As a job searcher, you’re doing everything right. You have your interview answers perfectly scripted out, you tailor each and every resume you send in, and your LinkedIn connections far outnumber your Facebook friends. Every piece of job hunt advice that you’ve ever heard or read, you’ve put into practice.
But that ever-elusive job offer still hasn’t crossed your desk. What gives?
While the job search advice you’re following may be on point, the way you’re using it may not be helping your cause as much as you think. For a lot of tips, there’s a fine line between using it correctly and going a bit overboard (or even in the wrong direction).
Read on for a few great job search tips—and how they may be working against you.
Good Advice: Make Connections on LinkedIn
LinkedIn can be a job searcher’s dream. Through your connections, you may find that you have a link—and an immediate in—to your dream company. So, creating and cultivating new connections is extremely beneficial.
Taking it Too Far
Blindly clicking “connect” on hundreds of profiles and sending the generic invitation might land you a few extra connections, but it won’t get your profile a second glance.
Instead, recruiting expert Jenny Foss recommends first searching for contacts from your email address book. “Then invite them—but make it personal. LinkedIn will give you the option of sending a default ‘connect with me, please’ message, but don’t use it—sending a personal note will set you apart right from the start.”
Casting a wide net is beneficial, but only if you truly have some sort of link to those target connections. This is where LinkedIn’s “People You Might Know” feature comes in handy—to suggest classmates, colleagues, and former co-workers that you might not have previously thought of.
Good Advice: Explain That You’re the Best Candidate for the Job
Obviously, you want your potential employer to fully understand that you’re a great candidate; that you have all the skills you need to succeed in the position and that you’re the best man or woman for the job. So, it’s important to convey confidence in those abilities at every step in the process, from your cover letter to your interview questions.
Taking it Too Far
Overconfidence can actually be a downfall, as I learned from a hiring manager recently. I was in his office, talking about my writing experience. He asked me if I’m dissatisfied with my writing. “Of course,” I told him. “Sometimes I look back at things I wrote and wonder what in the world I was thinking.”
He chuckled knowingly and explained that he’d just interviewed a young man, fresh out of college, who answered the same question by asserting that he never wrote anything he didn’t like. And for the recruiter, that was actually a bad thing. You see, he wanted someone who not only had a realistic idea of the job (in this situation, that you’d have to write a lot of copy—quickly—and probably wouldn’t have time to make each piece perfect), but also had the desire and capacity to learn and grow. In the end, the somewhat over-confident graduate wasn’t deemed a good fit for the job.
While you shouldn’t discount your abilities (and you should certainly make a convincing case for yourself), there’s a big difference between showing confidence that you can do the job and conveying so much confidence that you end up coming across as arrogant or naïve.
Good Advice: Practice with Mock Interviews
Interviews are tough—and you want to make sure you’re prepared. So, asking a friend to help you run through practice questions is a great way to help you organize your thoughts, learn how to structure standout answers, and prepare yourself for the potentially stressful and awkward environment.
Taking it Too Far
Believe it or not, over-preparing for interviews can actually be detrimental to your chances of landing the job. As Foss explains, “It’s just as bad (or worse) to over-rehearse than it is to fly entirely by the seat of your pants.”
When you have too many memorized answers packed in your brain, you’re more likely to spend the interview trying to remember each scripted answer, rather than engaging in the conversation. The back-and-forth will seem unnatural and forced, and you’ll likely come across as insincere.
Instead, Foss recommends spending the majority of your prep time thinking over your career experience to date, jotting down a few bullet points about specifics you want to hit on. “Think about what you’re most proud of, what you struggled with, what you learned from the struggles, where you developed management skills, how you got to be so good at problem solving, and so on,” she explains. “When you’re confident with the specifics of your story, you’ll have a much easier time drawing from your experiences and articulating your worth, no matter what you’re asked.”
Good Advice: Use the Job Description to Tailor Your Cover Letter and Resume
When a hiring manager reads your application, you want him or her to immediately recognize how your background and experience make you the perfect candidate for the job. So, use the job description as a guide to fill your resume and cover letter with the right skills and experiences.
Taking it Too Far
Pulling keywords from the job listing and slapping them on your application materials probably won’t have the effect you’re going for. When you include every phrase from the job description, including generic staples like “hard worker,” “fast learner,” and “excellent communicator,” you’ll take up a lot of valuable space—but you won’t actually convey to the recruiter that you’re any of those things.
Instead, pull skill- and experience-based qualities from the job description (e.g., “hands-on experience with Google Analytics” or “experience with Object Relational Mapping frameworks”), and then show how (by using your past accomplishments and responsibilities) you meet those requirements.
Then, in the interview phase, you’ll have more opportunities to showcase those soft skills (like having a thirst for knowledge or being a quick learner) by telling anecdotes of how you’ve displayed those qualities in your past jobs.
As you can see, good job search tips can turn into bad advice pretty quickly. But by taking a step back and reevaluating your approach, you can get back on track in no time.