6 job search mistakes you must stop making right now

6 job search mistakes

Job search mistakes can keep you struggling through a long and fruitless hunt wondering what you’re doing wrong.

If that’s where you’re at, stop doing what you’re doing right now.

Nobody likes admitting their mistakes, but when it comes to job search mistakes, you’ve just got to ‘fess up.

Because, chances are, one or more of these 6 job search mistakes is keeping you from getting any traction.

If your job search strategy is the same as it was a month ago, three months ago, six months ago, it might be fair to say you’re beating a dead horse.


1. Spraying your resume all over the internet

Recently a client visited my office to discuss job search strategy. Barely ten minutes in, I felt I’d been drawn into some weird game of whack-a-mole.

As we trolled job boards looking at postings (against my better judgement) she appeared to take some perverse pleasure in repeatedly blurting, “I applied for that one…and that one, and that one…” Finally, exasperated, she exclaimed “I sent out 200 resumes last week!””

Ding, ding, ding! Give the lady a cupie doll! In the game of job search, this player is hands-down the big winner in the resume-spraying category!

It is a sadly misguiding myth that if you send out enough resumes one is bound to eventually stick somewhere.

It doesn’t work that way. I’m not sure it ever has. So listen up.

The trick to winning the job search game is not waterboarding. The trick to winning the job search game is dripping.

Put away the super soaker and whip out your squirt gun. The idea is to drip out a few highly-customized resumes per day.

You’ll feel far more productive and optimistic in your job search when you’re dripping out just two or three customized resumes a day that you know have a decent shot at being read.

Customized means your resumes are both ATS-friendly and human-friendly. ATS-friendly means you used the job posting’s keywords and phrases to make it a good match for the role.

Human-friendly means you used descriptive language to provide useful and meaningful information for the human reader.

It is enormously more effective to customize and submit a couple of resumes each day than to waste time trolling job boards aimlessly, uploading countless generic resumes that probably won’t even make it into the ATS.

Less is more. When you stop spraying your resume all over the Internet and start dripping out a few customized resumes and cover letters a day, you’ll not only feel more productive in your job search, but you will be more productive. You will start to get some interview calls.

2. Sending out generic resumes

By whatever name… a basic resume, a standard resume, or a general resume, it is the one-and-only job-search document many rely on to compete against hundreds for any and all job opportunities they happen to stumble upon.

From cashier to production worker to sales associate, off goes the same generic resume.

Job competition is brutal. Your resume is competing with hundreds more now than it ever has, and trust me, at least ten of your competitors will send in very well-customized resumes that match the job requirements nicely.

Hell, if even only one of your competitors sends in a customized resume, that one customized resume beats out your generic resume every time.

Here’s the biggie:

Sending out generic resumes is a huge job search mistake. Because generic resumes seldom make it through the ATS.

Only the absolute best-matching resumes get pulled into the ATS, where eventually, a hiring decision-maker comes along to read them.

It’s very important to understand that as long as you’re uploading resumes through job boards’ APPLY buttons, it is the ATS, a robot, that decides whose resumes get seen by a human and whose don’t.

(If you’re not too sure what an ATS is and does, take a quick break here and go read this.)

Generic resumes please neither the ATS nor the human reader. On the rare occasion applicant’s resumes might go directly to a hiring manager via email, it takes that person an average six seconds to recognize a generic resume, and to toss it.

Remember. Competition. Many applicants are sending in customized resumes. No one needs to waste time looking at generic resumes.

3. Applying for jobs you’re not qualified for

Preparing the Q & A for a client, I asked if she had the Office Administration Diploma the job posting asked for. Her reply was: “Oh, no I don’t. I didn’t see that in the ad.”

This is the biggest job search mistake I see job-seekers making….Not Reading the Job Posting. Some don’t even get past the job title.

It’s like, Office Manager? Hell yeah, I can answer phones and type. And off goes the generic resume without so much as a glance at the posting’s requirements and qualifications.

I wish I knew why people don’t read job postings. It mystifies me. Why would anyone waste their time and effort sending in a resume for a job they don’t even know if they’re qualified to do?

Qualifications are the most important thing to an employer. Employers list qualifications in their job postings to tell applicants, “These are the must-haves to be considered for this position.“

Those must-haves get programmed into the ATS. The ATS searches resumes for those must-haves…the specific words and phrases the employer used in the job posting. When the ATS finds resumes containing the must-haves, it moves those resumes on to be read by a human.

Everything else gets vaporized.

If you’re not reading job postings thoroughly, or, if you are reading them and somehow convincing yourself you might have a shot even though you meet none (or few) of the qualifications, you’re your own worst enemy.

4. Limiting your job search to online postings

We’ve all heard about the “hidden job market”, which apparently accounts for 80% of the available jobs out there. I don’t know about you, but the prospect of learning all the ins and outs of discovering where these secret jobs are hiding makes me want to reach for the remote with one hand a six pack with the other.

Rather than seek the key to unlocking the mysterious hidden job market, let’s discuss an effective alternative to uploading resumes to job boards.

The official term is “networking”.

I can hear the groans, but hang on.

I’m not talking about formal, professional networking.

Instead, what about casual, and/or in-person networking? With friends, family, neighbors, your hair stylist, your mechanic, your kids’ teachers…essentially anyone you engage with face-to-face, no matter how infrequently.

You might be surprised how often opportunities come up to hear about a potential job opportunity.

You never know when you might strike up a conversation with someone who happens to know of positions soon opening up at his company, or his wife’s company, or his Dad’s company.

Maybe your neighbor’s vet happened to mention their clinic is looking to hire next month.

Or, your grocery cashier’s brother is looking to fill a few positions at his start-up in November.

Casual conversations can be as effective as formal networking toward getting a lead on a job or the name of a hiring manager or an influencer.

It is kind of tapping the hidden job market…learning about potential job opportunities before they’re advertised.

Here’s a hot tip: carry business cards and hand them out like candy. You can make 100 cards at VistaPrint or Zoom Printing for about 20 bucks.

Casual networking can be a surprisingly effective method to getting leads and, if you’re lucky, an occasional referral.

Referrals are fantastic to get! When you can name-drop in your cover letter, you’re miles ahead of the competition.

5. Ignoring LinkedIn

I barely know where to start when it comes to how incredibly useful LinkedIn can be in your job search.

If you’re in a serious job-search, I urge you to get acquainted with LinkedIn.

I’m linking this video: The Right Way to Network on LinkedIn by Cass Thompson, Career Advisor, because she’s fun and amazing and her videos are fantastic!

For those not planning to discover and use LinkedIn’s robust set of job-search and networking features, that’s okay.

You can send messages to connect with the right people at the company you want to work with. A quick message to the right person can go a long way to eventually get you in front of either a hiring decision-maker or a hiring influencer.

You need a LinkedIn profile to use any of LinkedIn’s features, no matter how basic, and it’s not a hard thing to do. There are hundreds of tutorials out there to help you quickly develop your LinkedIn profile. Oh look, here’s one now!

6. Failing to send a cover letter

When you’re competing with hundreds, what gets you into the top ten?
What makes you better than the next guy?

When 300 resumes all look the same, give or take, how do you make yours stand out? How do you convey your unique value proposition to the person reading your resume?

You write them a cover letter.
Your cover letter is your golden ticket…that extra little bit that tells the recruiter why you’re better than the rest.

Your cover letter gives you an exponentially greater chance of competing, and here’s an encouraging bit of news: about half of applicants don’t bother to send in a cover letter, even when the job posting asks for one.

Recruiters and hiring managers aren’t known for their empathy. Also, they are the busiest people on the planet. They look for reasons to reduce the number of resumes they’ll eventually have to read, and those unaccompanied by a requested cover letter may be the first to get axed.

So, right off the bat, half of your competition will almost certainly be eliminated simply by failing to follow instruction.

Sending in a cover letter strengthens your competitive position tremendously.

Here’s everything you need to know to write a compelling cover letter: How to Write a Cover Letter with 13 Examples You Can Use.

Job-searching is time-consuming. When you consider the time it takes to customize each and every resume and cover letter you send out, yeah, for sure, that takes time.

So does developing an impressive LinkedIn profile, and researching the companies you want to work at, and networking to get an “in”. But what’s the alternative?

Trolling online job boards and firing-off 5 or 10 generic resumes a day for jobs you’re not qualified for?

That’s not an alternative. It’s employment suicide.

Job searching can be discouraging, frustrating, and ____…you fill in the blank. There’s no easy-to-follow formula.

But if you eliminate the tactics you know don’t work, and replace them some that do, you will start to see progress and, ultimately, results.


terri at resumepro

Terri is an expert resume-writer and a pretty good job-search coach. During her 30 years in the conventional work force, Terri was fired from 11 jobs, got laid off from 2 jobs, quit 3 jobs, sued 1 employer (successfully), made another cry, and wrote over 100 resumes for herself alone! Since embracing the good old “take this job and shove it” attitude, Terri decided to put all of her shitty “workin’ for the man” experiences and life-lessons to good use, and thus was born www.goresumepro.ca/blog. Enjoy!

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