Wednesday, February 18, 2015

8 Mistakes to Avoid When Applying for Jobs

8 Surefire Ways to Never Get a Job by Nancy Patterson

I had an interesting conversation today with Patrick Coffey. He is in the process of hiring a new customer service representative to join the team. And boy did he have a lot to say about the hiring process!

He posted the job opening on CareerBuilder just two weeks ago and in that short period of time they have received over 500 applications! That’s a lot of résumés to look through. Thus it takes a lot for a person to stand out among the crowd.

Now I know you read our Easy Street newsletter each week to learn money saving tips and tricks. But in order to save money you have to make money, so I thought it prudent to tell you the eight most common mistakes Patrick is seeing.  Some are obvious while some, I’m sure you’ve never thought of.

Mistake #1: Typos!

Nothing says “I really don’t want this job!” like a misspelling or incorrect information. Double and triple check your résumé for typos.  Have a third person look over your résumé and cover letter before you hit send. Careless and easily correctible spelling mistakes are an easy way for hiring managers to pass you over.

Mistake #2: Disregarding Your Online Reputation

If Patrick liked an applicant’s résumé the next step would be to check out their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages. “You can learn a lot about a person online. One applicant had semi-nude pictures of herself on her Facebook page. Another had her privacy settings activated but had a message up that referred to ‘f%$* buddies’ and other sexual encounters.”

Job applicants should assume employers are checking out their web pages. They use social media and other web pages to judge the character of an applicant. Pictures with inappropriate clothing, bad mouthing an employer, references to drugs and alcohol can all put a potential candidate out of the running.

Remove all scandalous material and put up only appropriate pictures up while searching for a job. Facebook provides privacy settings so use them!

Mistake #3: No Cover Letter

To compete against the hundreds and maybe even thousands of other job applicants you need to find a way to stand out. A cover letter is a great way to do that.

Write a paragraph or two explaining yourself and why you would make a great addition to their team. Personalize the letter with the name of the hiring manager instead of To Whom It May Concern. Reiterate the position you are applying for and your qualifications in the first paragraph.

This is also a good place to site examples rather than mention general skills.  If you are applying for a marketing position, cite a time when you used your marketing expertise to execute a marketing campaign.

Mistake #4: Violating Interview Etiquette

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. If a potential candidate is lucky enough to make it to the next round in the interview process a face to face interview is arranged.

That means dressing appropriately for the interview, arriving on time and having a firm handshake. Research ahead of time what type of company you are interviewing with. If it’s a financial company wear a conservative suit or dress, no loud prints or colors. Likewise interviewing with an internet company a tie without a jacket may be appropriate. Try to gleam this from the tone of the company’s website, when in doubt overdress with a conservative outfit.

To go along with your clothing arrive at an appropriate time. Arriving late to an interview is not an option. Arrive five to ten minutes early, but no more than that. Being too early can be just as bad as arriving late. To make sure you arrive on time do a dry run the day before your interview to make sure you know where the company is located and how long it will take you to get there.

Employers also judge potential candidates based on how firm their handshake is. Many applicants provide a weak handshake due to nervousness or stress. A limp hand will be remembered far longer than a strong one.

Mistake #5: Not Researching the Company Before The Interview

Undoubtedly you will be asked if you checked out the company’s website during an interview. No matter what, ALWAYS review it. If you don’t have access to a computer or the internet use a friends. This step is so important and a big reason why some candidates don’t get hired.

I sat in on an interview a few years ago, the applicant had the experience we were looking for, answered every question appropriately and did everything right, except check out our company’s website ahead of time. This one fact cost the applicant the job.

Employers are looking for reasons not to hire you. Don’t give them one. Read over all company material ahead of time to get a feel for the type of company they are. Make sure to compliment employers on their site when appropriate and ask questions about any content. Be able to express in words that you visited your potential employers’ website.

Mistake #6: Not Being Able to Give Examples

There are questions you will be asked no matter what job or industry you are interviewing in.  Ask a friend or relative to go over these questions with you ahead of time and come up with examples for each one. Preparation will take you far.

 Make sure you have answered prepared for questions such as these:

 -What is your biggest weakness?

 -Give an example of your leadership abilities?

 -Describe a situation in which you had to work with a difficult person. How did you handle it?

 -What have you been up to since your last job?

No matter what question you get, never answer with just a “yes” or a “no”. Employers are trying to learn as much as possible about you so expand on your responses and give examples. provides answers that any employer would like to hear to these typical interview questions.

Mistake #7: Not Asking Any Questions

An interview is a two way street. Employers conducting interviews like it when potential candidates ask them questions too. Don’t be afraid to ask about something that confuses you or interests you about the position or company. Asking questions shows a potential employer you are interested in the job and have done your due diligence before the interview. Great questions to ask are:

 -Is this a new position?

 -What happened to the last person that held this job?

 -What are the day-to-day responsibilities of this job?

 -Can you describe an ideal employee?

 -How do you see the company in the next five years?

Employers will judge you based on the types of questions you ask. Ask open ended questions and not one’s easily answered by a simple web search. Don’t ask about salary or vacation time during your first phone or face to face interview.

Mistake #8: No Follow Up

Following an interview send a thank you letter to the employer. If most of your contact has been through email then sending a thank you letter via email is appropriate. Make sure to reiterate your interest in the position and remind the employer of any vital qualifications you possess. If there is anything you failed to mention during the interview mention it at this time. Keep your follow up brief and to the point.

A major purpose of the follow up is to demonstrate that you have good manners. If more than a week has passed from the date you were told you would hear from the employer send an additional email inquiring about the position. This will demonstrate your continued interest in the company and willingness to go the extra mile.

At every chance try to show your potential employer you are the best candidate for the job. Do your due diligence, practice your answers and know the proper interview etiquette to ensure a fighting chance at getting the job. Interviewing can be stressful, but taking the proper steps necessary to beat out your competition will help ensure you’re the right man for the job.

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