Seven Deadly Sins for Job Seekers

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article titled “Seven Mistakes That Could Cost You the Job.” This article is an excellent quick synopsis of what could be termed the “seven deadly sins of job hunting.” I’m going to share them with you, along with suggestions for how to avoid them.

1. Using a generic cover letter.

This is never a good idea. You need to demonstrate not only what you can do but how the things you can do meet the needs of the specific employer. A good cover letter, which I believe to be one of the most difficult documents you will ever have to become proficient at writing, is the first example of your work that your prospective employer will see, so you need to grab the reader’s attention and quickly show that you can be useful. Tip 39 in my book (Learn to write good cover letters) will give you a good bit of advice on how to get started writing a solid cover letter, and you’ll find models and more detailed advice in Appendix I (Creating a cover letter/letter of application).

2. Avoiding friends and family.

Your friends and family can be a huge resource as you look for a job. You just never know what may come from a casual conversation. I heard recently that more jobs are found through second-hand contacts (the friends of your friends and family) than from any other single source.  Step 4 (Create a Network) is all about spreading the word about the career you want to start, and Tip 21 specifically suggests how to Use your friends and family as networking resources.

3. Relying on online job boards.

Career counselors, effective job seekers, and recruiters are all going to tell you that success comes from networking. If you’re just sending out your resume in response to job openings posted online, it’s unlikely that you’re going to succeed. You need to make contacts and find out about job openings and be able to connect with an organization. That’s why one of the 5 Steps in my book is devoted to networking—there are 14 tips discussing a variety of ways to build your network.

4. Lack of interview specifics.

This part of the WSJ article says that many job seekers aren’t selling themselves by demonstrating what they can do or have done. If you follow the suggestions in Step 1 (Identify your skills and strengths), you’ll be able to talk very specifically about your experiences and accomplishments. The article states that you need to be sure to thank anyone who talks to you about your career—whether in an interview, at a career fair, or just someone you meet through your network. Tip 47 (Be sure to send a thank you note within one week of an interview) gives you advice on how to write an appropriate thank you note.

5. Not knowing the company.

One of the most common complaints of employers is that job seekers haven’t done their homework. With so much information about companies available at your fingertips, there really is no excuse for a lack of knowledge about what a company does, what their mission is, and how you fit in. And there’s no reason for a prospective employer to spend another second with you once it becomes obvious that you came in unprepared.  Step 3 (Research Potential Jobs) provides suggestions about how to do your research and what type of information to look for.

6. Not hunting hard enough.

The article gives the same advice that you’ll find in my book: It says, “treat the job hunt as a full-time job.” Tip 49 (Treat your job search like a job) tells you how to do that.

7. Showing negativity.

No matter how often you’ve been rejected or how long you’ve been looking for a job, it’s important to stay upbeat and positive. If you go into an interview with a negative attitude, begin to doubt your own worth, or act out your frustration in front of a potential employer, you’re going to get into a vicious cycle that won’t end with a good job. Surround yourself with supportive people, and just keep trying. The 5 Steps in my book will give you plenty of things to do to keep you on the road to success and increase the odds that you’ll earn yourself a career you’ll enjoy.