The 5 Most Common Mistakes You Make in Your Job Search

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Written by Seun Oyediran

The 5 Most Common Mistakes Job Seekers Make

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Looking for a job, is a job”.  Sometimes this is true and sometimes it is not. In my opinion, you can reduce the amount of time you spend searching for a job if you have an effective strategy laid out. Most people, spend all day applying just about everywhere, which makes them seem desperate by the way, and eventually because they hardly hear back from any of the employers they applied to, they become frustrated and depressed. 

Whilst I won’t be going into much details about developing an effective job search strategy in this article (since I’ve shared my thoughts on this in another article); I would be sharing some insights on what mistakes you’re making that reduces your chances of ever landing a great job. Remember, most jobs that you’re highly interested in, have potentially a few more hundred candidates competing for the same position and how you demonstrate your value proposition from the details in your Curriculum Vita (CV) to the Interview Stages increases or decreases the interest the prospective employer has for you. Hence, it is vital to your job search success that you avoid these common mistakes:

1. The same CV for ALL your Job Applications:

This is definitely the most common mistake that job seekers make. On a fundamental level, your CV is your professional profile and body of work, so I can understand why you may feel it’s unnecessary to tweak it to multiple job applications if most of the information in the CV is relatively going to be the same. But here’s a quote I always make to job seekers, “presentation is more important than fact”. In other words, your CV is less about facts but more about demonstrating that you have the know-how to perform on a specific job. If you think about it from the Hiring Manager’s point of view, they are likely going to shortlist only the candidates that meet the requirements specified in the job description. Your CV should showcase that you have the skills, experience and necessary qualifications for the job you’ve applied for. Hence, If other candidates present this information better than you, you’ve lost an opportunity to speak to the Hiring Manager or proceed to the interview stage.

Trust me, reviewing CVs are boring and Hiring Managers, especially those in large companies are not going to spend a lot of time talking to someone with a generic CV that hardly meets the minimum requirements. Therefore, spend a few mins reviewing what the job description and requirements states first and subsequently, review if you meet those requirements. If so, tailor your CV to the Job. This is the core reason why Reventify exists today; helping career professionals like yourself sell themselves better to company’s they really want to work in. Nonetheless, It’s always better you spend time applying to a few places strategically than to apply to all places loosely.    

Whilst the above is mostly true about having tailored CVs for each job, there’s an exception to this rule. If you are an expert in a particular domain and you plan on only applying to jobs in your particular field and similar companies that you’ve worked for in the past, then you may not necessarily need multiple CVs. An interesting Cover Letter detailing why you want to change from your current company and what you bring to the table can do the trick in moving you to the interview stage. From my experience, this mostly happens to Senior & C-Suite professionals that are looking to switch roles and careers, and in those instances, your network is likely more important than what your CV states. 

2. Skipping Interview Preparation

I remember a time I called a candidate to discuss a job they applied for and the candidate could not recall the name of my employer. I was confused and had to give up after about 2mins. There was no way I could take this candidate seriously after that conversation. 

The above is a bad case that doesn’t happen often, but what surely does is how I meet people that walk into an interview session and only want to tell me exactly what is on their CV. Erm, I’ve got the CV so I don’t need a rehash, I’m interested in knowing how you can solve the numerous problems that my company is facing. Do you have any new and bright ideas? Can you reassure me that what you do in your current company can be replicated in mine? I love the fact that you’ve got 3 new certifications but how does it help me to improve my processes, make new revenue streams, increase my market share or reduce operating expenses. 

You’re at the interview stage because you meet the minimum requirements, now, show the hiring manager that you’re the man or woman for the job. For a number of the applications that you would be applying for, there’s only space for one. Why go through the stress of applying and writing tests just to blow it up at the interview stage. Do some research on the company and if you can’t find much, network with key employees on LinkedIn and if that proves to be also difficult, look at their industry and find out about their competitors or companies they are disrupting. What is important is for you to walk into that first interview and tell them something that makes them feel good. Because that is how you would get remembered.

At Reventify, when we decided to introduce mock interview preparations as part of our product features, we were very particular about having HR managers conduct interviews for job seekers only in the sector or companies they have had experience working in. This way, the mock interviews are tailored and likely to yield better results.

3. Leaving out Recruiters in the Job Search Process

It’s either job seekers don’t know the importance of building a good relationship with recruiters or they just disregard such advice. Recruiters are hired by mid-size to large firms to help find specific candidates fast, hence, it is important for recruiters to have a decent list of possible candidates in their database. A lot of these recruiters specialize by sectors or by experience level, therefore, you may need to conduct a bit of research on the area of specialty before engaging in any career-related discussions.

You also have to be clear on your career goals and which type of jobs you would or would not take including remuneration and the other shebang. One of the additional benefits of having a recruiter on your side is that they could always link you to opportunities that may not be advertised online and these types of jobs usually have less competition and are tailored specifically for someone with your profile. Whilst it is your responsibility to find out about the culture of any organization you would like to apply to, recruiters could help give you insights based on their experience interacting with people of that organization. 

Nonetheless, I would also be a bit careful about recruiters. Since they are paid a commission for referring candidates, they may not always have your best interest at heart. My suggestion is to always differentiate the good eggs from the bad and achieving this would require you have some level of emotional intelligence. It usually starts from how they treat you either via emails or when you have a voice call. Do they treat you with respect and are they willing to know more about your career aspirations instead of just giving you unsolicited advice? Are they attentive and open to new ideas if you are not keen on their initial proposition? Do they tell you the truth about the company they represent and what you should be expecting in terms of the interview stages and compensation packages? Always look out for anything that is contradictory or unrevealing. With time, you can tell which recruiters are quite interested in you making the right career move than just earning a paycheck. 

If you’re not sure about where to find recruiters, start with a simple Google search to look for credible companies and find people that work in those companies via LinkedIn. From my experience, quite a lot of recruiters with good reputations are active on LinkedIn. This is likely where your first interaction with one would begin.

4. Cleaning up your Social Media

Have you heard the term, “dress how you want to be addressed”? I’m sure you have. You may not know this, but a lot of companies now conduct social media background checks at the point where they are interested in having further conversations with a job candidate. I know you might consider your social media page private and it surely has nothing to do with whether you can do a job or not, unfortunately, your opinion doesn’t count much when it comes to the job selection stage. The hiring manager has a view and without knowing you personally, would likely judge what they see based on your social media pages. 

When it comes to cleaning up your social media pages, the rule I follow is “if mama is going to raise an eyebrow over what she sees, it’s probably best to just take it down”. This is very true of permanent pictures instead of an Instagram story that disappears within 24 hours. You can also avoid these situations if your social media profile name is an alias instead of your full name or just make it private and prevent everyone from having access to it. At the end of the day, the decision is yours but I’m not sure that a Deloitte HR Manager might be keen on meeting you after seeing some weed smoking in your Instagram profile pictures.  

5. Not knowing much about your future Boss

This is a really big one. I’ll never take a job without having to first meet with my potential future boss. For those of us that have been working for a very long time, you know the importance of having an amazing boss. Who you report to and the overall department manager, if not the same person, has a direct relationship with your career development and happiness in the firm. You would learn a lot from having someone that treats you well, provide you with great opportunities to learn and be challenged, and is willing to support your advancement in the company. We spend too much time at the office not to care about the people we work with. That type of energy makes us less productive and usually, we start to drawback. 

During the interview process, it’s important to ask who you would be reporting to and before you accept the job offer, make sure to learn a bit about the person. How does this person like to work? Is this potential boss someone that gives autonomy or likes to micromanage? Do you think you would mesh well with the person’s personality? You may not have all the answers you seek during the job interview process, but with a bit of research externally, you can make a good decision. 

This is what I usually do before accepting any job. Once I know who I would be reporting to, I first try to gauge that person’s influence in the company, and from the questions, I pose to the hiring manager, I can tell if this person is well respected or not. In addition to this, I’ll use LinkedIn to get in touch with previous colleagues; those who have worked in the company you’re applying to or with your potential boss at previous companies.

My preference is to chat with at least 2 previous colleagues so as to reduce bias. Once you have the feedback, good or bad, you can decide on how you want to use this information. I know a lot of people that wouldn’t mind working with an incompetent boss. Personally, I find it draining and after several months I would want to either change roles, departments, or change jobs entirely. At the end of the day, the decision is up to you as a candidate and it would be likely based on your personal situation and personality.

This post is part of the dream job course, an 8 part series guide on landing your dream job.

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