12 biggest mistakes made during job search

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

In job search, we generally ‘don’t know what we don’t know’ and it’s not surprising that we make mistakes, thinking we are doing the right thing. We also get lots of ‘advice’ from well-meaning but ignorant family members or friends..

In this post, I’ve captured some of the typical – yet by no means exhaustive list of – mistakes made during job search and the relevant actions for each.

Mistake #1 – Not knowing what job you want

If you’ve ever bought a car without knowing the sort of make, colour, or model you are after, you can understand this mistake. You will spend an inordinate amount of time walking through car yards and being accosted by lots of ‘eager’ salespeople. It’s the same with job search. If you don’t specify the type of role you are after, it all becomes a bit hit and miss. For example, if I say ‘I’m after a job in Human Resources’, that’s pretty vague and ambiguous as there are many types of jobs in HR. Therefore it’s better to say something like ‘I am looking for a role as a Human Resources Business Partner, where I can work with and support a senior executive team, ideally in the IT industry’.

Mistake #2 – Not being aware of the job market

‘I’m in the market for a job as a toll collector on Sydney’s motor-ways…I’m not having much luck…’ Quelle surprise! This is an extreme example, but you need to be aware of what’s happening ‘out there’ in the market. Whether it be trends in a profession or an industry (like off-shoring or industry down-swings or technology advancements that have impacted our potential toll-collector), this may influence how you conduct your search and perhaps focus on markets where there are more opportunities available.

Mistake #3 – Letting the ‘here and now’ concerns interfere with your search

By this I mean getting bogged down in the present and feeling sorry for yourself. Negative thoughts like ‘Will I ever work again?’ or ‘It’s all too hard’ are self-fulfilling prophecies and will keep you trapped and unable to move forward. Think of everything you do in job search as a stepping stone or bridge to your next role…Every application, every discussion with networking contacts, every recruiter meeting are positive steps to ensure you get your next role. Therefore, act in the present, but think in the future!

Mistake #4 – Having a poor resume and LinkedIn profile

Both of these communication channels are representations of you! They provide information on you and highlight your strengths and achievements. A lengthy, poorly written, generic and ‘activities-based’ resume won’t do you any favours. Nor will a half-completed or minimal LinkedIn profile. As you communicate and engage with people in job search, you want both of these fundamental tools to fully and accurately represent you as a professional in your field. Spend the relevant time to ensure both convey the right messages about you to the marketplace.

Mistake #5 – Inactivity

In job search we often think we have time to do what’s needed, but time gets away from us and before we know it, we’ve been in transition for a period of weeks or months. Don’t let the grass grow! Those who are active in job search create opportunities for themselves. Job search activity also positively impacts your emotional state. If you are busy, you are not thinking about negative ‘stuff’ but rather concerned about achieving things. For example, setting up, attending and following up after networking meetings, keeps you busy…and positive!

Mistake #6 – Over-reliance on the internet and/or recruiters

Jobs advertised online are in the ‘public domain’ and everyone else looking for a job is applying for these jobs as well. If you’ve applied for jobs on LinkedIn, you’ll very often see a counter on the job ads that indicates how many people have applied for a job. Whether it’s 12 or 22 or 222 other applicants, the odds are stacked against you. Recruiters fill jobs on behalf of companies and they cast their net wide to pull in as many suitable candidates as possible in order to present a shining short list to the hiring company. You are one of many and really need to stand out to have a chance to land THE job. Therefore, don’t just rely on job search engines or recruiters alone! Network and selectively use recruiters as well. For networking, don’t delay, start as soon as you engage in job search as this is most fertile arena to find your next job.

Mistake #7 – Not preparing for interviews

I have lost count of the number of people I’ve interviewed over the years whose sole preparation for the interview was putting on their ‘Sunday best’ and perhaps reading over their resume and job advert in the bus on the way to the interview. This simply does not work and thinking you’ll ‘wing it’ during the interview is prone to failure. Not only that, but the interviewer is inferring that’s how you’d approach job tasks if you were employed by him or her. Therefore, know your resume inside and out and be sure to have ready responses against the criteria of the job as a minimum. The old adage of ‘Fail to prepare and prepare to fail’ is very true in job search!

Mistake #8 – Knowing very little – or nothing – about the company you are interviewing with

When you are asked ‘What do you know about Company X?’ and you throw out a few obvious facts borne of little or no research, this indicates to the interviewer that you could not be bothered preparing for the interview and that you’d likely bring the same bad habits to the job. In this day and age of the internet and instant information, there’s no excuse for not having 5-8 key points about the company you are interviewing with. Furthermore you can also tailor your information to the role you are applying for (e.g. If going for a job in HR, your response may be more around the people aspects of the business, whereas if you were in IT it may be more technology-focused).

Mistake #9 – Meandering and long-winded responses to interview questions

As interviewees, we are understandably nervous and often feel that if we say more, it will impress the interviewer. Wrong! If you are asked a question, answer it! Don’t go off on tangents, even if you think they are related to the question. Interviewers generally have the attention span of a gnat and all they want to know is if you have certain skills, experiences and competencies based on the question they’ve asked. If the interviewer wants more information, he or she will ask for it!

A good approach is that when you are asked behavioural questions (e.g. ‘Give me an example of…’; ‘Tell me about a time when…’), you should answer them using the STAR approach…Situation, Task, Action(s) and Result. This is good for you to deliver the example, but also for the interviewer as a structured and well thought out example is potentially a very powerful illustration of your skills and experience.

Mistake #10 – Being late for the interview

I consider this to be a mortal sin in the world of job search and I’m almost embarrassed to include this on the list because it seems so obvious. Never, and I repeat never, be late for a job interview! If you are going to run unavoidably late, contact the interviewer ahead of time. They will appreciate this common courtesy, believe me. I’ve had people turn up late for interviews by 5 or 10 minutes and not even apologise! Needless to say, very few if any of these latecomers are considered for the available job. Why? Because as an interviewer I’m inferring that they’d be late for team meetings, submitting reports and so on.

Always give yourself more than enough time to get to the interview…If you know the interview location is 30 minutes away, allow 60 minutes. Even if you arrive early, you can take a walk, reflect on your resume and generally get yourself in the right frame of mind.

Mistake #11 – Not getting feedback after an interview

Most of us won’t land the first job we apply for. In fact, we may go to several interviews before we get a job offer. If you don’t ask for feedback on how you matched – or did not match – the job requirements and your interview ‘style’ you are prone to continue to make the same mistakes again and again…and being unsuccessful again and again. Do yourself a favour…When advised you have been unsuccessful, ask for this feedback and incorporate it into your strategy for future interviews. The feedback should be on why you were not deemed a good fit for the role as well as your interview style. It’s all about continuous improvement!

Mistake #12 – Not making the most of transition

Further to mistake #3, we can get caught up in the mire of job search. Yes, being between jobs or in transition is tough, but what we forget is that being in transition allows us to spend more time with friends and family and to indulge in something we want to do but never have the chance to when we are working. Once you return to work, this opportunity would have passed, so use your time wisely! This balanced approach makes you are more effective job seeker but also maintains positive morale during job search. If you want to be more effective in search, avoid these mistakes!

Also, by following The Career Medic for regular updates you’ll receive tips and hints that will help your job search. You can also contact The Career Medic by clicking here for specialised help and assistance in job search.

The Career Medic – Taking the worry out of job search for the over 40s.

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