Five Mistakes That Can Derail Your Job Search

By: Ruth Anderson


No matter how much time and energy you invest in job seeking, critical mistakes can derail your efforts. Consider the following job search scenario. Each of the mistakes described below can put your job search off track, but all are easy to avoid.

Mistake #1: Starting with a Handicap

Your job search is underway. Time to get out your resume, dust it off, and add your most recent experience… Right?

Wrong. A strong job search starts with strategizing, and a strong resume should be the vehicle to put your strategy into action. It isn't enough to dust off an old resume – you need a revised resume that is tailored to a specific position and a specific employer.

Ask yourself… What are the top needs and preferences of this employer? How can you address the employer’s needs with specific information about your experience, strengths, and accomplishments? And how can you structure your resume to convey this key information in a quick, 30-second scan?

To avoid mistake #1, assume that your resume is much more than a personal history that simply needs a little updating. Start with a strategy, and rewrite your resume so that it speaks directly to the interests and concerns of the employer who will read it.

Mistake #2: Sending Less-Than-Your-Best

Your resume is done, and you’ve written a cover letter to accompany it. Now you’re ready to drop both in the mail in response to a job ad that especially interests you… Right?

Wrong. Have you first made very sure that you’re not sending out less than your best? Many job seekers fail to realize that both the resume and the cover letter are seen as examples of the quality of their work.

This means that all aspects of overall quality are important – including spelling, grammar, visual layout, organization, and clarity of writing. Errors will stand out like a flashing red light, and anything that makes the resume and cover letter difficult to follow may cause them to be tossed aside.

To avoid mistake #2, follow this rule of thumb: Have at least two other people read both your resume and cover letter before you send them out. Tell them your job-search strategy so that they know what you want to communicate to the employer.

Mistake #3: Cyber-Regrets

The employer has called for an interview! In addition, he’s asked that you e-mail a copy of your resume to another person in the company. That's easy – a quick note with a Word attachment… Right?

Wrong. A casual approach to the computer world can lead to embarrassing mistakes. Regrettably, e-mails usually can't be called back after clicking on the "send" button.

As before, avoid mistake #3 by treating any letter as both an opportunity to convey your qualifications and a sample of your writing. Avoid common e-mail shorthand and short, terse paragraphs – the former can come across as "unprofessional" and the latter as impersonal.

Finally, to be on the safe side, print out your e-mail and attachment to make sure that all looks well in hard copy. Then send the e-mail to at least one other person, and ask them to review both its content and appearance.

Mistake #4: The Missed Opportunity

You’ve prepared for your interview and thought over all the answers you may have to supply. There's not much more you can do… Right?

Wrong. Chances are that at some point in the interview the employer will turn the tables and say: "Do you have any questions?" If you respond by saying "no" or by turning to practical details ("What is your benefits package?"), this will be a missed opportunity.

To avoid mistake #4, think of several questions beforehand – questions that speak directly to the responsibilities and challenges of the job itself. Employers want to know how you think and what you would be like to work with; your questions are an opportunity to show that you can take on the challenges of the job in a constructive way.

Mistake #5: Letting the Ball Drop

You had a strong interview, and you're waiting to hear whether you got the job. At least now you can take a breather while you wait… Right?

Wrong. Until you have a job offer, assume that it's up to you to keep the ball in the air. First and foremost, send a thank-you letter to each person who interviewed you, making reference to one or more things that were discussed.

Second, follow up at regular Intervals to indicate your continued interest and keep your prospects alive. It’s tempting to hang back so that you “won’t be a bother” – but the job seeker who lets the ball drop may lose out to the one who is politely and persistently enthusiastic.

© 2005 Ruth Anderson

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Ruth Anderson is the owner of Vantage Point Coaching & Consulting and author of WRITE RESUMES WITH CONFIDENCE: How to Create Outstanding Resumes and Have the Confidence to Use Them with Success. Learn more about her products and services, including the unique INTRODUCTION TO COACHING and JOB SEARCH TUNE-UP programs, at www.vantagepointcoaching.com or write mailto:[email protected]

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