Common Mistakes Made by Job Seekers

After 10 years as a state unemployment counselor, it’s clear to me that job seekers are wont to follow their same old routine every day, yet they expect it to yield different results. In doing so, they set themselves up for rejection. Most of us are allergic to rejection. The adverse reaction causes our thinking to become muddled, and we go on to commit even more blunders. The following are the most common mistakes that job hunters make. Work to eliminate them from your daily routine and you’ll increase your odds of success.

Divulging too much.

Some people who have lost their jobs become bitter and feel they have the right to vent whenever possible. Others feel an urge to explain to others why they’re no longer employed and they’ll tell anyone who will listen. Sound familiar?

When interviewers ask why aren’t you with your last employer, resist the urge to blurt out your whole story. There’s no need to relive the pain. Learn to get comfortable with a simple answer such as, “There was a reorganization” or “downsizing.” Not only is the hiring manager not interested in the gory details, but you may ruin the rest of the interview.

Doing what everyone else does.

Job seekers often operate as if the employment process follows a strict protocol. When they call employers, they very politely ask for “the manager” or human resources or tell whoever answers the phone that they’re calling about the ad in the paper. They tell their story and then later they’re surprised when they don’t get a call back. If they only knew what they sounded like, they’d change their approach.

By doing things the same way as everyone else, you’ll never be noticed. The resulting traffic jam leads only to a dead end. You need to learn how to become creative. When making that initial call, put some inflection in your voice. Instead of hoping to get an interview, try to meet the hiring manager on neutral turf. Reach that decision maker and make her an offer. Don’t be afraid that you’ll offend someone if you take a side street to reach your destination.

Leading with your chin.

Job seekers can lose ground by what they say and how they say it. When you call an employer and ask for “the manager” or “personnel,” you’re sticking your chin out so you can be hit. By not knowing whom to ask for by name, you’re acknowledging that you’re a stranger and unsure of yourself.

Consider your reaction when the phone rings at home and the caller says, “I’d like to speak to the man of the house.” You immediately think: This is a stranger and he’s trying to sell me something, right? By not knowing your name, he’s weakened his position and credibility immediately. So when you call an employer, ask for a specific person by name. Such questions as “Are you hiring?” or “Any openings?” are definite “Hit me right here” introductions that inevitably yield a negative response.

Speak from strength rather than from weakness. Sound positive, alert, happy and secure. By sounding weak and uninteresting, you’re leading with your chin and you’re apt to get knocked out.

If you’ve been out of work and are feeling low, you may want to listen to your own answering-machine message. Your dejection might be reflected in your tone of voice. If it’s a dry and dull monotone, erase it and wait for a day when something good happens and then record a new greeting.

Squandering the interview.

I can’t tell you the number of times job seekers have told me, “I thought the interview went fantastic, but they never called.” When I ask what they learned or what the interviewer was like, they invariably have no answers. These candidates didn’t know how to take advantage of their time in front of a hiring manager. In short, they hadn’t done their homework. They spent the meeting telling the interviewer all the great things they’ve done and why they’d make a great employee. There are three reasons why this approach fails:

No.1: Interviewers presumably already know your accomplishments because more than likely they’ve read your resume.

No. 2: Without knowing about the job, you can’t convince someone you’re the best person for it.

No. 3: If you don’t know about the company, you don’t know whether you’d like to work there.

You can use the interview to turn the odds in your favor. Become a sponge and soak up clues from the office. Notice the fixtures, pictures on the wall and other furnishings and use these subtle hints to probe for additional details about the position, company and interviewer. The interview shouldn’t be a bragging session but rather a meeting of two professionals sharing ideas.

Overemphasizing your resume.

By far the most common mistake job seekers make is focusing too much on their resumes. “Oh, I must redo my resume,” or “I’ve got to send out at least one resume a day.” I hear this all the time. Somehow we’ve been convinced that in order to get a job we must fill the world with our resume. We spend an eternity working and reworking our resume believing it’s the most important part of a job search. It isn’t. As a matter of fact it isn’t second in importance, or third, or fourth, or even fifth. Let me give you some facts about your resume.

Let’s start with the definition of a resume. What is it? It’s two pages of all the great things you’ve done. It’s the same for Jim’s resume and Bill’s and Kathy’s. They’re all exactly the same. Does it tell me anything about you as a person? Are you a good listener? Are you trustworthy? Are you fun to be around? A resume can’t say much about you personally, but we’re convinced that it’s all-important.

Another point to consider is that more than 90% of resumes aren’t read. Yet, your resume is your No. 1 source of rejection. If you send 100 resumes in three months and receive approximately four responses (which is about average), that’s 96 rejections.

Lastly, a job that pays $75,000 a year advertised in a national newspaper can draw 2,000 resumes per week. That breaks down to 400 per day. Chances are slim that a hiring manager is going to find you in that stack. That’s why networking is so much more important. You’re better off devoting the time that you’d spend endlessly tweaking your resume to developing and tapping your personal connections.

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