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The top 5 job search mistakes you need to stop making

Make sure you’re not commiting one of the cardinal sins of job search.

The top 5 job search mistakes you need to stop making

Are you making one of the biggest job search mistakes?

You’ve been applying to what seems like all the right jobs, with all the right techniques, but you’re still unemployed. What gives? Well, there’s a good chance you’re making one of the most common job search mistakes.

They’re the most common because they’re the easiest to make. But you don’t need to be one of the people making them, right?  They’re easy to avoid—you just have to know what they are.

We asked career experts to weigh in on the absolute worst moves they’ve ever seen job seekers make—so you can learn from their mistakes—and get your job search moving in the right direction.

Mistake #1: You don’t know what you want

Hopefully, you’ve at least narrowed your search down to a job title (or three—we actually recommend using multiple job titles when searching for postings online).

But when it comes to your resume, cover letter or interview, are you able to articulate what types of responsibilities you’re hoping to have in a job? What about your ideal work environment? How about work schedule? These are all important aspects to consider before applying.

“Get specific—what does an ideal job look like to you?” asks Lori Scherwin, founder of Strategize That, a New York City–based career coaching company..“Envision it and write it down. Doing this can help spark new ideas about what you might want to do, and where to look for it.”

Come up with at least five responsibilities that align with your interests and experience, as well your ideal work schedule and work environment. Then, take that list and compare it with the jobs you’re applying to.

Does this mean tossing aside opportunities that don’t exactly match your list? Of course not, but it does help you hone in on jobs you’d more likely be satisfied with, so you don’t waste time applying to positions that aren’t a great fit.

Which leads us to...

Mistake #2. You’re applying to jobs too indiscriminately

In general, it’s a smart idea to cast a wide net when applying to jobs (remember, only for ones that resemble your outline!). It increases your chances of landing phone interviews, which are helpful even if the opportunity doesn’t pan out.

However, do not apply to more than one job at the same company. This sends a message to recruiters and hiring managers that you’re not sure what you want, and are desperate to land any job.

“Recruiters might actually ‘blackball’ a job seeker who applies to every single job opening,” warns career coach Dawn Boyer of D. Boyer Consulting in Sandston, Virginia. “This smacks of desperation. Also, the job seeker has no idea that one recruiter may have to ‘process’ every single application in the system.”

What should you do if you’re genuinely interested in applying to two jobs at the same company? It’s okay to mention that you noticed the other one in your cover letter, and believe you have the skills and experiences necessary for it—but make sure it takes up no more than a sentence of real estate.

Mistake #3. You haven’t researched the company

Put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes: you’re pressed for time, and need to make quick, but educated decisions about which candidates to call in for an interview.

 But all you’ve got are two pieces of paper—a resume and a cover letter.  

In addition to enthusiasm and professionalism, you’re also looking for cover letters that show the applicant has taken the time to research your company, and articulates how he or she will be an asset within that specific role

If you’re sending out the same, generic cover letter, you’re not doing that, and that might be why you aren’t getting interviews. Learn how to adapt your cover letter for each company, so hiring managers can see that you took the time to learn about their company and how you’d be a great fit.   

“Researching the company shows your ability to take action and initiative on your own, which is probably the number one thing we look for when choosing who to hire,” says Thomas Jepson, hiring manager with Contractor Quotes, home improvement firm.

Similarly, you’ll want to research the company’s reputation as a great place to work before you apply.

“By simply reading the company's Twitter feed, checking for recent news articles, and Googling to learn what other people have to say about a company can save job seekers future stress and frustration,” says Ross Wehner, founder of WehnerEd, a career coaching business in Denver.

Mistake #4. You didn’t follow up with the interviewer

Even though unemployment is low, the job market is still saturated with applicants. That means you need to be persistent if you want to hear from the recruiter or hiring manager.

“The odds of your application naturally rising to the top of the pile without any additional work on your part are slim,” says Zack Gallinger, president of recruiting company Talent Hero Media.

What can you do to stand out? A week after you submit your resume, if you haven’t heard anything, send a follow up email reiterating your interest in the position. And if you’ve interviewed, always send a thank-you note. Recruiters say that they can’t stress how impactful a hand-written thank-you note is—and how few they receive.

Mistake #5. You only search for jobs when you’re unemployed

You already have a job, so why look for a new one? Because if you totally shut down your job search, you might miss an opportunity that’s even better.

“So many opportunities pass you by when you are not actively looking, meaning you can miss the perfect position,” says Gary Romano, president of human resource consultancy firm Civitas Strategies.

And yes, we know. Looking for a job can feel like a full-time job. But luckily, there are some low-effort things you can do to keep your search “on” without focusing all of your energy in that direction. Join Monster, and you can set up job alerts, so you’ll get new jobs sent to your inbox. Plus, you can create up to 5 resumes, and by using the right keywords in those resumes, you’ll be searchable to recruiters who are looking at Monster every day for new talent.


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