Stupid job search mistakes that smart people make

It doesn’t take a genius to see how easily these seven mistakes can sabotage your efforts.

Stupid job search mistakes that smart people make

Avoid these silly—and potentially disastrous—job search mistakes.

As someone who considers themselves to be above-average in terms of intelligence, you might think you have a pretty good handle on your job search. For instance, you know not to show up 20 minutes late for your interview, get your interviewer’s name wrong, or get caught in a blatant lie about your salary history. That’s some serious amateur-hour stuff.

But there are lots of goofs that even the most seasoned job seekers are guilty of that can knock them right out of the running, especially for competitive positions. That means, yes, even you can make one or more of these silly—and potentially disastrous—mistakes.

Avoid looking like a fool. These are seven of the biggest find-a-job faux pas to avoid at all costs.

Gratuitous grammar goofs

“There should never be a spelling mistake in a resume, but unfortunately it is all too common,” says Patricia Lenkov, a New York City–based executive recruiter with Agility Executive Search. Of course, you knew that already, but she adds to watch out for the grammar errors that spell check won’t catch, like inconsistent verb tenses and careless spelling (“ruining an office” versus “running an office”).

Inappropriate photos on your social media profiles

At the very least, your photo should be business-like and professional, but do a thorough check of the other stuff, too. “I've seen profile photos of people wearing a motorcycle helmet and sunglasses, with a rifle and standing over a dead animal,” says Lenkov. 

Outdated resume fluff

Using empty buzzwords on your resume like, “I’m a results-oriented, dynamic team player who can multitask,” will have hiring managers wondering if you’re trying to compensate for a lack of skills and accomplishment. The same goes for senior-level job seekers who only seem to mention accolades from the distant past.

“Companies want to see the candidate’s most recent work experience, typically going back five to 10 years,” says Adam Lederer, senior vice president, finance and accounting at HireStrategy, a staffing and employment agency. More important, he adds, under each position, you should have bullets that state your top achievements, how you saved the company money if you implemented a new process or procedure, and the goals you have achieved.

Poor networking etiquette

While you’re often told to reach out to your professional contacts when you’re on the hunt, it can backfire if you never reciprocate, or if you’re pushy. “It’s best to network always—not just when you are in need of something,” says Lenkov. Let everyone know when you're actively looking for a role because you never know who knows whom and where a new opportunity or contact can come from, she adds. “But always be grateful, and offer to return a favor.”

Ignoring your recruiter

A recruiter is not likely to be eager to recommend you for a position if you’re not reliable, punctual, or reachable, says Lederer. When working with a recruiter, you need to be responsive, as their job is to fill roles as quickly as possible.

And don’t take it personally if you get constructive criticism. “The candidate needs to prioritize the recruiter's calls and be open to suggestions and honest dialogue,” says Lederer. They know best what their hiring managers are looking for, so if you follow their advice, you can improve your chances of finding a position.

Resume gaps

Thinking a big stretch between jobs will go unnoticed (or fudging dates) is a big mistake. “A good hiring manager or recruiter will not only notice this, but will also be skeptical about the reasons,” says Lenkov. “It’s a far better strategy to come clean, even if you simply include a description like parenting duties or world travels.”

Making it all about you

Yes, you want to be confident and sell yourself, but you need to always emphasize the value you’ll bring to your prospective employer, says Meghan Maloney, branch manager, HR and administrative staffing at Addison Group.

Hiring managers are impressed when candidates can demonstrate their dollars-and-cents value, rather than give generic explanations of why they’re good employees. “Ask the company what you can take off of their plate if you were to be offered the job tomorrow,” says Maloney. “That way, you can show what you bring to the table and ultimately support the employer.”

Along those lines, school yourself on the company’s recent announcements and culture and study the job requirements so you have a better understanding about their overall vision and can share thoughts on why you’re a good fit.

Avoiding these job search snafus isn’t difficult–it just requires some attention to detail and a little effort. But it can make all the difference and help you stand out as a stellar candidate.

Do the smart thing

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to ace the job hunt, but there are a few ways you can make the process easier to manage. Ready to move your job search into genius territory? Join Monster today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent to you when positions become available. It’s a no-brainer.