If you’ve been applying for jobs but aren’t getting the outcome that you’d hoped for or that your experience deserves, it can be useful to take a step back and reevaluate your job search technique.
Even if you’re doing everything perfectly and persistence may be all that’s required, taking time to consider how things are going and how you’re feeling about your job search can be an important process.
The challenge for many of us is knowing which behaviours to do more of and which to do less of. But, the key is to learn from your experiences and other people, and adjust your approach accordingly.
It can be helpful to read advice, speak to friends and family, and ask employers for candid feedback. Sometimes the most valuable feedback people can give you is the most difficult to hear.
With this in mind, here are 11 common mistakes that are worth avoiding in your job search.
1. Forgetting to pay attention to how you come across on social media
Whether you like it or not, social media can impact your job search. Once an employer receives your application, they might check your social media accounts to try and learn more about you and get a feel for who you are socially.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep your social media accounts as private as possible, while making sure that anything on display makes you look friendly, approachable, and fairly sensible. This means checking that your profile picture isn’t of you singing drunk karaoke, or dancing on tabletops – unless that’s the image you’re keen to portray.
Additionally, if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, now would be a good time to get one. A LinkedIn profile is often seen as a more honest record of someone’s CV because it’s publicly visible, and it’s becoming commonplace for employers to review a person’s LinkedIn profile alongside their CV and cover letter.
If employers find that a candidate doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile, they might have concerns about why – which could put you at a disadvantage. For example, they might consider, “Is this candidate unable to keep up with technological trends?” and/or “Do they have something to hide?”
Creating a LinkedIn account is free and easy, and it’s worth doing if you want to give yourself the best possible chance of success.
2. Selling yourself short
There’s nothing wrong with being humble and modest. But when it comes to applying for jobs, it’s important to put your best foot forward and sell yourself as much as possible.
No matter what your background is, you’ll have some useful skills or experience.
Even if you haven’t worked for the last five years because you’ve been caring for a sick family member, try not to look at this as simply ‘being out of work’, but as an unpaid job where you developed skills like resilience, empathy, communication, and keeping calm under pressure.
Every experience is worth something and chances are, you have experience that’s more valuable than you realise – so try not to sell yourself short.
3. Sending job applications that contain grammatical errors
You’d be surprised how many CVs and cover letters contain spelling or grammatical errors, and this is a quick way to lose the attention of the employer you’re trying to appeal to.
One of the key things that many employers look for are signs that you’re able to take pride and care over your work, and that you have good attention to detail.
Having mistakes on your CV or cover letter can suggest to employers that you aren’t serious about the job you’re applying for because you haven’t taken the time to check over your application.
To avoid any grammar mistakes, it’s always best to review your application at least twice – and possibly have a friend or family member read it too.
4. Sending out generic applications
Often, it can feel like the quickest way to land a job is to fire out a series of applications to try and increase the likelihood that you’ll get a response. But this usually means you won’t have been able to take the time to tailor each one to the role you’re applying for.
Employers will want to hear specifics about why you want to work for their company and what positives you can bring to the role. So, if you send the same generic application to every company you apply to, there’s a good chance that it simply won’t capture an employer’s attention and you won’t make it to the next stage of the application process.
We also hear all too often of people submitting a CV or cover letter that very articulately outlines why they want to work for the last company they applied for, and not this company! These typically get dismissed, so it’s important to take the time to get your application right.
When you’re applying for lots of jobs and struggling to get an interview, we know it can feel like an extra mountain of effort to write so many extra cover letters and tailored CVs.
But we firmly believe it’s better to spend an hour writing one really detailed CV and a cover letter, where you discuss your skills and experience that are relevant to the role and show you’ve done research on the company you’re applying to, than to send off 10 of the same CV and cover letter to multiple companies.
5. Forgetting to include a cover letter
If you haven’t been including a cover letter with your job applications, you’re not alone.
However, while not compulsory, by not including a cover letter, you could be encouraging employers to dismiss your application without even reading it.
A cover letter is your chance to speak directly to an employer and briefly tell them the key reasons why you’d be a good fit for the job, outline any transferable skills you have, and explain why you’re excited about working for them. It can be a really good way to make your application stand out from the crowd.
6. Trying to hide gaps in your CV
CV gaps are incredibly common and can occur for a number of reasons. For example, having to look after a sick relative, recovering from illness, or taking a break to go travelling.
But it’s always better to be honest and open about breaks in employment, as gaps can often come to light during reference checks or at the interview stage.
As long as you can give a confident and reasonable explanation for any gaps, employers aren’t likely to hold them against you. But if you get caught trying to hide your past or are overly apologetic in your explanation, it’s more likely that they’ll become a bigger issue for an employer than they need to be.
7. Having an unprofessional email address or voicemail message
It might seem insignificant, but if you want employers to take you seriously, it’s a good idea to make sure that you don’t have an unprofessional and/or inappropriate email address or voicemail message.
While there’s nothing wrong with having these for your personal use, if you have anything particularly edgy, it’s better to have a separate email address or phone number to give to employers if you want them to take you seriously.
The good news is that it’s quick and easy to set up a new email account if you’re in need of a more sensible email address. It’s also worth switching off your personalised voicemail message if it’s unprofessional and either using the default one provided by your phone network or recording a new message – at least until after your job search is over!
8. Making your CV too long and text-heavy
Employers can receive hundreds of applications for a single job opening and they’ll have a limited amount of time to get through them all. This means they’ll typically skim-read applications and only look in more detail at those which end up being shortlisted.
For this reason, it’s helpful to keep your CV brief and only give details about your most recent skills and experience, because you’ll only have a matter of seconds to capture a prospective employer’s attention.
The best way to do this is to keep your CV to two pages long and avoid using long paragraphs. Instead, use bullet points and short sentences to detail your skills and experience. It can be especially important to have a strong and succinct opening statement that summarises your experience and skills in a few sentences or bullet points.
If you need help getting your CV written, we offer professional CV writing and reviewing services where you can get your CV rewritten by experts.
9. Relying solely on job listings to find new opportunities
If you’ve only been applying for opportunities that you’ve found on online job boards, it could be time to broaden your search.
You don’t need to wait for a job to be advertised to enquire about working for a company. Sending off a few speculative emails could help you to get in the door before a role is advertised, or prompt a company that has been thinking about hiring into making a decision.
Consider building up a list of companies you think you’d enjoy working for and write a personalised note to each of them, explaining why you’d love to work for them and what you could offer to their team.
This demonstrates to an employer that you’re a proactive person who’s sought them out specifically. Even if some of the companies don’t have an opening right now, they’re far more likely to remember you and get back in touch when they do want to hire.
You could also try having a closer look at your network to see whether there’s anyone you know who could introduce you to people working in the industry or company that you’d like to work for.
Even if there’s no immediate reason to reach out to someone, this can be a great time to reconnect with old colleagues and friends. Simply by putting yourself out there, you’re creating an opportunity for something to happen, and you never know when the next opportunity might arise.
It’s also worth seeing whether there are any job fairs being held in your local area. Job fairs offer the chance to meet employers face-to-face and network with a range of different industry professionals.
10. Putting all your eggs in one basket
You might have found an advert for the perfect job, spent hours crafting the perfect application and then submitted it, thinking you just have to get the job because it’s such a perfect fit.
And while it’s important to stay hopeful and positive when applying for jobs, it can be helpful not to place too much hope on one particular job application, as this might prevent you from applying for other really great opportunities.
Try to think of each job application like an open door, and after you’ve submitted your application, picture yourself pushing the door to and moving towards the next open door, which is where your next opportunity lies, and so on. This will help you to increase your options and improve your chances of getting the response you want.
11. Letting rejection affect the rest of your search
Receiving a rejection after submitting a job application can be tough, and while it’s okay to let yourself feel disappointed, try not to let that disappointment stop you from moving forward and applying for the next opportunity.
Once you receive a rejection, ask for feedback on why your application was rejected (although, don’t worry if they can’t give you this, as sometimes you’ll only be offered this if you’re rejected at the interview stage) and use it to move forward and focus on the rest of your search.
Rejections are inevitable – they happen to everyone at all stages of life – but the key thing is to keep moving forward. As the saying goes, when one door closes, another one opens. So be sure to take any feelings that you have after a rejection and turn them into a desire to better your application and interview techniques and drive you forward.
Bonus tip: use keywords in your CV
After we first published this article, a few Rest Less members contacted us to suggest this idea. We thought it would make a great addition – so here it is as a bonus tip!
Many CV sites allow employers and recruiters to conduct keywords searches of their CV databases, so that they can filter to candidates who have relevant skills or experience mentioned on their CV. For example, a company looking for a Sales Manager might search for keywords like “sales manager”, “business development”, “customer pipeline”, “lead prospecting”, “CRM” and so on.
Think about the kinds of searches you’d like your CV to appear in. Then find a way to include words related to that search within the relevant sections of your CV. Naturally, the most important thing is that your CV reads well. However, there’s usually a way to work keywords neatly into the existing content, particularly if you’re already talking about the kinds of skills and experience you want to target.
Find jobs near you
We know that finding your next job can be a real challenge. Even if you’re following the right steps, it can still take time for that breakthrough to come.
Try to stay positive, and if need be, approach your one-hundredth application with the same energy and enthusiasm as you did your first.
Your breakthrough will come and the more positive you are, the easier the journey is likely to be and the better your chances of success.