4 common job search mistakes (and what to do about them)
You’ve heard it already: first impressions count. From the moment you hit send on your application email, potential employers are scrutinizing your every move. Hiring, after all, is expensive, and a bad hire can cost a company serious money.
It’s not just what’s in your resume that counts. From the subject heading in your email to the way you make eye contact when you arrive for your interview – employers are considering everything. So what happens when you make a mistake?
Here are four common job search mistakes, and what to do about them.
You realize you made a mistake in your application
Did you use the wrong file naming convention? Make it right. In most cases, an apology is unnecessary (and might even make it worse), but it is totally okay to send updated files along with a polite note that says something along these lines: “Please refer to this updated resume when assessing my application. Thanks very much!”
If your mistake is major (let’s say you’ve accidentally attached a totally inappropriate file in place of your resume), own it. In this case, be direct, apologize, and make it right. Reiterate your interest in the position, and don’t take it as a given that you’ll be written off. In some cases, the person reviewing your application will judge you harshly for the mistake, but others might appreciate the way you diffused the situation.
You’re late (or worse…)
As soon as you know you’re going to be late, get in touch. Call your interviewer, and if you can’t get in touch with them, contact reception. Explain your situation (without getting too personal), let them know what time you will realistically arrive, and apologize. When you do finally arrive, apologize for the delay, express how glad you are to be there, and then drop it and move on with confidence.
What’s worse than being late? Realizing you’ve totally dropped the ball and a) showed up at the wrong location or time, or b) somehow completely missed the interview time. In both cases, your response is key – be in touch with your contact at the company as soon as you can be to let them know what’s happened (again, not going into too much detail), apologize, and restate your interest in the position and hopes that you can arrange another opportunity to interview.
Be gracious, even if they tell you you’ve missed your chance. Thank them, and ask them to keep you in mind for any future opportunities. It may also be a good idea to follow up by email to again apologize. You can then reiterate your interest in the position and company. You never know, you might just get back into their good books.
You fumble an interview response
We’ve all been there. An interviewer asks a question, and somehow the connection between your brain and your mouth shorts out. A vaguely nonsensical response finds its way into the room. Not your finest moment.
It’s okay. Take a deep breath. You can have a take two (sort of).
You can even stop yourself in the middle of an answer. Try something like, “You know what, I realize as I’m responding that this question is getting at something a little more complex than I first thought. I just need a moment to consider exactly how I want to respond.” Then take that time, and figure out what you want to focus on. Find the point that will best relate to whatever it is you want to highlight in your response – your strength and a key experience, or the underlying values you want to reveal in your response. When you’re ready, share your thoughts. Be clear, concise, and to the point, and move onwards from there.
Even if you don’t catch yourself in the moment, take time at the end of the interview to follow up if there’s anything major you need to address. That time when they ask you if you have anything else you want to share? Use it. If you forgot to include a vital piece of information in an earlier response, now’s the time to highlight it.
You don’t follow up (or you overdo it)
A thoughtful thank you note after your interview is still a must – email is fine. You can also follow up once the employer’s decision date has passed to remind them of your interest and ask about the status of the position. This is something you should do once and once only. It’s a very fine line from eagerness to desperation, and you don’t want people to feel as if you’re harassing them. If someone starts dreading your calls, it will be hard for them to get excited about seeing your face in the office every day.
Mistakes are unavoidable. Humans aren’t perfect, and no one expects you to be. A hiring manager wants to figure out how well you’ll be able to do the job, and whether people will want to work with you. Prove yourself to be intelligent and respectful about how you engage with people and situations – even and especially when you’ve made a mistake – and you’ll be a highly valued candidate.