Last week's column addressed one of most common job search questions I hear today: "What are the biggest mistakes that job seekers make?" After focusing on how job seekers need to prepare themselves in order to successfully land a new position, today I want to go further and look at classic resume and interview errors that can easily sabotage a job search.
While the struggling economy has led to some fine-tuning in the way that people look for work today, in truth the basic job search process has changed very little. And just as a majority of job seekers have yet to adapt to the changing employment dynamic, many are making the same old job search mistakes as well.
Here are two additional job search blunders I see time and again:
- Many job seekers develop one perfect resume to be all things to all people, then use it for every job they apply for. Some only bother to customize their cover letters for an individual job – and others don't even do that much.
- a. Generic resumes rarely produce results.
- b. If a company uses resume scanning software, you won't even reach a live person.
- c. Obsessing over creating the perfect resume can become a great excuse for procrastination.
- d. Career changers who use a traditional chronological resume without regard to its impression on potential employers will only get job offers in the field they are desperately trying to leave.
Why? Because they don't address an employer's needs. HR wants you to find ways to solve their problems; they don't want to dig through your generic resume looking for elements that will appeal to them.
Rolling the dice that HR will "read between the lines" of your resume and see that you'd be a good fit is one thing, but if you're not customizing your resume so it talks to the scanning software, you're virtually guaranteed to fail.
"Well, I can't go talk to him yet because I don't have my resume ready."
- Job seekers assume the main reason for an interview is getting a job offer. Only after getting an offer will they decide if they really want the position or not.
- a. Job seekers with this mindset often wind up taking jobs they don't really want.
- b. These job seekers are so busy impressing HR that they don't check to see if the job is a good match.
- c. The company hires a persona manufactured for the interview, not a real person.
- d. Putting up a false front is hard, and it can't be maintained forever.
While it can be hard to reject any job offer in today's economy ("a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush"), remember that those who accept jobs they don't want typically wind up back in the market – either because they've resigned or been fired.
Eventually this will be discovered, and HR will feel like they've been conned.
If a job is a bad match, the job seeker will eventually either become depressed or start looking for another job. Either way, everyone loses.
- Understand what you want from your career, and what you have to offer an employer.
- Research both the job and the company before your interview.
- Think in advance about the employer's potential questions as well as the ones you want to ask. Then practice or role play until you're comfortable with both.
- Be yourself. Answer honestly.
- Never accept a position you don't want.
It's better to openly disagree with someone than ignore differences until they boil over in the future. A job interview is a microcosm of your upcoming relationship with your manager. If you don't see eye to eye your first hour together, imagine what life will be like after months or years of butting heads.
The Right Approach:
Customize both your cover letter and your resume for every job. If you have a specific objective in mind, be sure to include accomplishments and keywords that mirror its requirements. The more you know about the position and company, the more you can craft a resume that zeros in on exactly what the employer is looking for.
While it takes a good deal more effort to do this, the payoff is worth it. You'll not only get more interviews, you'll also make better use of the time you spend with prospective employers. After all, thinking through the process of writing a customized resume is one of the best ways to prepare for a job interview.
The Right Approach:
The best approach to landing a great job involves combining the advice from my last two articles:
If something about a prospective job worries you, follow up on it before you say yes. Even in today's economy, holding out for the right job is better than taking the wrong one and winding up unemployed again after a few months.