There are six Common job-hunting mistakes that many job hunters make. Any of these can lead an employer to choose another candidate despite the job-hunter’s excellent credentials. What are these mistakes? How can you avoid them?
Omitting a résumé cover letter
The cover letter is not an unimportant, time-consuming matter of protocol that can be omitted when you send your résumé to an employer. It shows the employer you’ve put in some extra time in applying for the position. It is more personal than your résumé and allows you to focus on your skills, experience and accomplishments of greatest interest to a particular employer. Omit this focus and submit what looks like a form letter and your cover letter is largely a wasted effort. Your goal should be to explain why you are exactly the person the company is looking to hire.
Writing a targeted cover letter that accomplishes this goal can be time-consuming. It’s not just writing an excellent letter that takes time. You should also find the name of the best person, usually the hiring manager, who should receive your letter. Your cover letter salutation should include this person’s name.
Not researching the company before your interview
Your employment interview and all the work you put in job hunting before your interview will be wasted effort if you show up unprepared. Many employers ask questions that help them determine whether you’ve done your homework on the company.
Also, prepare at least a couple of thoughtful questions that show you’ve studied the company. These questions should go beyond the basic information widely available about the employer.
Ironically, too much research can leave you with no questions to ask about the company. Should this happen, develop a couple of questions anyway to demonstrate your interest in the employer. Not having any questions can suggest you are not interested in the job or don’t show much initiative.
Be alert to the possibility that something that gets said in the interview can give rise to a good question for you to ask. If nothing else, ask interviewers what concerns if any they have about your qualifications for the job. If you don’t have a question, ask a stock question such as “What do you like most about your job?”
Not thinking before you speak
Asking a poorly phrased question or making a flippant remark can create a negative impression. So think carefully before you make a remark, ask a question, or answer one.
Clean up your online image
A 2009 Microsoft survey found that 79% of hiring managers and recruiters do online searches on job applicants and review what they discover. If they find negative remarks about your lifestyle, inappropriate photos and videos, or just poor communications style in your Twitter and Facebook posts, they may eliminate you from further consideration for the job.
Even with privacy filters, your personal information may not be safe. Don’t post information you wouldn’t want a prospective employer to see. This includes criticism of your current employer.
Choose your social media connections carefully
Add only people you know or have done business with. This includes networking connections you’ve made at professional conferences such as American Chemical Society meetings. Help other people in your network when you can. It will make them more willing to help you in your job hunt.
Don’t rely only on the Internet
Many firms, particularly well-known large firms are deluged with applicants when they post job openings on their website or on a job board. Your résumé and application can get lost among the many others an employer receives. So rely on in-person networking and other methods of job hunting in addition to job hunting online.
Lying on your résumé or during an interview can come back to haunt you even if you get a job offer and start working for an employer. I know two cases of chemists who claimed to have degrees they hadn’t earned. Both lost their jobs immediately on discovery. Neither had been employed for more than one year. These cases occurred at two different companies in two different states and I knew both individuals.
Avoid the missteps and follow basic good job-hunting practices and you eventually will find a good job.
John Borchardt is a chemist and freelance writer who has been an ACS career consultant for 15 years. He is the author of the ACS/Oxford University Press Book “Career Management for Scientists and Engineers.” He has had more than 1200 articles published in a variety of magazines, newspapers and encyclopedias. As an industrial chemist, he holds 30 U.S. and more than 125 international patents and is the author of more than 130 peer-reviewed papers.