Job Applicants Biggest Mistakes

Many people who are out of a job for extended periods of time aren’t unskilled or unknowledgeable, but they lack professional work search skills. One big mistake can eliminate you from the short list.

So where to start, certainly not by just sending out resumes willy nilly to any old job site. Start with a thorough self assessment. Get to really know yourself. Don’t think for a minute that interviewers know who you are and how wonderful you are. Do lots of introspective work before setting out on interviews. Identify what you do that you are really good at and skills you must have and would like to use or acquire in your next position. Note here that interpersonal skills carry almost as much credence as any single learned competency.

Having a job is not an entitlement. Do research on the company, find out their position in the local and world market, what their customers think about them and be sure to read their latest press release or annual report if applicable. Know who the person who is interviewing you is, know where they fit on the organization chart

A strong cover letter is mandatory unless you are working with recruiters. Most HR departments and hiring managers like a good cover letter. What they don’t want is a regurgitation of your resume. Use the cover letter to be specific about what you know the company needs from the person who is going to fill this position, what benefits you bring to the table. For example, “I will reduce old inventory, increase employee retention, increase sales in northern Ontario, bring more awareness of your company to your target market….”

 End your cover letter with “I look forward to meeting with you to further discuss how I can make a contribution to the company. “Not, “so we can talk about my resume.”

 If you took time off between jobs, put on the resume what you did or where you went be it a maternity leave or travelling around the world. Take out the months in your timeline if you need to stretch the time a bit.

Tailor each resume you send out to the specific position being applied for. Generic resumes do not sell! Eliminate some points that are not relevant and add in others that speak to their needs.

Don’t feign enthusiasm for a job that you are not interested in. Sure go along for the interview experience, but you may have to be the one to terminate the interview if you realize this is just not your bally wick.

Tell the truth about your part in an accomplishment. If you did something as part of a team, tell them,” I did xyz , as part of a team.” Interviewers don’t need to hear what the “we” did but what “you” contributed.

In the interview, interview the interviewer. Gone are the days, to a large extent, where the interviewer does all the selling. Ask pointed, direct, value oriented questions to uncover the congruency between your values and that of the hiring company. This is so, so important today.

Get off the computer and get out and meet people. 70 – 80% of the jobs are still found through networking. Be relentless, make 5 to 15 calls or emails per day. Follow through.

Your ability to succeed is based 90% on your attitude. You can’t buy or win an attitude, it is solely your responsibility, and it is hard sometimes, really hard. Know you are giving it all you’ve got and hold onto your vision!

Colleen Clarke is a highly regarded Corporate Trainer and Career Specialist in the areas of career management, transition, communication and networking. She has assisted over 7000 people through career transition throughout her career. She is the author of Networking How to Build Relationships That Count and Find a Job and Keep It. Colleen is a monthly workplace columnist for The Globe and Mail’s Nine to Five column. Always motivating and usually humorous, Colleen has inspired and edu-tained thousands of individuals and groups to career excellence.

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