10 Mistakes Made By Job Seekers
1. "Insert Job Here":
Most job seekers are looking broadly at any available
position that fits within their interests and skills
set. Therefore, they send out undirected résumés and,
even worse, form cover letters differentiated only by
the value in the "insert job here" space. Spend a few
extra minutes to learn about the organization, and
personalize your letter and resume reflecting what makes
your candidacy special.
2. Read and Follow
Directions: Does the
application call for a writing sample and a salary
history? Are you being instructed to mail by post all
materials, or would the organization like applications
submitted electronically? Job description writers pay to
advertise specific directions for a reason. Follow them.
Think About the Message You Send:
Rehearse the voice mail message you plan to leave.
Consider a more serious e-mail address. Does your home
voice mail play strange music or have a silly outgoing
message? Is your résumé printed on purple paper? All of
these things factor into a headhunter's first, and
A Poor Résumé:
Too many résumés cross my desk and end up in the trash
can. The really good ones grab my attention and get
read, and even better, get forwarded onto a hiring
committee. The really bad ones list tasks and skills,
rather than accomplishments and results. Stop writing
about your hobbies; start writing about the change you
brought to an organization and the constituency it
Nine out of ten résumés I have seen claiming that the
applicant is "detail oriented" have a typo on it
somewhere. Some of these typos are tricky, like extra
spaces and missing hyphens. Others, sadly, are not.
Don't forget to look over headers and addresses, even
your name – several weeks ago I consulted with a
Phylllis who had just sent out a hundred résumés in a
mass mailing – for pesky mistakes.
Dream, Within Reason:
If I've seen your resume cross my desk for jobs way out
of your range, I won't be inclined to believe your
interest or fit when you apply for something perfect. Of
course you can move into increasingly senior positions –
I spend all day every day helping job seekers do exactly
that – just don't try to skip too many steps up the
ladder or you might become the boy who cried wolf.
Know Your Weaknesses:
I am always willing to consider imperfect candidates. No
candidate ever has everything the search committee
wants. I'm never inclined, however, to consider
applicants who are imperfect but think they are the best
thing going. If you are missing a key skill or some
years of experience, own the weakness, but then describe
how your other skills and experiences will help you
compensate or catch up quickly.
Curiosity is Key:
Nothing saddens me more than a candidate who seems ideal
at first, but then asks me no questions about the
organization I am representing. If they aren't curious
about the position or the group, then I begin to second
guess whether they are really the right fit. Once a
hiring manager's excitement is dampened, it's hard to
get it back. Note: questions based on the salary or
benefits do not count.
Thank You Notes:
Call me old fashioned but, I like thank you notes. Thank you letters are
the perfect opportunity to remind your interviewer why
you should be hired, or for you to insert into the
equation a key fact that you forgot to mention when you
met. These letters are so uncommon, sadly, that
candidates who thank me for spending time with them
stand out in my mind. I become more attached to them, I
campaign for them more vigorously, and they get hired
10. Get a Second Opinion:
Send your résumé to a friend, a colleague, a mentor or a
résumé professional who can give you an outside
perspective. Often, job seekers think that they have
been exceptionally unambiguous about their proudest
career moments when, in fact, their résumés are unclear
to anyone who wasn't sharing the same conference room.
An outside pair of eyes will shed light on your résumés'
strengths and weaknesses, and help your materials shine.