If you’re putting time and energy into a job search, why not create a strategy to become as competitive as possible? It’s often the small details that many job seekers brush over that are the deciding factors when it comes to getting an offer. Here are eight mistakes even skilled job seekers make when searching for a new role:
1. Failing to include a tailored cover letter. You may have heard that only 17% of cover letters are read, which may prompt you to skip this step in the job search. Don’t. The rest of the story is that cover letters are usually read after the resume is determined to be a potential fit (and only about 25% of resumes get through the Applicant Tracking System, so you can see where the 17% makes sense). A generic cover letter (or none at all) can decrease your chances of getting to the interview. If you’re applying to so many jobs that you can’t find time for this step, you may be wasting energy on the wrong things. Hint: To save time, create a cover letter “shell” that you can easily tailor for each application.
2. Ignoring your social media. While you may have updated your LinkedIn Profile, don’t stop there. Recruiters are routinely checking Facebook, Twitter and other online content of their candidates and factoring it into their decisions. While privacy settings help, the more connected the world becomes, the easier it is to access information posted on the internet that you may not want to be a part of your candidacy. Do a Google search on a public computer to see what online information is attached to you. If you have a common name and find unflattering results that belong to someone else, you can preempt any confusion by giving your interviewer a heads up. Hint: Volunteer activities can boost your candidacy, so if you’re involved in your community, include these activities on your social media.
3. Being industry agnostic. Many job seekers think they’ll increase their chances of landing a great job if they keep their options open. However, a hiring manager (or network contact) who has dedicated their career to excelling in a specific industry wants to know you have that same hunger and drive for the field. Spend time reflecting on where you want to apply your expertise and have a compelling answer as to why this industry is aligned to your career goals. When you’re targeted, you’ll come across as more confident, thoughtful and convincing, which can make a big difference in your job search. Hint: To narrow down your industry focus, first understand your values. Often these lend insight into what’s most important to you in your work.
4. Not asking for help. Your accomplishments may have helped you to be successful up to this point. But if you’re not tapping into your network, you’re likely also not getting access to half of the roles on the market (often the most interesting ones). While you may be getting interviews without assistance from your contacts, you’re simultaneously missing out on insider information, recommendations and opportunities that can have a significant impact on where you land. With the average tenure in a role hovering around four years, job searches are a universal activity, so it’s likely others are happy to help and may be able to use your assistance as well. Hint: Sometimes just having a conversation about your career goals with friends, family members or other people you interact with regularly can open a number of doors you weren’t aware of.
5. Practicing in silence. You’ve updated your resume, picked out a crisp suit, and jotted down responses to common interview questions. But if you haven’t taken time to practice out loud and get feedback, you’re leaving a lot to chance in the interview. What you sound like in your mind is often very different from what comes out of your mouth. Plus, an objective friend can point out strengths you’ve missed, gestures that may be distracting, or points that are confusing. If you don’t have a person to practice with, use your Smartphone or one of the many online Apps to record yourself. You may cringe a little when watching the playback, but you’ll be glad you can make corrections before it counts. Hint: Don’t do this the evening before your scheduled interview. You won’t have enough time to make changes and this could decrease your confidence.
6. Being reactive in the interview. Job seekers want to believe that hiring managers have been trained to interview, objectively assess, and select qualified individuals to add to their teams, but this is rarely the case. So, regardless of the questions you’re asked, you need to be 100% prepared to leave the qualifications on the table that will be of most interest to your audience. Prepare in advance by understanding the hiring team’s pain points, and mapping out experiences that show how you’ve solved similar problems successfully. If you simply respond to the questions you’re given, you may find yourself talking about your greatest weakness or how many tennis balls fit into a bus, rather than the parts of your background that have the most impact. Hint: At the end of the day, most managers want to hire someone who they’re confident won’t need a lot of hand holding and will make them look good. Strive to convey this regardless of the questions asked.
7. Leaving money on the table. Even the most confident job seekers can get tongue-tied when it comes time to negotiate the offer. You may be so tired of being in a job search that you excitedly accept on the spot. Resist this because there’s always something to negotiate. Even if you get your base salary to surpass your happy number, consider vacation time, a sign-on bonus, tuition benefits, and other perks that will be meaningful for you and ultimately put more money in your pocket. It’s very difficult to negotiate additional items once you accept, so be gracious, reiterate your fit and ask “When do you need my response?” before taking a few days to consider the bigger picture. Hint: Although most managers would love for you to accept on the spot, they also expect you to negotiate. This is the one time you have leverage in the entire job search process, so use it fully.
8. Skimping on the transition. It’s likely many people have helped you along the way in your job search. Close down the process by thanking those who’ve offered support and advice, and by alerting your network that you’ve accepted a role. Then, begin to prepare for your first 90-days on the new job. While you may be tempted to take some well-deserved celebratory time, save some energy to plan how you want to show up at the new company (e.g., building your brand), who you need to meet (building your network), and what goals you’d like to accomplish (building your expertise). Hint: Your career will last a long time and how you handle the transitions can make a big difference.
Dawn Graham, Contributor, Careers, 23 Nov 2019.