Job search mistakes: Avoid these common pitfalls

Losing a job is difficult to deal with, and it’s not helped by the fact that finding a new one is often complicated and a frustrating experience. You can ease the burden by avoiding certain mistakes that are made by many job seekers.

The resume is the biggest problem area, according to resume writer and job coach Robin Schlinger. Most people have just one version of their resumes, but Schlinger says that is a mistake.

“I believe you have less of a chance of finding a job if your resume is not focused,” she says, noting that too many resumes are simply lists of job skills and responsibilities. “You are not defined by your duties or skills. Your resume should include some of your accomplishments; 80-90 percent of resumes don’t do this.

“If you have not taken the time to prepare your resume, the cover letter, no matter how well-written, will be worthless.”

Molly Wendell, the president of Executives Network, a networking group for executives in the job search, concurs. Focusing your resume for each job gives you a better chance of impressing the hiring manager.

“You want to leave nothing to interpretation on your resume. As my sixth-grade teacher used to say, ‘to be specific is terrific; to be vague is the plague,’ ” Wendell says. “You’ll get more opportunities the more specific you are.”

Though networking is generally considered a standard tool for job seeking, Wendell takes a different view. “Don’t tell people you are looking for a job or out of work. It can be a turnoff and a conversation killer. They feel bad for you and uncomfortable and want to get away from you,” she says.

Instead, Wendell recommends saying you’re in transition and focusing the conversation on the person with whom you’re speaking. For example, find out where he works and what his interests are.

“It sounds ironic, but don’t make your job search all about you,” Wendell says. “Everyone doesn’t need to know your life story.”

She also recommends that job seekers not believe everything they read, such as job postings or ads that say “no phone calls.” “Call anyway,” she says, adding that 4-6 p.m. on a Thursday or Friday is the time when the people you will want to talk with are likely to be available.

Another approach Wendell suggests is setting up a networking meeting with the hiring manager — or someone who knows the hiring manager — at a nearby coffee shop.

Ronald Kaufman, a communication skills trainer and the author of “Anatomy of Success,” offers his own list of common mistakes made by job seekers. They include not fully researching the company interviewing you — including product lines, leadership, earnings, values and online presence — and not writing an effective cover letter.

Kaufman has suggestions for when a person does land an interview. These include practicing answering possible interview questions; writing out questions you may want to ask the interviewer; learning what the wants, needs, goals and perceived problems of the prospective employer are; dressing appropriately; bringing at least three copies of your resume; showing up 10-15 minutes early; filling out all paperwork neatly and completely; and being polite and pleasant to the receptionist and any other staff members you meet.

“Some of the mistakes I often see candidates make are not saying only positive things about former bosses, companies, customers, vendors, etc., not letting the interviewer know you want the job, not sending customized thank-you notes to all appropriate people, and not following up in a reasonable amount of time if you don’t hear from them.”

Many job seekers, especially those who have lost long-standing employment, contend that it is difficult to find a new position because they are overqualified. For Schlinger, this statement has another meaning.

“When they say they are overqualified, it means they are not applying for the right jobs,” she says. “Their career field has gone away, and they need to find a new one. They can’t go back to where they were. It’s time to take a step back to show their current skills.”

Schlinger acknowledges that it can be difficult for older workers to find a new job.

“Many companies are leery of hiring experienced workers for low-level positions, because those are generally used to develop younger workers. There is also a concern that if they hire and invest in an experienced worker, he will leave when a better job comes along. The whole world has changed, and you can’t expect to be at a company for 30 years. Now you have to be brand-new.”

According to Kaufman, the key is to prove to a potential employer by your preparation and behavior that you want a career with the organization and that because of your experience, skills, traits, training, education and values, you are the best choice.

“Because there are usually several candidates who seem equally able to do the work, the hiring decision comes down to a gut feeling. The strategy is to do whatever possible to create positive gut feelings in the interviews,” he says.

Though job hunting can be a long and challenging process, Schlinger provides a statistic that adds some humor and perspective to the situation:

“There was a survey in which 95 percent of those questioned said they would not hire their boss to work for them,” she says.

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