Break These 12 Bad Habits—Before They Sabotage Your Job Search

Not getting the job offers you want? You might be doing something wrong

Are you committing a job search sin? We talked to human resources executives and recruiters and asked them to be brutally honest about the bad habits job searchers can pick up. Here’s what they want you to stop doing before they get you booted from an applicant pool.

1. Opting for Speed Over Details

With some jobs garnering application counts in the hundreds after 24 hours online, we totally understand why you want to be on the top of the pile. But that doesn’t mean you should hit submit before a proofreading round—or three.

“Most jobs require attention to detail—especially in the media industry where a main aspect of the job is effective communication,” says Michele Mavi, director of content development, internal recruiting and training at Atrium Staffing.

“Unfortunately, grammatical errors or typos shine a light on the fact that attention to detail may not be your strong suit. Always print your resume to proof it and have at least two other people proof it for you as well.”

2. Listing Responsibilities Rather than Demonstrating Success

Success starts at the top of your resume, Mavi says. “Our immediate instinct when populating our job description in bullet point format is to provide a litany of ‘responsible for’s.”

The scope of your responsibilities is important, but your achievements are what recruiters want to know about. Pair these with active verbs to stand out. “Rather than ‘managed a team to achieve,’” Mavi says, “perhaps you use ‘motivated a team to achieve.’”

3. Expressing Boredom During an Interview (Even If It’s an Accident)

There are some things you can’t help. Your body language is not one of those things, says career coach Ronald Kaufman. “To indicate that you’re on the same wavelength” as your interviewer, match their posture, gesture, rate of speech and volume, he advises.

“If they use certain buzz words, use them too. If they’re looking for a dynamic, detail oriented, team player, relate back to them, ‘I feel I’m qualified because I am a dynamic, detail oriented, team player.’ Talk their talk.”

4. Rehashing Your Resume in Your Cover Letter

Cover letters are tricky to write; a good one isn’t just a regurgitation of your resume. “It’s meant for you to share information that a hiring manager can’t get from your resume alone,” Mavi says. “The cover letter is your opportunity to demonstrate a personal connection between yourself and the organization in a way that resonates with the reader.”

5. Wasting Resume Space on Weak Points

Kelly Poulson, vice president of talent and operations at Allen & Gerritsen, chides applicants who waste valuable resume real estate on obvious things, like “references available upon request.” Including “lame non-differentiators,” she says, is “a big missed opportunity.”

Don’t waste space on these empty phrases at the expense of big stuff recruiters want to know about, like “your volunteer experience that shows your range in terms of skill-sets that might make you more attractive to an employer.”

6. Sending out Form Resumes and Cover Letters

Customization is key! Our hiring experts continue to see cookie-cutter resumes and bland cover letters. “Using specific language from the job posting will help ensure your resume comes up in search results as a ‘match’ in the applicant tracking system used to manage the responses,” Mavi advises.

To tailor your resume to each job, “create an inventory for each job that you’ve had,” says Kaufman. “Then pull those things from your inventory that are relevant to this particular job, at this particular company, in their particular industry.”

7. Not Taking the Social Advantage

“I don’t want to be a downer and say that resumes go into a black hole,” Poulson says, “but what candidates don’t realize is the sheer volume of applicants that each posting can bring in.”

To jump ahead of other candidates who are sitting back and letting overwhelmed recruiters weed through the pile, Poulson urges you to log onto social media and reach out directly to hiring managers. “Show them that you are willing to go the extra mile to work with their organization,” she says.

8. Ignoring the Networking Big Picture

Networking isn’t about working the room. “Effective networking is focusing on what you can do for others, instead of what they can do for you,” Kaufman tells us. “Networking is about creating mutually supportive relationships.

Constantly look for ways to support others in succeeding, whether it’s a referral or introduction, providing useful information or being a sounding board for their ideas, be a source for success.”

9. Missing out on Non-Traditional Networking Opportunities

And networking isn’t just a thing you do at meetups and conferences. Mavi’s favorite tip for job seekers is to look out for networking opportunities wherever they are, whether it’s in line at a coffee shop, waiting for a table at a restaurant or standing at a bus stop.

“You must be open to people, their stories and what can happen when people are disarmed by a simple ‘Hello’ or ‘Excuse me, I’ve seen so many people reading that exact book today, would you recommend it?’” Mavi shares. “You never know who you’ll meet that way. I ended up with a husband because I asked him about his iPhone seven years ago. Trust me, you have more to lose by not being open!”

10. Zipping Those Lips

Asking questions during job interviews isn’t just important, it’s essential. Poulson can’t believe how big of a problem this still is for job seekers. “Even if you feel like the person you’re meeting with has covered everything you might possibly want to know about the job or organization, get creative,” she urges.

“Ask them about why they chose to work there or why they do what they do. Make it evident that you have an interest beyond yourself and this particular role.”

11. Making It All About You

When you go on and on about you in your cover letter, what the hiring manager hears is, “’Hire me for me because it’s what I want.’ The letter should express why the company will benefit from bringing you on board,” Mavi says.

“Try expressing your interest by saying, ‘I’d love to help company X carry out its mission of offering quality healthcare at affordable prices and believe I can create cost-effective marketing plans that will drive revenue.’ It’s even better if you add, ‘In fact, I have three strategies I’d love to discuss,’” she says, which shows that you’re already thinking about how you can add value to the company.

12. Forgetting the Thank-You

Thank-you notes or emails—both are acceptable!—remain on the list of must-dos. But to be memorable, Poulson wants you to go above and beyond by referencing the conversation you had with your interviewer. She still remembers one candidate she talked to last year.

“I mentioned that I want to see a great white shark in the wild,” she says. “Her thank you note was a design of me and a shark. Brilliant move. I had totally forgotten about the conversation but it meant a lot that she went out of her way to do something special. She went above and beyond in the thank you which means she’ll more than likely do the same on the job. She’s been working with us ever since.

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