As a career coach, I’ve helped hundreds of job seekers take the pain out of the job hunt and find the career path that’s best for them. While each person’s situation and goals are different, I’ve found five common mistakes to avoid for a more effective job search.
1. Relying on Online Strategies
Online job boards and networking groups have become the new landscape for job seekers and employers. (In fact here are some of my favorite job boards). However, this doesn’t mean you should spend all your effort applying to jobs online. Submitting an online application is the one option you want to avoid.
Many employers have adopted ATS’s (read this to learn more about applicant tracking systems or ATS’s) to spend less manpower sifting through the hundreds of resumes they receive. Since job seekers tend to be unaware of robot-friendly keywords or formatting, most applications end up in the virtual trash. (That’s why you’ve been getting those auto-generated rejection emails).
Try Making it More Personal
Instead of spending your time hitting “send,” research the person behind the job posting. Look at your network for potential referrals. Even finding an email address attached to a human is a better option than the online route. The same goes for networking. Although networking has been “simplified” through online forums, personal relationships and connections are still more effective. Don’t neglect in-person networking events.
2. Underestimating Linkedin
While the online landscape has complicated the application process, it has also served to benefit job seekers with the introduction of Linkedin. Linkedin is the place to be because it offers a ton of benefits regardless of profession, level, goal or job search status (even non-job seekers need to have an optimized profile). For job seekers, this is the largest talent database, which translates to: “the place 100% of recruiters and hiring managers go to find their next hire.” For non-job seekers, Linkedin is important because it allows you to be found for opportunities you least expect. Linkedin is also a great resource for researching companies or career paths and managing your professional network. You don’t need to join every social network but trust me – you do need to be optimized on Linkedin. Here’s one way to make sure you’re completely optimized on Linkedin.
3. Not Communicating Your Brand
Professional brand strategy is probably the number one area for improvement when job seekers in need, contact me. Many job seekers think of a resume, cover letter or Linkedin profile as a work history and tend to communicate a very standard, dull brand with every application. However, your application documents should be viewed as marketing materials used to paint yourself in the most desirable picture for your reader. The job market is competitive so taking time to carefully customize the best message for each application is critical for standing out in the crowd.
Try Viewing Your Profile from the Hiring Manager’s Perspective
Consider your resume valuable marketing real estate, only including that which is necessary and compelling for each application. Try adding a brief headline to immediately summarize what you do and always guide your reader to the info most relevant to his/her needs.
4. Overlooking Job Descriptions
Creating a strong brand in many ways is driven by the hiring manager’s needs as expressed in the job description. It’s not enough to identify a job that’s a perfect fit and assume the reader will also see your fit. You must tailor your brand to the job description and that means really understanding the need the company is trying to fill. Every job description is unique and every resume you send should follow suit. Identify keywords and skills within the job description and mirror that language in your resume. Aim to communicate one message: “I am the solution to the problem you need solved.”
5. Starting Too Late
Many people assume the job hunt is a quick process but the reality is, it can last upward of six months. Even if your job search is a few years out, never be afraid to test the market or throw your hat in the ring when an opportunity comes your way. The worst that can happen is an interested employer refuses to wait until you’re ready to start. The upside is you are able to test your brand against your target role, practice interviewing, take greater risk when negotiating with interested parties, and potentially end up in an even better opportunity.