There are lots of big obstacles that keep you from getting an interview that are out of your control: your previous experience (or lack thereof) compared to other candidates, your salary requirements, and so on.
While you can’t always control every part of the job search process, there could also be little things that are within your control—things that are so easy to fix you’ll actually feel relieved at how little time it’ll take you.
So, if you’re currently struggling to make it to the next round, here are five changes you can make that won’t require an entire job search makeover.
1. Your Application’s Too Long
Here’s a little tip from me to you: Every sentence in your cover letter should matter. No fluff, no buzzwords, no beating around the bush. If you follow this rule, your cover letter will be the perfect length (at most, one page)—and the hiring manager just might read the whole thing.
And when it comes to your resume, don’t you dare cross that one-page mark there either. While you may be very accomplished, it’s unlikely that the person reading it will ever get to page two. And rather than focusing on your accomplishments, he or she will very likely get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information presented there and not be able to focus in on why you’re the right candidate.
2. You Make Careless Errors
You missed a word on your resume, you spelled the hiring manager’s name wrong, or you forgot to attach your cover letter. It’s OK, but don’t let it happen again. Use spellcheck, have a friend read it over, and double check the requirements before hitting that submit button. And, if you still happen to press “send” before fixing your mistake, acknowledging the error could be a great way to redeem yourself.
3. Your Materials Don’t Open
Wouldn’t you feel horrible if you found out the reason you didn’t get the interview was because the hiring manager couldn’t open your file, or opened it to a completely weird layout, and just gave up? Yeah, me too.
So, do your diligence to make sure it looks good no matter what by testing it on multiple browsers and smartphones to see if anything gets cut off or reformatted. It’s a silly, but very necessary step in the process.
4. You Miss Deadlines
Some jobs have specific deadlines—January 11 at midnight—while others are rolling. Even if it seems like the opening is live, it’s possible they’re not looking at new applicants at the moment.
A lot of the process is a crapshoot, which is why it’s key to check postings frequently. And if one strikes your interest, my best suggestion is to apply right away (well, once you have your materials together)—the more you delay, the more likely it is that when your application finally makes it in, the company has already started considering other candidates.
And, if it has been up for a while, it never hurts to message the hiring manager or HR department on LinkedIn to ask if they’re still looking. Especially because if they are, that gives you an in. (If not, well, now you’re on their radar).
5. You Are Clearly Mass Emailing
And finally, your cover letter and emails are probably fine, but if you addressed them “To the Hiring Manager” or copy and pasted your content word for word without even including the name of the company you’re talking to, you’re not doing yourself any favors.
There’s a reason why we talk about tailoring and personalizing your message—because hiring managers, surprisingly, can tell when they’re just another application in your pile. A generic application rarely stands out. And if it’s addressed to the wrong company or wrong person, well, you’re really not going to make it through the first round. It’s often times a combination of your personality and experience that really makes people want to meet you.
So get personal. Start by addressing it to a specific individual (a.k.a., actually call the hiring manager by his or her name) and making sure to name the company and why you’d be a good fit for that specific role.
Don’t let the little stuff keep you from the big goal—the interview. Even a small change could be just what you need to turn your job search around.