by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Are you in the market for a new job, but find yourself struggling to find job leads or obtain interviews? Are you getting job interviews, but no offers?
The vast majority of job-seekers we talk with who are having a hard time finding a new job typically are making one or more of what the QuintCareers team refers to as the 10 deadly sins of job-hunting.
If you’ve been looking for a job for months with little or no success — or are about to start a new job search — review the most common ways job-seekers bomb a job-search, and then make certain your job-search avoids them.
10 Deadly Sins of Job-Hunting
1. Not having a job-search strategy. Any good job-search starts with a plan, a vision, and a strategy. Issues to address include the specific types of jobs you want to seek, prospective employers that match your values, and tactics for developing job leads. The more finely honed and developed your strategy, the more success you’ll have in uncovering perfect career opportunities. For more information, read this article: For Job-Hunting Success, Develop a Comprehensive Job-Search Plan.
2. Too little time spent on job-hunting. If you’re in no hurry to find a new job, passive job-searching may work fine for you. But if you are seriously looking for a new job, then you must commit large allotments of time daily (as much as you can spare, depending on whether you are working or unemployed) to the search — time that is well-spent uncovering job leads, interacting with your network, preparing or going on interviews, and following-up with prospective employers. Read this interesting account of one job-seeker’s time investment to searching for a new job.
3. Not maximizing all aspects of networking. Most job-seekers have now heard the statistics that show that the vast majority of new hires come from a networking situation, not from job boards or other job-search techniques. Thus, part of each day should be spent making new network contacts and talking with current network contacts. Take advantage of traditional face-to-face networking techniques, as well as online social networking sites. Consider informational interviews as a tool to build network contacts if you are seeking a job in a new field or location. Find more information and resources related to career networking and informational interviews in our The Art of Career and Job-Search Networking.
4. Spending too much time with online job sites. The big job boards are not useless — not yet anyway — but the time you spend on a Monster or CareerBuilder should be minimal. Better to use that time with a niche job board (by profession, industry, or location) or on each prospective employer’s career center. Most experts suggest you should still consider posting your resume on one of the major job boards, but don’t expect significant results. If you’re looking for job leads, consider using a job-search engine such as Indeed.com. For the latest information on trends in online job-hunting, read our latest Report on the State of Internet Job-Hunting.
5. Problems with your resume. The typical problems with resumes include lack of focus, including misleading or untruthful information on resume, and/or writing weak, unquantified, or nonexistent accomplishments (or focusing on duties instead of accomplishments). While networking is the cornerstone to uncovering job leads, your resume is pivotal to obtaining interviews. Your resume, as your main marketing document to prospective employers, must have a sharp focus, be tailored to each specific employer and job, include only relevant information, provide quantifiable accomplishments, contain no errors of facts or writing, and entice the reader to want to meet you for an interview. Find all the resume help you need — resume tools, samples, articles, tutorials, and more — in our Resume and CV Resources for Job-Seekers.
6. Lack of clear positioning, branding, digital presence. If you can’t clearly and concisely discuss who you are and what you want, how do you expect an employer to figure it out? While marketing and IT may not be your core strengths, you need to learn some elements of both if you want to have greater job-search and career success. Start with the basics, such as developing your Elevator Speech and resume, but move forward with online measures, such as developing a professional profile on LinkedIn. Ideally, you’ll get to buying your domain name and developing a branded Website that includes key information about who you are — as a professional. As part of the hiring process, more and more employers are conducting online searches of candidates. Learn more — and find great tools — about elevator speeches, personal branding, digital presence, and self-marketing — in our Personal Branding & Career Self-Marketing Tools for Job-Seekers and Career Activists.
7. Not keeping current with skills, emerging technologies, or certifications. One of the biggest mistakes of mid-career and older job-seekers that we see is that they stop learning new and emerging technologies and techniques — encouraging the stereotype that old dogs can’t learn new tricks. Lifelong learning and professional development is essential in all career fields. Ideally, your current employer provides you with a professional development allotment, but if not, pay for the training, certifications, and education yourself. Besides staying current in your field, attending classes and professional meetings are also great methods of meeting new people and building your network.
8. Aiming too high or too low — feeling overqualified or underqualified for many job openings. You are wasting much of your time and energy if you are applying to jobs that are too far below you — or way too much of a stretch. Take the Goldilocks approach and seek out jobs that are just right for the next step in your career. If you have a reason for seeking a position in which you are overqualified, such as you are looking for a less stressful job, and thus applying for positions that make you appear overqualified, carefully address that issue to even be considered. Underqualified? There’s no harm in making a case for a job that is a stretch from your current work — but you’ll need solid credentials and a great sales technique to even get considered. Overqualified? Read our article, Fighting the Overqualified Label: 10 Tactics for a Successful Job-Search. Underqualified? Read our article, Underqualified? Ten Tips to Inspire Employers to Take a Leap of Faith.
9. Poor job interview preparation and/or weak interviewing skills. When we talk with employers, we hear the horror stories of job-seekers who arrive for interviews either completely unprepared or clueless about how badly they interview. Once your networking and resume get you in the door, your focus should be on researching the organization, both for its interviewing approach and to prepare you to ask and answer interview questions. We recommend job-seekers anticipate the most likely questions that will be asked and prepare strong and relevant responses. If you have had trouble with previous interviews, conduct mock interviews and other practice techniques to get you ready for the big day. Finally, remember the importance of first impressions and dress professionally, make eye contact and smile, and always greet the interviewer(s) with a firm, dry handshake. Find all the interviewing help you need — interviewing database, common questions asked, behavioral and traditional interviewing articles and tutorials, and more — in our Guide to Job Interviewing Resources.
10. Little or no follow-up. The burden is always on the job-seeker to follow-up with employers about potential job leads and after job interviews. While some employers may contact you, most are too busy with other obligations and responsibilities. While it’s harder to follow-up all your job applications, do the best you can because your persistence will lead to interviews. Similarly, after job interviews, first follow up with thank-you letters to each person who interviewed you, but also continue to follow up with the hiring manager and/or key contact to show your continued interest and enthusiasm for the position. Read our articles, Follow Up All Job Leads: Don’t Wait by the Phone (or Computer), FAQs About Thank You Letters, and Job Interview Follow-Up Do’s and Don’ts.
Final Thoughts on Job-Hunting Failure — and How to Avoid It
If you take away only three concepts from this list of 10 deadly job-seeker sins, take away the three most important aspects of a good job-search: strong use of networking, well-written and focused resume, and effective interview preparation and delivery.
Finally, one other area that many job-seekers feel inadequate is salary negotiation. It’s important to know when to anticipate a job offer and how to negotiate the salary or other aspects of the job offer. Learn more in our Salary Negotiation and Job Offer Tools and Resources.
Still stumped — or looking for more advice, resources, and tools? Go to our Career Resources Toolkit for Job-Seekers.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
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