If you've been applying for jobs but don't seem to be getting anywhere, it might be due to your methods and not due to your skills and experience. It can be very frustrating when you're searching for a job to be consistently met with silence after sending in a resume, or to be met with rejection after getting all the way to a job interview. There are some very simple things that you can correct in order to give yourself the edge in the job-hunt game. We'll go through the job process step-by-step and point out the mistakes that are holding you back from employment. (Learn how to nail a job interview, in Sell Your Skills, Not Your Degree.)
The first step of the job-hunt process is figuring out your skills, experience and relevant interests, and putting those onto paper. The major resume and cover letter mistakes that will hold you back are the following:
- Poor Formatting and Ordering
You want your resume to match the job you want, so make sure it looks professional. Also, put your skills in the right order; this means that you should figure out what's most relevant to the job, whether it's your past work experience, education, volunteering or interests, and make sure that those stand out.
- Spelling Mistakes and Errors
Once your resume is content-ready, make sure it's error-free. Careless spelling mistakes show that you haven't put in much effort. Write your resume, re-read it out loud and then pass it to a friend or professional whom you know to be an expert grammarian with attention to detail. A lazy resume will get you thrown out of the job-hunt game before you've even had a chance to prove yourself. Do the same thing for a cover letter. Make sure it focuses on your relevant experience and briefly explains why you're best person for the job. (Learn more about getting help with your resume, in Resume Scribes Seal The Deal.)
Applying for jobs with a great resume and killer cover letter is certainly important, but it's also important to know where to apply, how many jobs you should apply for and how you should be applying.
- Looking in the Wrong Places
To get the right job, you have to be looking in the right place. Checking out just one general job listing will severely limit your job search. Though websites like Monster are great resources, you may want to look somewhere more specific. Most fields will have specialty online job boards and publications where jobs are advertised.
- Being Too Picky
Of course, you want your first job to be perfect, but it often takes time to get there. If you're only applying once per day to a very specific job, you probably won't get it any time soon. Apply to similar jobs or other jobs in the same field. You may find you actually like these jobs, and if you don't, at least you've built up more experience in a related field. Apply to many places and to an array of similar jobs to increase your chances. In the current job market, you're not going to get the first job you apply for, so don't apply once and then consider yourself finished.
- Not Personalizing and Tracking
Sending out a general cover letter and general resume will show the company that you're not taking them seriously. If you don't have the effort to tailor your application to them, someone else will. So, personalize each cover letter so that the relevant education and experience is highlighted, and make sure you address it to the correct person. Do the same with your resume; make sure it's tailored to the job with the most relevant points pushed to the top. Also, when you get a callback but are not sure when you applied to that company, it tells them that you're not taking the process seriously. Track each application you send, the name of the hiring manager, what the company does and when you sent it. (Learn when to do when you're losing your job, in Planning For Unemployment.)
Don't get lazy when you've made it to this point - things can still go wrong. Poor presentation, preparation and composure, and underengagement can ruin your chances at the job. If you get a job interview, the company is telling you that they're interested in you, but can still change their minds if you do any of the following:
- Showing Up Late
This is like having spelling errors in your resume or cover letter. It just shows that you're not taking the process seriously, and that you don't have your act together. Aim to show up five to 10 minutes early, to show you're prepared and invested in the interview.
- Showing Up Unprepared
Not knowing about the company, not having answers to the interviewer's questions, not coming with references, not knowing what you want from the job – these are all problems that make you come across as a non-serious candidate. Research the company and position; practice answering interview questions; bring your references and know what you can add to the company and how the company will benefit you. You should also dress the part – what they say about first impressions is true.
The Bottom Line
Following all of these tips will put you on a level playing field in the job hunt. If you avoid these job-hunt pitfalls, companies will focus more on your credentials, and it should give you an advantage over everyone else that isn't getting hired. (For related reading, take a look at 6 Tips For A No-Experience Resume.)
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