Stop Screwing Up!

Continuing my recent practice of reviewing online job search advice, today I’ll look at an article by Susan Adams, who writes for Forbes. Her article is titled “Stop Screwing Up Your Job Search In These Ten Ways.” It provides a list based on the combined wisdom of three career coaches, Sarah Stamboulie, Anita Attridge, and Ellis Chase. Keep in mind that this is a list of things you should not be doing!

Adams: Giving out references that don’t sing your praises
You don’t want a reference to damn you with faint praise. Ask if the person is willing to say you walked on water. If not, find another reference.

Me: Excellent advice. Tip 40 in my book gives detailed suggestions for how to choose the best people for your reference list.

Adams: Laying out your résumé in a microscopic font
Too many candidates think they need to fit all of their qualifications onto a single, illegible page. Either cut down the word count or let the copy flow onto a second page.

Me: There are a lot of pitfalls with resume formatting. Tiny font is one, but others include multiple indentations, too many font styles, underlining, horizontal rules, and inadequate (or overly wordy) descriptions of your skills. And there’s more! Tip 38 and Appendix H in my book provide detailed advice about how to create a solid resume and models to get you started.

Adams: Failing to say glowing things about your former employer
Even if you were laid off from your last job, find a way to say positive things about your last employer. Hiring managers identify with your former boss, not with you.

Me: My mother (and probably your mother, too) always said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Excellent advice!

Adams: Saying negative things about your own track record
Even if you are looking for work because your most recent venture has had problems, find a way to put a positive spin on your experience.

Me: For most of you, your “track record” is your academic career and possibly some part-time jobs while you were in college. Emphasize what worked well and be upbeat about your prospects.

Adams: Talking too much at the start of an interview
It’s fine to give a 30-second summary of your accomplishments, but then you should go into questioning and listening mode, and respond to the interviewer’s cues.

Me: Learn how to create that 30-second summary in Tip 22 and more about how to prepare for interviews in Tips 42-47 and Appendices A & J of my book.

Adams:  Lamenting your difficult job search
Even if you’ve been on a long job-search slog, find a way to make it sound positive, as though you took a sabbatical by choice and you’ve enjoyed your time meeting with many different contacts.

Me: Most of the people reading my blog may be looking for the first job in their career, so the “sabbatical by choice” idea won’t work. Get ideas on talking about yourself and your goals in the 14 Tips in Step 4 (Create a Network).

Adams: Being honest about your weaknesses
The rhetoric of job interviews should be sunshine and light. You can talk about a challenge you overcame, but emphasize your accomplishment rather than the problem that preceded it.

Me: You need to demonstrate confidence in yourself at all times. If you’re asked to talk about your weaknesses or about a time when things didn’t work out as you had planned (which is a common interview question), be sure to emphasize how you’re trying to overcome the weakness or what you learned from the experience.

Adams: Saying how much money you want to make
Lots of people get anxious about money and bring it up in the first interview. This is a mistake, say coaches. If you are asked about your salary requirement, you can say, “money is important to me but at this point in my career, fit is the primary issue.” Avoid being the first to name a number.

Me: The posts on this blog from June 20th through July 4th all provided advice about how to talk about and negotiate salary. Tip 46 in my book also gives advice for when to ask about salary and benefits.

Adams:  Getting impatient with the process
Know that hiring decisions can drag on for months. Pestering your contacts repeatedly by phone and email will not speed up the process.

Me: Tip 49 will tell you how, when, and how often to follow up on applications.

Adams: Spending all your time answering ads and sending out blind résumés
Longtime job coach Ellis Chase says this is “the number one, catastrophic job search mistake.” People don’t get jobs through blind applications, but rather through networking and people they know.

Me: Aha! On Tuesday I disagreed with Marty Nemko for saying “networking works only for some people.” Networking is your number one tool for finding a job, and that’s why I devoted one whole section of my book (Step 4) with 14 individual Tips on networking.