The 4 Biggest Mistakes You Can Make When Searching for a Job

Searching for a job is a difficult, exhausting, and frustrating process. There are so many challenges – you need to get your resume noticed, and you need to answer questions, write cover letters, and navigate conversations and interviews with companies, hiring managers, and even recruiters. And there are many different ways you can make a single misstep that causes you to miss out on a new job opportunity.

If you’re wondering what you can do you improve your odds of getting hired, it’s a good idea to take a look at what you might be doing wrong. It’s easy to make a mistake when you’re searching for and applying to jobs. And you might be making mistakes that are easy to fix.

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The following are four of the biggest mistakes you can make during your job search. Learn how to prevent them and fix them going forward.

1. You’re Sharing Too Much Information

While it’s important to share information with companies during the application process, you might be sharing a bit too much about yourself.

It’s common for job seekers to spill far too much information on their application materials. From long resumes that span pages to lengthy cover letters to flowery objectives and emails, the information you’re sharing might be overkill. You don’t need to include pages of work history, a discussion of your background dating back to college – unless you’re a recent graduate – or what you like to do for fun. Including personal details about your family, why you’re looking for a job, or what your current life circumstances are is a bad idea.

Hiring managers and HR departments spend just a few seconds looking at your resume and building an impression of who you are¹. And too much information can make it difficult for these strangers to get a quick picture of whether or not you’re a qualified candidate.

How to Fix This Mistake

Keep your cover letter and resume as concise as possible. Trim down both of these documents by eliminating anything that’s redundant or irrelevant. For example, you don’t need to show potential employers every single job in your 20-year work history². Hobbies and interests don’t need to be seen by hiring managers.

Focus on highlighting only what pertains to each job posting. You want hiring managers to understand what you can offer their company, and what skills you’ll bring, by giving your resume a quick overview. So, try to focus solely on what the job posting is asking for.

2. Using a Generic Resume

Creating your resume is a long process, and it can take many drafts to achieve a version that captures hiring managers’ attention. But even if your resume is excellent and exceptionally well-crafted, it might still be too generic.

Many job seekers use the exact same resume to apply for every single job. However, your resume likely isn’t suited for each one of the hundreds of jobs you’re applying for. It might be great for a few – and it might contain only a few qualities that meet other postings’ requirements or qualifications.

When hiring managers create job postings, they place keywords inside each one that are critical to helping them narrow down the applications they receive³. As job seekers send in their resumes, the hiring managers – or even an automated software – will scan those resumes for the keywords they want the most⁴. So, if your resume is missing specific keywords important to the job you’re applying for, your resume won’t make it to the next round.

How to Fix This Mistake

You should tailor your resume to each job you apply for. You don’t need to overhaul or rewrite the entire resume each time you apply for a job. Instead, focus on critical factors like the location, company, industry, and any specific parameters mentioned in the job description or posting⁵. Try to work keywords, types of software, or even certain qualifications into your resume if they’re highlighted in a job opening.

3. Asking the Wrong Questions

Once you get asked to participate in an interview, you’re on your way to becoming a competitive candidate. But an interview can be even more challenging to master than sending out resumes.

During an interview, you’ll answer questions about your skills, your work experience, and your general fit for the job at hand. These questions can focus on problem-solving, group situations, and even managing others in some cases. However, there’s always a portion of the interview where you, the applicant, are able to ask questions. And if you aren’t asking the right questions, it could cost you the job.

Asking lame, simple, or unrelated questions during an interview can blow the entire opportunity. Failing to ask intelligent, informed questions about the job, the company, or any other aspects of the position’s requirements makes it seem like you’ve failed to properly prepare for the interview⁶. And if you’ve been ending interviews by saying you don’t have any questions, you’re likely making your odds of getting hired even worse⁷.

How to Fix This Mistake

Prepare your questions in advance, just like you’d prepare for the rest of the interview. Come up with a few questions that you want to make certain to ask. You should prepare more questions than you think you’ll need to ask, since an interviewer may answer a few of them during the course of the conversation.

You can also ask questions that allow you to show off additional skills and successes. For example, asking about team goals or current projects gives you an opportunity to discuss how you’d guide the task or contribute something. Ask about particular aspects of the role, and you’ll have a chance to explain how you’re a good fit.

4. Failing to Do Research

It’s tempting to blindly apply to every job that’s available right now. However, if you aren’t looking into each job opening more carefully, you could wind up missing important details.

You should always do your research to ensure that the jobs you’re applying for are actually a fit with your skills and your experience. If you aren’t actually a good fit with an industry, a company, or what the job is looking for, you won’t make it past the first application scan.

Many job seekers also fail to look into company reviews⁸. Company reviews, however, are very important. They can offer insight into a business’s culture, showing you how employees interact, if the staff is happy, and if there are certain benefits or drawbacks to working with each company. This is important information that you can use to tailor your resume or your cover letter.

How to Fix This Mistake

Make sure you do your research before you take any steps forward into the hiring process. Research each company, learning what they do, what industry they’re in, and where they’re located. You should also take the time to search online for reviews from current employees and other applicants. These online reviews can help you determine if the company is actually one that will suit your skills and interests.