The seven deadly sins of the job search
It’s easy to commit job-search sins. There are so many. Here we list the seven most deadly sins that will kill your search and most likely result in you remaining forever unemployed.
Not being prepared. One of the most important rules of the job search is “be prepared” (just like the Scouts). Preparation includes, but is not limited to, thoroughly researching the company you’re applying to, practicing for the interview – including planning your answers to typical and/or difficult questions – planning what to wear, and prepping your references so they know, first, that they will be called as references (the number of people who don’t give warning about this is far too high) and, second, what to say. Never be caught off guard.
Not treating job hunting like a job. A recent survey of unemployed Canadians found that most aren’t exactly killing themselves looking for work. Thirty-two percent said they had spent five or fewer hours looking for a job in the past week, and only eight per cent said they had spent 31 hours or more. How on earth do you expect to find a job if you spend just half a day looking? Job hunting is a job. You should be spending a full work week at it. That’s 40 hours.
Focusing on the “I” and not the “you.” A recent article by Peter Harris discusses the worst job interview answer you can possibly give to the question “Why should I hire you?” That answer is any variation on “Because I need the job.” You’re not a charity case. You’re a job candidate. And as such you need to demonstrate what you can do for the employer, not what they can do for you.
Sending out generic resumes. A common practice is to send out a generic resume and count on the cover letter to bridge the gap between the resume and the job description. Don’t do that. It doesn’t work. Tailor your resume to each specific position. If the main job requirement is that you drive sales, focus in the “experience” section on examples of how you have increased sales in the past. If you are required to manage a team, illustrate that you have managed teams in the past. Also, rid your resume of tired, old clichés. Nobody wants to read that you’re a “results oriented team player.”
Not developing your people skills. A recent survey of Canadian CEOs found that people skills are by far the most desired attributes in potential hires. You have to know how to – and demonstrate that you can – listen, communicate, and share. This includes not being an idiot online and not starting arguments with strangers on social media. Be as nice as you can to everyone you meet. Smart employers will always hire for attitude over skill, so it pays to be likeable.
Not paying attention to detail. Attention to detail isn’t just a requirement for most jobs, it’s a requirement for getting anywhere. From an error-free application (always scan your resume and cover letter for typos and grammatical errors – and have a friend read it for you); to looking your best at the interview – which includes researching company culture whenever possible; to a thorough post-interview follow up, pay attention to the details. That’s where the devil is, as they say.
Applying for jobs for which you’re not even remotely qualified. Hiring managers often have to sift through hundreds of resumes looking for the right fit. Please don’t waste people’s time. If the posting is for a programmer and you don’t have any coding ability, don’t apply. You’re not going to get it. Of course, we have talked in the past about credential creep, in which employers ask for an impossible combination of skills and experience (because they don’t actually know what they’re talking about and only have a vague idea of what the position actually requires), essentially making the position an impossible one to fill. Follow a simple three quarter rule: if you have three out of four of all the skills and experience required, go ahead and apply.