This may be your first kick at a professional work search or you may be on round five, six or seven. Either way, there are many little behaviors that you might be doing that could be sabotaging your success with employers or recruiters. Common slip ups or don’t knows might include the following. Get your resume and cover letter out and see how many of these faux pas you might be guilty of:

  • Not tailoring your resume to the job posting.
  • Not including a branding statement that speaks to what the employer needs and wants for the role you are applying to.
  • Not using the same words or phrases from the posting to heighten key word recognition.
  • Using fancy fonts and formatting on your resume and cover letter.
  • Not sending a cover letter
  • Combining too many strengths or skills in one line with no explanation or example of their benefits.
  • Starting a bullet point with “Ability to” or “Successfully” or “Handled, Worked on or Did…..”
  • Leaving the resume reader to assume too much about your accomplishments, to second guess what may have resulted from the action you took.
  • Not including mostly Action / Result statements in the resume.
  • Using trite, non definitive words to describe your strengths, eg. Excellent communication skills, team player, multi-tasker; organized, etc.
  • Regurgitating your resume in your cover letter.
  • Using “To Whom It May Concern” in a cover letter when it is possible to get the person’s actual name. If it is not attainable use Dear Sir/Madam.
  • Any, even one, typo or grammatical errors in any written material.
  • Having a difficult email address to type out or one that is too informal. If that’s the case, create a new address just for your job search.
  • Incorrect spelling of the name of the contact person on the posting.
  • Calling people too often to set up meetings.
  • Not leaving your phone number in your phone message.
  • Not speaking clearly on voice mail – running your words together.
  • Speaking too slowly or too quickly on voice mail and not articulating your name clearly.
  • Eating, smoking or chewing gum while on the phone.
  • Failing to use your name on your voice mail message; ‘we’re not here to take your call’ is totally unprofessional.
  • Having a ‘cutesy’ or ‘funny’ message on your  voice mail.
  • Not checking your voice mails and emails often enough.
  • Not getting back to callers in a short time period.
  • Wasting peoples’ time.
  • Not doing what you said you would do.
  • Filling out a job application in casual clothing, improperly groomed, with your friend or parent or child in tow.
  • Limp, fishy handshakes.
  • No eye contact or smile; darting eyes don’t work for trustful, meaningful connections either.
  • Not returning calls or returning calls from a noisy location, such as with children yelling in the background, or from a cell phone while walking down the street or while doing something else.
  • Dressing inappropriately for an interview.
  • Being late for a job interview.
  • Bringing your children, mother or a friend to an interview.
  • Not being prepared for an interview or meeting.
  • Bad mouthing a former employer.
  • Lying or fabricating the truth.
  • Using slang, or the dreaded word LIKE or YOU KNOW too often; swearing.
  • Taking a cell phone into an interview and not turning it off; or worse answering a call on your cell phone during an interview.
  • Not doing enough research on the company you will be interviewing with.
  • Not following instructions in postings as to how to send your resume or violating the NO PHONE CALLS PLEASE request.  
  • Not sending a thank-you letter after a job interview.
  • Not saying Please and Thank You every step of the way.  We are Canadians after all, so be polite, eh!

Add up how many of the ‘job search no no’s’ that you’re committing to see how well you score.


Colleen Clarke, Career Specialist and Corporate Trainer

Author of Networking How To Build Relationships That Count and
How To Get A Job and Keep It