10 Mistakes That Are Standing Between You and Your Dream Job
The process of job hunting is tough. It’s not only hard on your wallet, it’s hard on your self-esteem. When you’ve sent out dozens of resumes and landed multiple interviews, all without success, it’s hard not to get discouraged.
At this point, you may start to rationalize your lack of employment by blaming outside influences:
“It’s a tough market right now.”
“There aren’t currently many opportunities in my field.”
“There’s too much competition for too few jobs.”
But the truth is, there are people getting hired in your field. Even if the market is tough right now, it’s very likely there’s something you’re doing—or not doing—to lessen your chances of getting hired.
Here are 10 reasons why you may not be getting the job.
1. You’re Not Being Proactive
Are you sitting around waiting for the perfect job to fall into your lap? Successful job seekers know they need to be proactively pursuing jobs and leads and actively strategizing their job search.
Do you have the necessary skills for your dream job? If not, take an online course to upgrade your skill set. Are you well connected in your field? If the answer is no, attend industry networking groups or events.
Research shows a correlation between having a proactive personality and career success. Researchers have found that this proactivity—the belief that you have the power to change your circumstances—is positively associated with achieving salary and promotion objectives as well as increased career satisfaction.
In other words, if you believe you have the power and ability to achieve your career goals, you’re far more likely to succeed. If you believe the world is conspiring against you and you’re powerless to do anything about it, you’re more likely to stay right where you are now—jobless.
2. Your Lack of Passion Shows
If you find yourself applying for positions that don’t excite you, don’t be surprised if potential employers sense this lack of passion. Employers know that skills can always be taught, but that passion is either there or it’s not.
If you’re truly excited about a job, be sure to convey this in your cover letter and interview. Explain your reasons for wanting the position, and share ideas you’ll be excited to explore should you get the job.
3. You Don’t Sell Yourself
If there’s ever a time to sell yourself, it’s when you’re job hunting. If you don’t clearly convey your skills, knowledge, and education, it’s no one’s fault but your own if you don’t get the job.
There’s a fine line between being cocky and confident, so make sure you’re always tempering your confidence with humility. Sharing past accomplishments conveys pride in your work, while going on and on about how educated you are screams “smug.”
4. Your Resume or CV Doesn’t Showcase Your Value to the Company
Your resume is what’s going to get your foot in the door. If it isn’t accurately showcasing your suitability for the job, you’ll never get the chance to impress in an interview. Some best practices for creating a killer resume include:
- Keep it short (some experts recommend only 600-700 words)
- List all relevant skills and work history
- Tweak your resume for each position you apply for
- Detail how you can bring value to the company
- Be specific: If you’ve achieved certain goals in past jobs, don’t be afraid to quantify your accomplishments (e.g., raised $2 million in funding in one year).
5. You Haven’t Researched the Job or Company
Employers want to know you took the time to learn a bit about the company. Not knowing the name of the CEO or where head office is could convey that you’re disinterested or even lazy. Take some time before the interview to research the company online. Employers don’t expect you to know all the company’s inner workings, but you should have a good grasp of publically available information.
6. You Conveyed a Sense of Entitlement at the Interview
It’s never a good idea to go into an interview with a list of demands. Having a general salary expectation is expected, but requiring six weeks of vacation from the get-go? This can be a huge red flag for employers. After all, if you’re this demanding in the interview, how much more demanding will you be once you have the job?
7. You’re Overqualified or Underqualified
This is perhaps one of the biggest issues for chronic job seekers. Are you consistently applying for your dream job even though your experience and education don’t really make you a dream candidate? Or maybe you’re desperate for a job (any job!) and are willing to take something (anything!), even jobs well below your pay grade? Ask yourself honestly whether you’re aiming too high—or too low—and adjust your expectations accordingly.
8. You’re Not Connected in Your Industry
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” This has never been truer, especially in today’s competitive job market. According to research compiled by Interview Success Formula, while there were 3.6 million job openings in the U.S. in 2012, 80% of these were never advertised. This indicates that employers were likely looking internally and among their current sphere of connections to find suitable candidates.
If you aren’t already, make sure you’re putting yourself out there by regularly attending conferences, networking groups, and industry events. You never know whom you’ll meet!
9. You’re Just Not That Likable
You can be the most qualified person for the job, but if your interviewer just plain doesn’t like you, you don’t stand a chance. Some tips for making the best first impression possible include:
- Smiling often (when appropriate)
- Being a great listener (don’t interrupt!)
- Asking thoughtful questions
- Not bragging or being overly confident
- Being talkative and expressive without dominating the conversation
- Using open body language
In the book Screw the Zoo, author Sam McRoberts outlines several chapters of insightful hacks that delve into the psychology of body language, eye contact, posture, smiling, and confidence.
10. You’re Sending the Wrong Impression
Your interview is your one chance to impress a potential employer. Are you doing any of the following, which could send the wrong impression?
- Arriving too early or too late
- Dressing inappropriately (better to err on the side of being too dressy)
- Joking around too much or being sarcastic (there’s a time for sarcasm, but that time isn’t during an interview!)
- Asking about the salary too soon in the interview (leave this until last)
- Not showing any personality
- Appearing bored or disinterested during the interview
If you’ve been job hunting for a while, it may be time to take a step back and ask yourself what you could be doing wrong. If you’re brave enough, email a past interviewer and ask why you didn’t get the job—while knowing the truth can be hard, it may help you in the long run.
Looking for more tips? You may enjoy my article “How to Build a Personal Brand While Job Hunting.”
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