring teams are more scrupulous and leveraging technology to save them time in the recruitment cycle. Objectives, responsibilities, and references are increasingly passé, for example. A captivating headline, summary points of what you're likely to contribute, and clear accomplishments that link to the job posting will take you significantly farther. Make sure you effectively use white space and keep formatting simple so that an applicant tracking system can easily parse it, too!



4. Skipping the cover letter

I've yet to meet a job seeker who relishes the thought of writing a cover letter. Still, even if it's not specifically a requirement of the application, avoiding this challenging task is missing an opportunity to be heard. Busy recruiters don't have time to guess why you're interested in the job — especially when it doesn't seem obvious, like if you're applying to a different job or a new industry. A well-written cover letter shares something that even the most perfect resume cannot: it tells a story about why you should get hired.


Here's what else it does:

  • Demonstrates your writing skills
  • Shows that you've understood the job requirements
  • Humanizes your application and reveals your personality
  • Proves how eager you are to get the job
  • Makes the reader want to meet you in person

If you're struggling with writing cover letters, hire a professional so you can learn how to stand out.

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5. Neglecting to network

It's easy to let time pass without connecting with former colleagues, managers, and clients. Still, the best time to nurture your network is before you need one. If you've been busy juggling a family and a demanding job, give yourself some compassion. Then, get on with relationship building. Make a list of everyone you know who could support your job search and then create a plan to reach out to your biggest cheerleaders first.


6. Conveying an inconsistent persona

Whether or not they should, employers are checking you out online! Don't get yourself screened out by having a colorful online presence (unless the job calls for it) or not one at all. Take the time to review and scrub your social media accounts, adding privacy protections or deleting less favorable posts where possible.

Fun or cryptic email names can work for personal mail but can unnecessarily raise eyebrows on an application. Set up a generic Gmail account before you finalize your resume. Your professional and personal personas need to line up. Be clear about the company culture and vibe, and make sure a prospective employer views you as an asset, not a potential liability.

7. Winging it during an interview.

Interviewing has evolved. Relying on a strong resume and your personality — or even a personal relationship with a decision-maker — will not get you to the finalist stage. The number one key to success in interviewing is adequate preparation. Anticipate a variety of interview formats, styles, and questions. Study the job and the organization, know yourself and your accomplishments, and present your value with confidence. Avoiding these common job-searching pitfalls can make the difference between moving ahead in the process and being sidelined. Ultimately, you need to be yourself if you want a job you'll love, but putting your best foot forward can get you closer to getting the job offer.


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Lisa Petsinis is an ICF-credentialed life and career transformation coach who works with women to build lasting life skills — like confidence and resilience — that will help them achieve their life goals.