Even experienced professionals make job search mistakes. I am continually amazed at how many times a fully qualified candidate has missed out on a job opportunity for reasons other than their skills and qualifications. If you are consistently being ghosted or rejected, perhaps you are guilty of making one or more of the most common job search mistakes.
Let me take you through them as well as explain why they matter.
Follow the Job Application Instructions
I know, I know…it seems silly to even bring this topic up. But you wouldn’t believe the number of people who don’t follow the job application instructions.
Perhaps these candidates feel they will stand out when compared to the other candidates because they approached the process differently. Or (and more likely), perhaps they are underqualified, and therefore don’t have the minimum requirements needed to apply. Or they are overqualified and feel a sense of superiority, that they are above the effort required to adhere to a process when their resume speaks for itself.
Not following directions may cause delays or rejection
Application processes exist to make it easy for the hiring managers to filter through the submittals and to effectively route candidates through the hiring process. There are those who would tell you to skip the application process and reach out directly to the hiring manager or CEO of the company.
But don’t do this! For example, if you call me directly to express an interest in an open position, I will have to route you through to the team who handles the initial triage and job requirements verification for our open positions.
By stepping outside of the process, you just sabotaged the effectiveness of your job search by adding an extra step. And of course, this extra step will cause a delay in you being considered as a candidate.
It also shows me that you are not likely to follow directions or adhere to company policies if awarded the position.
Following directions shows you have confidence in your own merits
It should be noted that when you do follow the directions on how to apply for a job, you show your potential employer that you are someone who is not only cooperative, but also someone who can and will adhere to company policies.
Most importantly, however, following the directions shows that you don’t need to play games or by-pass the application system because you can stand on your own merit and qualifications.
By the way, don’t take this advice to say that you shouldn’t use your network while conducting your job search. Follow the application directions first and then reach out to your network for that added personal plug.
Be Sure To Run Grammar And Spell Checks On All Correspondence
At this point you may be calling me Captain Obvious, but trust me…more of you need to be doing this. I just rejected someone today who clearly doesn’t know how to use bullets.
Typos show carelessness, lack of attention to details, and that you are “okay” with submitting poor quality deliverables to your employer. The use of poor grammar makes us question your language skills, makes you appear sloppy, and will leave the hiring manager wondering if you are able to effectively interact with the client.
And it goes beyond the resume
Grammar and spell checks shouldn’t stop with your resume, but should carry through on all your email correspondence, cover letters, and any other writing samples your job recruiter or potential employer requests.
Oh – and this includes the use of slang during the job search! Submitting a resume or application is not the time to be informal. In many cases I will ask questions through email in order to obtain a writing sample and I can’t tell you how many times I rejected an otherwise qualified candidate because he or she used some type of slang, smiley face, or other informality in their email response (y’all is a big one I see in the South).
If it is requested to include your salary requirements, please do
Don’t be one of those candidates who believe that your credentials are so great that the hiring manager will offer you whatever you are asking after they have gotten to know you throughout the interview process.
Perhaps you do have amazing qualifications, but the reality is that the company has a budget, and you shouldn’t waste their time (or yours) if your salary requirements are too expensive for their financial plan. If you are truly flexible on your salary requirements because other things are more important to you (experience, career growth opportunity, better work environment, better location, travel, etc.), then be sure to state that in your submission.
You might be flexible in your salary requirements, but if providing your salary requirements is part of the application process, you should follow the application directions and provide what your expectations are. Not sure what your compensation or requested Contract CRA hourly rate should be? We can help.
Customize your resume and cover letter for every application
A written objective in a resume can be the death of a candidate. I was hiring a Backoffice team member and one particular applicant’s objective stated ‘To obtain an entry level position as a financial analyst in a company where I will be able to grow and meet new challenges’.
Not a bad objective, right? The problem is he was applying for a position with me as a recruiter.
I cannot even begin to tell you how often I receive a resume and application for one job type when the resume’s objective indicates the candidate is clearly looking for a different job type! This is an immediate turn off and will get your application rejected every time.
You have heard me say it before but it is worth repeating: There isn’t a hiring manager alive that doesn’t want to believe that you have hand selected their opportunity. Okay – so maybe you are submitting hundreds of positions, but don’t make it obvious! Always tailor your resume to draw the hiring manager’s attention to how you meet their job requirements – point by point.
Additionally, don’t underestimate the value of a well written and tailored cover letter. Your cover letter is your calling card and should give the hiring manager the impression you have hand-picked this position. In addition, it is incredibly important to articulate how you believe working for this particular company in this particular position will enable you to obtain certain skills and experiences, and how it will assist you in meeting your overall career objectives.
Never leave unexplained gaps in your employment in your resume
Every hiring manager will want to know why gaps in employment history exist.
Don’t leave the reasons for the employment gaps up for the hiring manager’s imagination!
Don’t apply for positions where you are seriously underqualified
I rejected a candidate once who clearly met none (zero…zilch) of the minimum job requirements and her response to me was “well, it didn’t hurt to try!”
Yes it does.
Applying for positions when you are seriously underqualified shows poor judgment. It will not only get you rejected from that position but will keep you from being considered for other, future opportunities within the same company…even those future opportunities you may be qualified for.
This advice doesn’t apply to those who are only slightly underqualified. It is okay to dream and shoot high, but be smart about it. Many hiring managers are willing to consider candidates who are only slightly underqualified, so if you are missing one key requirement or come slightly short on the years of experience, then by all means apply for the position. However (and this part of the recruiting tip is very important), you need to own the limitation by clearly calling that weakness out in your cover letter. In addition, make sure you describe how other skills will compensate for that weakness and how you will still be effective and successful in the position.
Don’t apply for positions where you are way overqualified
…without explanation. The question I always have for candidates who fall in this category: ‘Why are you applying for a position you are clearly overqualified for?’.
If you are purposely looking to step back out of passion:
Sometimes we see senior level candidates apply for CRA positions because they have made a decision to step back into the role because they truly love it. And if that is the case, then wonderful! We love working with CRAs who love the role. But please tell us that when you apply, because if no explanation is offered, you are allowing our imagination to run wild.
For those of you who just need a position:
I do understand. Sometimes things happen and you just need a job and are willing to step back into a more junior role. But be careful and explain the ‘why’ when it comes to applying for positions you are well overqualified for during the job search. The hiring manager will be concerned about many things, including:
- You will become bored in the position and become frustrated or start feeling “stuck”
- You will abandon the position as soon as something at your level becomes available
- You are going to be dissatisfied with the compensation
- You will be embarrassed to “take a step back”
And the hiring manager may wonder if you will be able to take work direction from younger, lesser qualified people.
If you have decided to apply for a position you are overqualified to do, you should openly state why you want the job (needing to cut back on hours for family reasons, have decided on a career path change, or even because you have been out of work for a while and need some income, etc.). Then be sure to address those reasons in your well-tailored cover letter.
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
Additionally, it is critically important for you to call out that you know you are overqualified and be sure to address the potential objections a hiring manager will have up front in your cover letter. By dealing with potential objections and concerns up front, you are more likely to obtain that coveted interview.
Don’t use gimmicks to draw attention to your resume
No one wants to see your picture on your resume unless you are applying to be a supermodel. Don’t add zippy graphics or get creative with the font or format unless, of course, you are applying to be a graphic designer. In addition, no one cares that your hobby is rock climbing, water skiing, or taking long walks on the beach.
Make sure your resume looks clean and professional and all the content is relevant to the position you are seeking. One last note: don’t include extras when they aren’t requested such as copies of your training certificates and bios of your life story. Especially if those extras do not have relevance to the position.
In all cases, think about how you come across!
Please realize that you are selling yourself in every interaction. For example, think about the email address you are using. I once immediately rejected a candidate because her email address was “divaprincess”.
Did I really want to take a chance on assimilating someone who believes she is a diva into my well-oiled machine? Absolutely not!
Additionally, make sure your voicemail message is professional and if music is played while the caller is waiting, please select an appropriate song. If you need to leave a voicemail for a hiring manager, think it out, write it down, and rehearse it. If the hiring manager has scheduled a call with you, be prepared.
Finally, do not include silly things like confetti in your submission packet or put your resume on brightly colored or perfumed paper. You should appear professional in every interaction.
We hope this helps! If you are a CRA and need some advice on how to avoid typical job search mistakes, feel free to reach out. We are here to help!