Common Job Search Blunders – and How to Avoid Them

Posted By Terri Williams on February 21, 2017 at 5:48 pm
Common Job Search Blunders – and How to Avoid Them

Successfully navigating the job search process can often seem, in and of itself, like a full-time job. An open position may garner dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of responses, requiring applicants to be more competitive while also staying abreast of requirements and preferences.

For example, interviewers and hiring managers are checking social media profiles, and an applicant’s online presence can negatively impact hiring chances. While video presentations and infographics might be creative, the majority of employers are not in favor of trendy resumes.

Most recently, a survey of executives, conducted by Accountemps, reveals some of the common job search blunders committed by applicants when they submit cover letters and resumes, as well as mistakes made during the actual interview process.

When executives were asked to name the most common mistake in application materials, their responses were as follows:

33% Not customized to the job the candidate is applying for
24% Contain typos or poor grammar
21% Focus on job duties and not accomplishments
21% Include irrelevant information


When asked to name the most common mistake made during job interviews, executives cited the following:

27% Little or no knowledge of the company
22% Unprepared to discuss skills and experience
16% Unprepared to discuss career plans or goals
16% Lack of enthusiasm
11% Late arrival
9% Lack of eye contact


However, career coach Carlota Zimmerman, J.D., believes that there is another major mistake that many job seekers make. “Some applicants will apply for everything, and anything, without any reason or relationship between the new positions, and their experience.”

Applying for every open position in a company will cast the individual as someone who isn’t focused, Zimmerman warns. Another mistake is applying for jobs when there is no skills match or the applicant isn’t even familiar with the duties of the job. “Many people may think, ‘Well, let’s see what the job could offer me,’ and it’ll offer you a paycheck and a place to go in the mornings – a job application isn’t your second-grade homework, and you’re not Bart Simpson, so your dog having eaten your ambition and resolve isn’t good enough,” Zimmerman says.

So, what really wrong with applying for every open positon? It usually doesn’t take interviewers and hiring managers long to figure out when this strategy is being implemented. According to Bill Driscoll, district manager at Accountemps, “It’s important to show hiring managers that you’ve spent the time to investigate the company prior to applying for the open position; they want to know that you’re interested in their company, not just any company.”

Application materials for the job search

The first step in a successful job search process is to submit relevant, well-thought-out application documents. “Job applications are crucial because they’re a job seeker’s first impression with a potential employer,” according to Susan P. Joyce, an online job search expert and owner and operator of But if an application does not meet an employer’s requirements, she says it may never get seen for longer than a few seconds.

Joyce also advises against using resume templates because applicants need to stand out, and hiring managers are pretty good at recognizing a boilerplate resume. “Job seekers need to tailor their resume to each position and company,” Joyce explains.

This involves describing skills and experiences that are specific to that particular job in that particular company. “Don’t just list job duties — showcase any accomplishments that impacted the department or company’s bottom line, like managing a project that generated revenue for the company,” Driscoll advises.

Using a nonspecific greeting is another generic move to avoid. “Track down the name of the hiring manager and include it in your cover letter,” Driscoll says. “Never address it ‘To whom it may concern.’”

Keywords are an underutilized way to make sure that your resume gets seen by the right people. “To avoid falling into the black hole of an automated tracking system, they need to match keywords and phrases with the job description so hiring managers can find their resumes,” Joyce says.

Interview preparedness

The interview is an opportunity to showcase talents and skills, but it is also a chance for the company to decide whether an applicant would be a good fit with the company. Driscoll warns that the interviewer might ask, “What do you know about our company, and why do you want to work here?” He says it’s important to thoroughly research the company in advance. “Doing your homework before the interview demonstrates resourcefulness and a sincere interest in the job,” Driscoll explains. Applicants should also be prepared to answer tricky interview questions.

Salary will likely be discussed in the interview, so this is another area that applicants should prepare for.  “Research typical salary ranges in your specific area of expertise and with your level of experience,” Driscoll says. “Understanding market trends will help you know what your skills and experience are worth.”

Applicants should also have a list of their own questions. According to Joyce, “If you’re not asking questions, you don’t seem interested.” But ask thoughtful questions, as opposed to those with obvious answers. Also, don’t ask questions that seem to be more concerned about the benefits than the job itself. For example, questions like, “How long do I need to work before I can use my vacation time?” or “When do I qualify for my first raise?” may not leave the best impression. “They need to ask questions that encourage the interviewer to look at how they fit in the role,” Joyce says.

So, what type of questions would that include? Driscoll says questions about job expectations and growth potential are good topics.

Both Joyce and Driscoll believe that body language is an important part of the interview process. “Job seekers need to express their interest with positive body language, like smiling, maintaining a good posture, and making eye contact,” Joyce explains.

Rehearsing the interview with a friend or family member can help applicants practice their responses and think through their answers, which can help them be more relaxed during the actual interview.  “The employment interview is your time to shine, but it’s also when nerves can get the best of you,” Driscoll says. “Use your energy to project eagerness for the position rather than letting nerves weaken your confidence.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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