Surprising Job Search Mistakes: Sometimes it’s Better NOT to Work Hard

Photo of a road sign that reads "oops."

As you search through postings and apply for open positions, it's never a bad idea to showcase the kinds of traits all employers tend to look for, like a strong work ethic, determination, commitment and a willingness to do what you're told. Regardless of your industry, you'll increase your odds if you present yourself as a person who's tenacious and unwilling to give up.

At the same time, some of the worst and most common job search mistakes result from a kind of tunnel vision that causes applicants to focus so intently on displaying tenacity that they end up ignoring red flags, wasting time, tolerating abuse and accepting second rate offers. Don't let these things happen to you. Stay alert to the mistakes below and recognize when your single minded focus may actually be pushing your career off course.

1. Working around a dysfunctional application system

If an employer uses an online application system that requires candidates to type answers into a series of little boxes, box after box and page after page, be patient and do as you're asked…up to a point. It's okay to ask candidates to tolerate a tedious application process, but it's not okay if the system constantly breaks, freezes, seems woefully outdated or is riddled with broken links. Don't spend all afternoon on one application for a clearly disorganized company. Cut your losses and move on.

2. Spending too much time researching the company

Candidates are usually advised to "research the company" before applying. But this doesn't mean memorizing the company's sales numbers during the past twelve years and being able to rattle them off if asked. First, you won't be asked. And second, too much time spent on company research—especially before you've landed an interview—can cut into job search time that could be spent in a more valuable way.

3. Waiting by the phone

After your interview, send a thank you note and follow up by phone or email in two days if you haven't heard back. But while you're following up and waiting for an answer, continue reaching out to other companies. Never put your job search on hold to wait by the phone for a single employer.

4. Accepting disrespectful behavior from an employer

Baiting, demeaning or aggressive questions during an interview should serve as a red flag. Employers should also never change a decision timeline without keeping the candidate posted. Nor should they leave a candidate sitting in silence for more than a week after an interview. All of these behaviors suggest a rocky working relationship, even if you make it through the final round.

5. Writing each cover letter from scratch

Tweak your cover letter for every application you submit, but don't rewrite the entire thing from scratch. Use a basic, general letter as a template and you'll save time and reach several more employers every day.

6. Spending too much to travel to an interview

If the company can't afford to cover your travel expenses to the interview, it's okay to foot the bill on your own…but only if the cost is reasonable and you really, really want the job. Interview travel expenses should be considered a gamble, not an investment.

Be Willing to Go the Extra Mile…But Not Two Miles

Be tenacious, but until you land a job and form a mutual agreement with a company you respect, put yourself, your own time and your own resources first. For more guidance on where to draw the line, reach out to the experts at LiveCareer. We have the resume building tools and interview tips you need to keep your search efficient, focused and on track.

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