When it comes to job searching, there are some basic mistakes to avoid: Cover letters should never be addressed to “Sir or Madame,” your resume should be typo-free, and you should never go into an interview with no knowledge of the company or the position.
Once you have those covered, the rest of the process should be a breeze, right?
Turns out, even with those things under control, you’re not quite in the clear. Over my years of job hunting, I made some mistakes that cost me opportunities and held me back from finding a job I really loved.
So, after a lot of learning (and a lot of cover letters and resumes), here are three of the biggest job search mistakes I’ve made—and how you can avoid them in your hunt.
Mistake #1: Search, Apply, Wait, Repeat
When I first started my job hunt, I was enamored by the idea of landing the perfect job. So to do that, I would scour job listings for hours until I found a single listing that I thought was the one. I’d pour all my energy into crafting my cover letter and resume, then send it in and wait. And wait. And wait.
Sometimes, I’d land an interview. Other times, I wouldn’t hear back for a couple weeks, so I’d give up on that opportunity and begin the entire process again.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that my process wasn’t very efficient. I’d hear about friends who had multiple job offers to pick from (and use in their favor when it came to salary negotiations), but for me, that never happened. It couldn’t have happened—not with my strategy.
The Better Option
In most cases, it works in your favor to gather a number of ideal job listings, then apply to them all in the same general time frame. This will help shorten your job search and give you a much better chance of coordinating multiple job offers. Oh, and if you haven't heard back in a couple weeks, don't be afraid to follow up with the hiring manager.
Mistake #2: Apply ASAP
In addition to mistake #1, I’d often make mistake #2: When I came across a job I was extra excited about, I’d want to get in my application materials as soon as possible—meaning I’d crank out the first thing that came to mind as a cover letter, quickly glance over my resume, and hit the send button as fast as I could. I figured the quicker the hiring manager had my resume in hand, the sooner I’d be called into the office for an interview.
What I didn’t anticipate was that the next day, I’d review what I sent and realize that I left bullet points in my resume that didn’t need to be there, forgot to add a recent and relevant project that I’d worked on, and failed to include a main point in my cover letter about why I wanted to work at the company. In short, I applied much too fast—and as a result, didn’t come across exactly the way I wanted to.
The Better Option
Don’t rush. It’s much better to spend a few days perfecting your resume and cover letter (and having someone look over it) than be the first application in the hiring manager’s inbox. And always—always—read over your materials before you send them in (especially if they were composed at, say, 2 AM).
Mistake #3: Letting the Recruiter Take the Lead
When I first applied to a large company, I'd never worked with an in-house recruiter before. And so, since I'd applied for a technical writing position, I didn't expect to be interviewed for a completely different role: a supervisor position. Sure, management experience made up the majority of my resume—but I was trying desperately to change directions. Figuring that any job was better than no job, though, I went along with it. And I received an offer for a role I immediately knew I didn't want.
The truth is, a recruiter's job is to fill positions with qualified candidates—so if you're looking to make a big change in your career and aren't up front about that, this can easily work against you. And if you ignore that little voice inside you—the one telling you that the role isn't right for you—you can end up in a position you swore you'd never take. (Trust me, I've been there!)
The Better Option
Being flexible can be a great thing—but if you're set on changing your career path or want to get experience in something other than what's on your resume, don't be afraid to say so. Trust your instincts when it comes to choosing the job listings you want to apply and interview for, and learn how to look for red flags, ask the right questions, and take time to evaluate any opportunity before making a decision. (And remember: That gut feeling? It’s usually right.)
Tell us! What big job search mistakes have you made?