14 Common Job Hunting Blunders

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: January 18, 2012

Whether you are just starting your professional life or are a seasoned pro looking to make a savvy career move, whether you are between jobs or simply feeling the need to move on, the quality of your job hunt will determine your level of success.

If you're a serious job hunter, you've probably read plenty of books and articles on job seeking steps that will give you the leading edge.

But do you know what actions might put the kibosh on your quest? This article explores 14 job hunting mistakes to avoid.


1. Relying on the job classifieds, want ads, or online job postings

The majority of jobs are snatched up before they make it to these mediums. If you sit back and wait for the right job to materialize in the Sunday paper, you’ll miss the best opportunities.

The U.S. Department of Labor claims that 70 percent of jobs are found through networking, so dust off your contacts, reach out in person, by phone, or by email, and let everyone in your personal and professional spheres know you’re on the hunt.


2. Having unclear job or career goals

Not quite sure what you want to do? Think you'll know the right job when you see it? Would you travel a long distance without a map?

Figure out what you want to do before beginning your search, and hone in on a particular job, organization, or industry. Job search focus will allow you to target ideal organizations and industries, craft a more powerful resume, and better prepare for interviews.


3. Looking for any old job

A recent job loss or layoff may make you feel desperate, especially in this economic climate. It's rarely necessary to settle right away. Instead, give yourself a particular timeframe in which you can look for ideal positions. Give yourself as much time as possible to find the right fit.

If you reach a point where you have to consider jobs you wouldn't have considered in more robust times -- and these days there's a good chance you will -- look for a job that will make you happy, and will allow you to learn something new. 

4. Being unprepared for interviews

Nothing will close a door faster than a lackluster interview. Start by learning everything you can about the organization. Second, use resources such as books and online job websites to familiarize yourself with common interview questions.

Prepare your answers until you can recite them in your sleep. Have a friend videotape you -- your smart phone video camera will do just fine -- so you can see what you sound and look like and make any necessary adjustments.

Not all that interested in the job? Prepare anyway. It's good practice, and the more you practice, the better you'll get at the interview process.

5. Going ape with guerilla tactics

You want to be proactive in your job search, but you don't want to come across as pushy, aggressive, or overbearing.

It's fine to reach out once in a while to keep in touch, to network, and to ensure potential employers don't forget about you or your interest in their organization, but in-your-face ploys like monopolizing phone and email inboxes, not taking "no" for an answer, or approaching potential employers on their way in or out of the office or in other places they hang out just creates bad feelings . . . and is a little creepy.

6. Badmouthing former jobs or colleagues

During your job search, you'll be asked over and over again why you're looking, by those with whom you are networking, as well as during interviews. If your reasons for leaving your last or current position are based partially or solely on the organization, the team, your boss, or your co-workers, don't mention it.

Follow your grandmother's adage: "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Instead, focus on the positive aspects of leaving, such as learning something new, or making a positive career move.

7. Passing out ineffective cover letters and resumes

Your cover letter and resume are your first impression. A cover letter that is rife with grammatical errors paired with a resume that is unfocused and poorly formatted will make it no further than the circular file.

Rather than make a bunch of generic copies of your resume, customize both your cover letter and resume for every job you apply for.

The more specifically your skills, knowledge, and experience match a particular job, the more likely you are to get a second look.

8. Sending your resume to the HR department

HR departments get hundreds, sometimes thousands, of resumes per week. With that amount of volume, even if you have an outstanding resume it's possible it will languish at the bottom of a pile, or get lost in the surplus.

Do some research and find out the name of the supervisor in the department you want to work in. Then, send your resume directly to that person. Your resume will still need to be reviewed by HR, but one that is handed to them personally by someone influential in the company is much more likely to get the attention it deserves.

9. Handling rejection poorly

Looking for a job is a numbers game, so no matter how many rejections you get, don't take it personally or let it defeat you. If you're feeling angry, beaten, frustrated, anxious, or full of despair, do your best to hide those emotions when networking and meeting with potential employers.

If you believe in yourself and in your skills and experience, and know that the right job will come around as long as you keep trying, your positive attitude will shine through.

10. Sending a stock thank-you note

Avoid sending generic typed or emailed thank-you notes. Even worse? Sending no thank you note at all. Instead, a handwritten, personalized, sincere note will send the message that you value the time that was spent with you. It will also cement your interest in working for the organization.

What if the interview didn’t go well, or the job isn’t a good fit? Send a handwritten note anyway. You might run into that person again in a future job search, and a personalized note will increase the odds that you are favorably remembered.

11. Being unprofessional with your contact information

Your friends and family might be okay with sending emails to partyanimal@xyz.com, and may be willing to endure Queen’s "Fat Bottomed Girls" before leaving a message on your voicemail, but potential employers certainly won’t be.

If your email or voicemail can be construed as offensive or immature, change it. If you don’t want to get rid of your personal email addy, secure an additional, more professional one from a free account like Hotmail, Yahoo, or Gmail. Change your voicemail so it simply states your name and phone number.

12. Not protecting your privacy

Posting your resume and contact information on job searching sites can pose a risk to your current position. Many employers search these sites to determine if their employees are on the prowl for new opportunities, and if you don't limit access to your contact information you'll be easy to find.

Instead, arrange to allow potential employers to contact you through the job site, or set up an anonymous email through a server like Hotmail, Gmail, or Yahoo. 


13: Being underqualified (or overqualified)

Today’s Internet job seeking makes it easier than ever to apply for jobs that might not suit you. Many job searchers apply for unsuitable jobs, believing that employers will see something interesting on their resume and will contact them for other, more fitting jobs.

But applying for every job on the board is similar to the "Boy who cried wolf." After awhile, employers will simply pass your resume by -- even for jobs you may be qualified for. Instead, focus on jobs that match your specific skills, education, knowledge, and interest.

14. Lacking commitment

Looking for a job is . . . well . . . a full-time job. If you're squeezing your search in between golf games and wondering why you haven't landed your dream job yet, it's due to your lackluster effort and lack of commitment.

Hoping that something will show up is a fatal strategy in today's job market. Today's job searches require action. Put your job hunt at the top of your priority list, and give it the time and attention it deserves.

Eliminate the mistakes, get the job

According to a recent survey done by job placement specialists Manpower, 83 percent of employees plan to look for a new job this year.

You can improve the chances of landing one of those jobs by eliminating common job search blunders.