5 Common Job Search Mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Posted by ACAP on 20 September 2013

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So you have the qualifications, you know what job you want, and you’re ready to start applying. Not making it to the interview stage? Here are 5 mistakes to avoid.

Mistake #1 Lack of research

Employers expect to see a bit of thought put in to any application, especially when they receive such a high volume of them each day. Lack of knowledge about an industry or a company and its values illustrates to them that you really can’t be bothered, and why would they want to hire someone who’s not interested in knowing more about them?

Make sure you get a good general understanding of what the company does, what its corporate values are, and where it fits within the industry. You need to be able to articulate why you want to work for them and if you know nothing about them, anything you write or say will appear disingenuous.

Mistake #2: Not asking questions

You find a job listing that looks like what you would like to do. You scan over it, and it sounds like the perfect role for you. But there are a couple of things you’d like to know – for example, the kind of timeframe the organisation is looking at for hiring, or something about the requirements of the role, or the application process itself. So you write the application, send it in, fingers crossed, and either never hear back, or find out that thing you were wondering about makes the role less than a great fit. For example, the ad listed ‘some travel required’, but didn’t specify you’d be spending 6 months of the year in outback Queensland... 

When you read the job ad and it raises questions, it’s time to ring up and have a quick chat or, if that’s not convenient for the employer, send an email. Firstly, it makes you into ‘more of a person’, and secondly, it means that you don’t waste time applying for roles that aren’t what you’re after.

Mistake #3 Assuming parts of the application are ‘optional’

Whatever a job advert asks you to do, it’s not negotiable. The most common example is the cover letter – if you’re asked for one and don’t include it, your application is going straight in the recycle bin. In the case of government jobs, there may not be a cover letter, but there may be 5 selection criteria, and you may need to write 1000 words for each.  

Make sure you break the job ad/description down into sections and do exactly what you are being asked to do.

Mistake #4 No ‘second pair of eyes’

Most people have a resume which is a chronological list of everything they’ve ever done, and unfortunately, most of us don’t have a sense of what should be highlighted and what should be left off. Your resume, along with accompanying cover letter and/or selection criteria should provide a convincing narrative about why you are the best person for a particular role, not be a list of everything you have ever done in your life. It should also be properly formatted and free of typos and errors.  

Have someone, such as a trusted friend, co-worker, or even better, an HR professional, look over and give ruthless feedback on your resume. This is especially useful if they are working in your chosen field.

Mistake # 5: Quantity over quality

When you’re looking for a new job, the temptation to email out a bunch of resumes and cover letters can be strong. Applying for 5-10 jobs per day or even as many per week can seem like it increases the odds of finding one, but in reality, this can make for a less focussed, and ultimately less successful, job search.

Instead, focus on perfecting your resume, altering it when needed, and writing a killer cover letter addressing the position description directly.

Do you have any tips on how to avoid common job search mistakes?