Do you know someone who has experience and skill in their field (not to mention commitment, drive, and great references), but despite their best efforts, they can’t seem to find a job? For anyone in this situation, as application after application is filled out without any results, you may wonder, What am I doing wrong? If this scenario sounds all too familiar, Peter K. Studner has some answers.
“Many well-meaning, enthusiastic job seekers unknowingly sabotage their efforts because they don’t realize their strategy is full of mistakes,” says Studner, author of Super Job Search IV: The Complete Manual for Job Seekers & Career Changers. “Fortunately, when you know which errors to avoid, you’ll probably find that your stalled job search gains the forward momentum you want.”
Studner, who is a master career counselor and whose outplacement firm has helped over 27,000 people transition from one job to the next, speaks from experience. In Super Job Search IV, he guides readers through the complicated process of evaluating their accomplishments, contacts, and goals, and channeling those things into a targeted and ultimately successful job search campaign.
Here, Studner spotlights 11 common mistakes that job seekers make in their campaigns:
Relying on a résumé. Your job search should never be riding on a piece of paper. Try to get an appointment by telephone first, and if that doesn’t work, then you should use a résumé and sharp cover letter or email to provoke a meeting.
“I never saw a résumé get a job,” states Studner. “Generic materials do not produce results. Ideally, a great résumé should be used as prepared notes to leave behind after you have had an equally great interview.”
Failure to prepare for your job search. People spend more time planning summer vacations than learning what it takes to conduct a job-search campaign. It’s little wonder they have a hard time landing the right job!
“The most qualified applicants do not always get the best jobs; however, outstanding candidates always get the best offers,” Studner comments. “Your objective in preparing for a job search is to learn how to present your skills through your accomplishments, which most people can’t do effectively on the fly.”
Going after jobs that no longer exist. Every day, thousands of job seekers look for jobs identical to the one they just left, when in reality, that job has gone away—or at least evolved.
“Check with human resource departments of target companies to see what jobs are unfilled before preparing your résumé, references, and interview talking points,” advises Studner. “Realign your campaign early where there is a need rather than chasing after something that is not there.”
Using poorly prepared letters and collateral materials. When applying to advertisements or writing to company executives, take time to think carefully, edit, edit some more, and proofread. Your reader is thinking, This candidate will never do better for me than what she is doing for herself. So if your submission is poorly written, not focused on what the company is seeking, loaded with clichés and boring, or sprinkled with typos, it is sure to be eliminated.
“Poorly prepared letters and collateral materials will rule you out, even if you are the most qualified candidate—and you’d be surprised by how often this happens,” comments Studner. “When writing résumés, documents, and letters, read them slowly out loud. It is one of the best proofing tools you can use.”
Not addressing what the company is looking for. When applying to a job posting, take the time to itemize exactly what the company is looking for and match your accomplishments to the company’s needs, demonstrating in your application that you have the required skills.
“Don’t send the same materials to multiple companies,” Studner says. “If you do not have what the company is looking for, do not waste your time and theirs in responding.”
Forgetting to thank people who help you along the way. It’s amazing how many candidates refuse to acknowledge the help they get from networking contacts with a short but pertinent thank-you note. Don’t forget that these people gave you their time and perhaps information that helped you meet more people or, better yet, opened a job opportunity.
“Sending an e-mail or short handwritten thank-you note says much about your personality and character,” Studner observes. “Furthermore, your contact may reply with even more help.”
Relying solely on mail campaigns in lieu of meeting people every day. People get jobs from people. It’s a fact. And as many weary job seekers can attest, sending out résumés in response to advertisements can be a futile exercise.
“Candidates who stay glued to their computers sending out a continuous flow of résumés lose the opportunity to develop their communication skills,” Studner explains. “A good rule to follow: Answer online ads before 7:30 a.m. and after 7:30 p.m., and use your day to get out and meet people. Remember, the Internet is open 24/7. One great networking meeting is worth more than 1,000 mailings.”
Failing to do research on industries, new jobs, and companies in your area. Chances are, you don’t want to pick up and move for a job (or even settle for a long commute) if you don’t have to. Good news: According to Studner, your best job could be just around the corner. Studner advises you to get a map of your home area and draw a circle at a distance of 20 minutes from your home at 7:30 a.m. Then search for companies within the perimeter you’ve created using online company databases.
“Use weekends to drive around the area and physically note companies in industrial zones,” he continues. “Your campaign should include visiting these companies—not to ask for a job, but to drop off your résumé and a personal business card and inform them of your availability.”
Putting all your effort in chasing recruiters. If you are seeking a position where your skills are unique and hard to come by, then approaching recruiters makes sense. A well-written cover letter and résumé to the recruiter is all you need. Likewise, if you are seeking a job with a salary lower than $70,000, a recruiter mailing will put you in front of recruiters in your area. And executives can use specialized lists like ExecuNet or Ladders (both for a fee). But here’s a fact you may not have known: By and large, recruiters prefer selecting candidates from successfully employed performers at competitors of their client companies.
“In speaking to recruiter friends, I asked what percentage of candidates they selected from unemployed applicants in their database,” Studner shares. “It bordered on 1 percent. While recruiters can help if they have an assignment that fits your background and are willing to present you, my preference has always been networking as a way into target companies.”
Not practicing interviewing techniques before going out into the market. If you had a role in a school play, would you rehearse? Of course. You would learn the lines, practice out loud, record how you sound, and even have friends and family critique your performance. Well, you are certainly on stage when you are networking or interviewing with companies, so practicing is a must.
“Think about and rehearse your responses to difficult questions like, Tell me about yourself, What are your skills?, Why were you let go from your previous employer?, and How much money do you want?,” Studner instructs. “Answers to these questions and many more can be found in Super Job Search IV.”
Not taking time to learn how to use the Internet as a research and communications tool. We may be living in the Age of the Internet, but that doesn’t mean every job seeker knows how to effectively use this resource.
“I am often surprised by how little people know about the Internet and social media, at least when it comes to tools for communicating, searching for a job, and professional networking,” Studner says. “If you are one of those people, devote one hour each evening to viewing training videos and webinars, which can be found by doing a Google search on ‘Training in LinkedIn’ or ‘Facebook’ or ‘Twitter.'”
“Job hunting is challenging enough without pouring your time and energy into the wrong tactics,” Studner concludes. “It’s one thing to be told ‘no’ after doing your best to obtain a position. What you don’t want is to inadvertently close that door yourself because of mistakes you could have avoided.”
To learn more, visit www.SuperJobSearch.com.