Pin Me

5 Jaw-Droppingly Common Job Search Mistakes That Were OK Just Yesterday

written by: Sylvia Cochran•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 5/7/2012

Job search advice runs the gambit from resume preparation to dress code. “Be yourself,” your high school guidance counselor said. “Pay someone to do your resume professionally,” your father-in-law counsels. Sage advice not too long ago, these may now actually be job search mistakes.

  • slide 1 of 6

    1. Canned Approach Warning

    “Full trash can” by Sasa Stefanovic/Wikimedia Commons via GNU General Public License Version 2 There used to be a time when an executive job search demanded a professionally prepared and carefully honed resume that would appeal to hiring managers. The prospective employee would send the same resume to various and sundry businesses. Executive-level recruiters recognized the professional quality of the resume, which set apart the candidate as a serious contender for the position. Resume writers would usually also include a pre-written “thank you letter.”

    In today’s job market, this counts as a job search mistake. Generically worded by design, these types of resumes fail to sell the potential candidate to the hiring manager who most likely has a huge stack of other resumes to peruse.

    What companies want is a brief, concise and sparsely worded introduction to the skills a would-be interviewee possesses -- and the results she has achieved. Other areas of interest include marketable accomplishments. Although still important, personal goals, feel-good achievements and detailed job responsibility descriptions are only of secondary interest. Moreover, the business wants to know why you are choosing to apply with the company. Hence, each resume must be custom-tailored to the company and position.

  • slide 2 of 6

    2. When a Job Search Online Is a Many-Splintered Thing

    Just like the canned resume approach is no longer workable job search advice, heeding top job search websites’ suggestions to create three, five or more different resumes is just as damning. Recruiters and hiring managers alike now routinely scout the Internet for potential candidates. Applicants may also be vetted with the help of the Internet. Imagine the manager’s surprise to find six different resumes for John Q. Public, especially if all of them are different!

    Circumnavigate these dangerous waters by setting all online resumes to “private.” This eliminates embarrassing comparisons and also prevents you from being dismissed as someone who is perceived to be “padding” a resume. If you must keep your online profile public, do not post a wide array of resumes. Instead, include as many marketable skills as possible and remain vague on the objective.

  • slide 3 of 6

    3. The “I Can Do That -- I Think” Error

    A couple of decades ago, well-meaning relatives would give job search advice that urged applicants to even go after positions if they were a bit over their heads. The wisdom of the approach made sense: Even if the candidate was a poor fit for the advertised job, the company that now had his resume might see something they liked and could use for another open position. A high unemployment rate and a highly competitive job market have worked in concert to transform this suggestion into a killer job search mistake.

    Grand Valley State University career service experts warn students to avoid this error in judgment. It results in being dismissed by hiring managers and professional head hunters alike as an applicant who either fails to understand the needs of a business, or as a candidate who fails to honestly self-assess with respect to skills, training and abilities. In a niche industry in particular, garnering this type of reputation will make future job searches difficult -- if not impossible.

  • slide 4 of 6

    4. Pinning the Tail on the Donkey

    An entrepreneur must submit a business plan before a bank will seriously consider lending money to the freshly minted business owner. Professional advice used to entail the admonition to avoid niches and instead go for any open position possible. It holds a lot of water, especially when the rent money is due.

    However, if you translate this advice into the area of the executive job search, you will sell yourself short by actually turning away otherwise interested recruiters. By the way, this applies not only to the external job hunt but also to the internal position application process. Getting prepared for an internal job interview is only part of the equation; getting to the interview first is the crucial component!

    The National Contract Management Association warns that “desperation and lack of focus are two huge turn-offs for potential employers.” This pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey approach to finding a new position also leads to frustrating dead ends in the job search, as well as missed opportunities for lack of consistent attention to a given field or niche. Go ahead and write a business plan for your career advancement. Highlight the progression of positions, salaries and skills. Only when you have exhausted the next step in your planned search is it acceptable to spread out.

  • slide 5 of 6

    5. Network Failure

    A long time ago, it was more important whom you knew than what you knew. This changed and before long it did not take insider knowledge and contacts to get a great-paying job at a prestigious company. Sure, there were always golf course deals and dinner table negotiations, but when mom told you that you could “be anything you want to be -- with a college degree,” she was proud of the fact that nepotism could finally be overcome.

    Well, it’s back. Much like a pendulum that has reached its furthest point and is traveling back, knowing industry insiders is once again a must. Failure to network in your chosen field is a huge mistake that will affect your job search. While in the past even the unqualified candidate could get a job because of nepotism, it is now the highly qualified candidate who needs personal connections.

    Stop wasting time on Facebook and instead head for LinkedIn and niche-specific networking sites. Cultivate industry contacts and get to know the behind-the-scenes people. While they may not be vetting resumes, they most certainly have the power to alert a hiring manager to be on the lookout for your name; this gesture alone may get your resume an honest evaluation rather than a blanket circular file treatment.

  • slide 6 of 6

    It is clear that job search mistakes change with the economic times. This is true for the executive job search, the entry-level position hunt and even the internal application process. Treat your employment-related activities like an entrepreneur would treat a business: With attention to detail, meticulous planning and always on the cutting edge of the current economy.

    Do not let outdated job search advice derail your chances of getting an interview!