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8 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Job Search

Originally published on Forbes.

Following certain best practices can make or break you in your quest for the right job. Some bad habits are obvious, where as others are more subtle– and even the subtle ones can have a detrimental effect on your chances of landing the right job.

Here are eight common job search blunders with advice on how to avoid them.

1. Not networking.

You’ve heard me tout before that 80% of available jobs never get posted. So how are those positions getting filled if they’re not posted? Hiring managers are keen to encourage referrals among their networks so as to spare themselves the time and money required to post openings. Networking is a way of life—it’s not something that needs to happen at networking events. It can happen in airplanes, restaurant lines, holiday parties—anywhere! My invitation is to be available to having a conversation wherever you go—an energy of openness creates monumental opportunities in life.

2. Typos and bad grammar in your application materials.

Regardless of whether you learn about a job through a posting or your network, you’re still going to need a solid resume. Typos and bad grammar in application materials are a huge red flag for employers—58% reported this as the most common mistake applicants make that will automatically disqualify a candidate. When it comes to resumes and cover letters, you shouldn’t just double check the materials, you need to quadruple check them, and have a friend or colleague with writing skills or a professional edit them.

Here are some resume tips on what to include and avoid, if you need.

3. Not tailoring your application materials for the specific position you’re applying for.

Both your resume and your cover letter should be written specifically for the position you’re pursuing. Nothing screams “LAZY” more than a candidate who submits materials that are clearly boilerplate. If you have relevant experience, you should be able to use the terminology from the job description as a guide for the syntax in your cover letter and resume… This is one of many ways to relate your skill set to the position at hand. The employer will much more easily connect why you are an appropriate candidate and will appreciate the time that you put into preparing the materials. Bonus points if you make it clear to them why they particularly are a special place for you to work. Job hunting is like dating in this regard—everyone wants to feel like they’re special.

4. Being late to an interview—or showing up way too early.

The job interview is the first in-person impression you’re making on your prospective new employer, so that critical first moment is worth putting a lot of thought and planning into. Leave for the interview in plenty of time to avoid being late—you never know what sort of issues you’ll encounter along the way. Another great tip is to perhaps do a “practice run”—if you’re worried about how long it will take to get there or perhaps you’re curious about the parking situation, there’s nothing wrong with clocking it. But if you arrive way too early, grab a cup of coffee at the Starbucks next door until closer to the interview time.

Side note: Here’s how you ace the top seven most common interview questions.

5. Not being prepared to talk salary.

One of the first things you should do when you begin your job search is establish your target salary. Research your field and what others in similar positions are making, and decide on an appropriate range. You should have this information prepared pretty early on in your search, but you especially need to be prepared to talk money before walking into a job interview. The more prepared you are to negotiate, the more leverage you will have. And failing to negotiate can cost you big.

6. Lack of knowledge of the company or the position you applied for.

If you haven’t done some solid research and preparation that demonstrates you know about the company and what they stand for, it sends the message to the employer that you’re either lazy or not all that interested in the job. Employers want to hire candidates who take initiative, so do some background research on the company beforehand, and be prepared to rattle off a few facts, beyond the high-level information that comes up in the first few lines of a Google search. Look for unique details or information that relates directly to the type of position you’re applying for. Brownie points if you have some innovative ideas to offer them on the spot (after asking if they’re open to hearing them!).

Here are some more best practices, if you’re hungry to grow in this area.

7. Lying.

This should be a no-brainer, but unfortunately, it still happens. Don’t be tempted to lie on your resume or in an interview. Any detail you give during your job search process can—and likely will—be confirmed by your prospective employer either through an internet search or a check on references. The damage you risk to your professional reputation—and soul! —by lying is absolutely not worth the reward.

8. Forgetting to follow up.

Follow up is critical, though one must be aware of the fine line between being proactive and appearing desperate. If you’ve reached out to a member of your network who mentioned that they may know of an opening, follow up within the week letting them know you appreciate them keeping their ears open, and reminding them what you’re looking for. If you’ve sent an application, give the hiring manager a call to check on the status. With LinkedIn’s beloved advanced search function, it’s easy to figure out who your potential boss could be. Most importantly, send a thank you note via email after a job interview. It may seem like an outdated practice, but it matters more than most people realize. According to one survey, 86% of employers said not sending a thank you note demonstrated a lack of follow-through, and 56% thought it indicated the candidate wasn’t all that serious about the position.

In today’s competitive job market, it’s critical to pay attention to these sorts of details in your job search. Any one of these blunders could be the factor that dictates whether you get the job or get passed over. So take the time to be meticulous about your job search by avoiding these common mistakes.

And as always, trust… If it doesn’t open up, it’s not your door.


Ashley Stahl helps job seekers find their purpose, land more job offers and launch their dream businesses. Sign up here for her free jumpstart course on how to land a new job you love.

CLICK HERE to unlock Ashley’s free online course to land a new job you love!

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