5 big job hunting errors

Posted on February 16th, by Dr Rob Yeung .

I coach quite a few people who want to find new jobs. I’ve been doing a lot of this recently and it made me think of some of the commonest mistakes I’ve been seeing people make when job hunting.

1. Sending the same CV out to multiple employers
Do you have considerable, directly-relevant experience on your CV? If the answer to that question is ‘yes’, then by all means just update your CV and send it out to multiple employers.

If the answer is ‘no’, then you must tailor your CV to the needs of each employer. The best way to do this is to have a section towards the top of your CV that lists ‘Skills/Characteristics’, in which you can mention the specific skills that any individual employer is seeking.

For example, say you’re applying to one company – and that advert says they are looking for someone with ‘organisational skills’ and ‘the ability to think for themselves’. Of course it makes sense to mention those two precise phrases in your CV (and not just the covering letter).

But imagine that you then apply for the same kind of work at a different company that specifically mentions they are looking for someone with ‘a friendly manner and proven client skills’ and ‘a willingness to take the initiative’. If you apply for this second job but still use the phrases ‘organisational skills’ and ‘the ability to think for themselves’, then your application is much weaker.

So make sure to use the same words that each employer uses as headings within your CV – and then write two or three sentences explaining how you possess the skills or characteristics they are seeking.

2. ‘Being yourself’ during the interview
I’ve heard some job hunters say that they want to ‘be themselves’ during the interview so that they don’t end up in the wrong job. And that’s fine – if you’re happy with not being offered any jobs.

My advice is that you should be your ‘best self’ during the interview. Interviewers judge candidates on first impressions. And the likelihood is that most of the other candidates are making an effort to present themselves well during their interviews. So if you aim to just ‘be yourself’ during the interview, you’re probably hampering your chances significantly.

You probably make an effort when you meet with your grandparents. So make an effort with interviewers, too: be courteous, warm and friendly and show your enthusiasm and humour when it’s appropriate to do so.

3. Being rude to the support staff
I’ve actually seen this happening on occasion. Sometimes, senior candidates come in for an interview and make off-hand comments to someone that they see as inferior or unimportant – a secretary, an assistant or a junior member of the team. But this kind of behaviour often gets reported back to the interviewers.

Just think: imagine that you are an interviewer and that the final decision is between two candidates. One of them was warm and respectful while the other one was a bit dismissive or rude. Who would you hire?

Make sure you start behaving as your ‘best self’ the moment you get anywhere near the interviewers’ building.

4. Not preparing interview answers and rehearsing before an interview
What are your three biggest achievements? What are your strengths? How would your colleagues describe you? What attracts you to this job vacancy?

These are such common questions and you need to be prepared to answer them. If you wait until during the interview to think about your answers, you may end up hesitating or saying ‘um’ and ‘er’ and so on. So do yourself a favour and at least write down some bullet points on how you would answer the questions you’re likely to be asked. And then practise saying the answers out loud at least a couple of times.

By preparing and rehearsing, you will allow yourself to come across as much more confident.

5. Mentioning what you want before you’ve been offered the job
Interviewers like to hire candidates who are easy-going and enthusiastic. So if you mention early in the interview process what you want – perhaps in terms of salary, hours or types of projects you desire – then you could quickly come across as demanding and self-interested.

Now, the truth is that all candidates are interested in the salary, hours and types of work they will end up doing. But it’s worth avoiding bringing up these topics until after you have been offered the job.

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