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5 Insidious Mistakes That Are Destroying Your Job Search

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Recently, I posted a new job with my company. During the course of reviewing the candidates, I noticed certain disturbing trends that were seriously effecting these candidate’s job search. Some of them are new variations on the old mistakes and some are new problems that arise from the prevalence of app-based job searching. Hopefully you won’t fall for these insidious mistakes and ruin your chances of getting more interviews…

  1. New problems with punctuation and grammar

Everyone knows to check their resume for punctuation and grammar, right? Apparently not. In most cases, the obvious errors are caught with spellcheck and online grammar programs like www.Grammarly.com. However, modern social media has made us blind to a new problem: capitalization consistency.

For example, your name. The first letter of both the first and last name needs to be capitalized, which is true for both your resume and your LinkedIn profile. In cases where you are consciously choosing to leave everything on the resume lower case for a style choice, make sure that EVERYTHING in the resume is in lower case. Nothing stands out like a glaring error than a lower case name and capitalized job titles.

Similarly, be consistent with job titles. If your immediate job is listed as “Office manager,” don’t list the following job as “Staff Accountant.” Being inconsistent is one of the easiest ways for HR to spot a mistake and disqualify a candidate in 10 seconds.

  1. Words that slip by spellcheck

So not only does spelling matter, but usage does as well. The sentence “managed front office and supported there CEO” is technically spelled correctly, however, it is the wrong “there.” It should read “supported THEIR CEO,” as in possessive to the company.

  1. Not following directions

This was my favorite trick when I established recruiting procedures for one of my past employers – in 2000! The trick is simple: HR will place specific steps to follow or documents to submit to be considered for the position, usually the resume and a cover letter. It may further define how to apply for a job, such as using LinkedIn, their own website, or emailing to a specific address. Anyone who doesn’t follow the steps gets disqualified because they did not follow clear, written instructions.

What’s sad is that with the rise of app-based recruiting on sites like LinkedIn.com and Indeed.com, the application process has been sped up to a matter of simple clicks. In some cases, it takes an extra step on the applicant’s part to attach the resume, not to mention the cover letter. Even when applying to a job from LinkedIn’s website, there is only space to upload one document. Job seekers must show initiative and create a new document that includes both the cover letter and the resume. Unfortunately, many job seekers don’t take this extra step.

And “optional” documents or uploads? Those aren’t really optional. Just think about it: if 30 out of 100 candidates take the time to upload their resume and cover letter as well as their LinkedIn profile, they will gain more serious consideration because they have gone beyond just doing the minimal requirements.

  1. Not fine tuning the application

Practically every employment website like Indeed.com, Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com and the industry-specific sites allow candidates to upload their resume. The problem lies in that it will not always parse, or auto-populate, the application fields cleanly. When dealing with employers’ individual sites, the problem becomes more prevalent.

Anytime you have to upload your resume, double-check the actual application fields. Make sure everything was parsed correctly. If not, make the corrections. However, don’t replace your Word or PDF resume with the application. Send both. And by the way, even professionally-written resume will need to have the application reviewed. I personally applied to my own job with multiple different formats to test our templates. Fine tuning the application was a bit tedious, but considering that this is the first impression a recruiter will have, it is a wise time investment.

  1. So what’s your point?

One problem with using cookie-cutter resumes or cover letters is that the company has no idea why you applied to their position. Worse, you may be using an objective statement, summary or cover letter that is actually contrary to the position. I have seen resumes stating they want a Medical Assistant job (we’re not a doctor’s office), they only want full time (the job is part time,) or that they want some other criteria that isn’t even close to our job description or what our company does.

If the recruiter can’t even figure out why you applied for the job, there is no way that you can land the interview.

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About the Author:

Since 2004, Donna has been teaching job seekers of all levels effective job search strategies. In 2009, she published her book "Get a Job Without Going Crazy: a Practical Guide to Your Employment Search." Donna is based in Denver, and has presented workshops in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas. She continues to work with job seekers across the country.
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