One of the most common refrains I hear from frustrated job seekers is that they spend tons of time applying to jobs, but never hear anything back.
If you’re not getting the response you want in your job search—but have no idea what you’re doing wrong—it’s time to go back to the basics and make sure you’re not making the following classic mistakes.
1. You Don’t Have a Target Employer Strategy
You may think that because you’re submitting application after application online, you are conducting an effective job search. Not true! Blindly applying to any and every position that you come across doesn’t usually yield good results.
The most effective way to find the right job for you is to target your ideal employers—the companies that interest you, align with your passion and need your skills. Once you develop a list of dream companies, you can tailor your applications specifically to those organizations, which will give you a much better chance of getting noticed and landing the job.
2. Your Resume and Cover Letter Are NOT Targeted to the Employer
Even if you have a targeted job-search strategy, a generic resume and cover letter can quickly stall your efforts. One glance at your resume will tell an employer if you wrote it specifically for the company or if you created a one-size-fits-all document that you emailed to every business on your list.
Your search will be much more successful if you customize your cover letter and resume to specifically address the company’s business problems and your capacity to solve them.
3. You’re Wasting the Top Third of Your Resume
Because so many resumes are read online, through applicant tracking systems, or on mobile devices, the top third of your resume is prime marketing real estate. If a hiring manager does not immediately see a compelling reason in that portion, he or she will swipe to the next resume—meaning, “You’re out.”
Start by keeping your personal information at the top short, sweet, and to the point. There’s no need to include a street address; simply list your name, one phone number, one email address, and your LinkedIn URL. That leaves you plenty of space to get to the meaty stuff within that top third.
If you have an objective statement, remove it. Instead, either include a professional summary statement or dive right into your experience.
4. Your Resume Is Too Long
When I see a resume that’s multiple pages long, it usually indicates that the job seeker hasn’t tailored his resume to the specific job—and instead, included everything but the kitchen sink.
While you may think a longer resume allows you to show off more of your qualifications, in reality, it usually causes your reader to get bored, become confused about why you applied to the job, and then toss it aside.
A resume is not your whole life story. You simply want to provide enough applicable information to score an interview. To do that, layout the most relevant aspects of your experience and why you’re qualified for that particular job. By doing that, you should be able to keep it to one page (or two, at the very most, if you have lots of meaty content that’s relevant to the job).
5. You Expect Others to Do the Math
Do you talk about your work in terms of tasks or accomplishments? In many resumes and cover letters, job seekers use sentences that describe activities, rather than outcomes. Explaining a task sounds like this: “In my current job, I oversaw the project to automate time cards.”
Now, I’m sure that’s good stuff. But if you don’t tell a potential manager what it means to him or her, it won’t mean anything. You have to do the math for the potential employer and specifically show how you’ll create value for the company.
To do this, ask yourself: What was the outcome I achieved, and how is the organization better as a result? For instance, you could adjust that previous line to: “When I led the project to automate time cards, we were able to reduce the payroll processing time by 20%, saving the company $15,000 per quarter.
Now that’s a powerful accomplishment.
6. You Don’t Take LinkedIn Seriously
Imagine that you’re in charge of hiring a candidate for an important position, and you’ve narrowed it down to two strong applicants. You look up both on LinkedIn. One has a profile packed with accomplishments, a great personal story, tons of connections, and samples of her work. The other has a couple of connections, no photos, and little to no content.
Who would you choose?
Companies are increasingly using LinkedIn as a component in their hiring practices—meaning that your profile is often the first place employers go to check you out.
If you don’t already have a profile, sign up for LinkedIn now—then make its usage as effective as possible.
7. Your Social Media Presence Scares Employers Away
Hiring is a big risk for employers, so they aim to use gather as much evidence as possible to either validate their choice or eliminate the bad applicants.
A whopping majority—93%—of hiring managers go online to research a candidate before they offer him or her a job. Worse, 55% have changed their minds about a candidate after getting a negative impression of him or her from social media.
So, clean up your social media. Comb through all your social profiles and ensure you’re comfortable with your privacy settings—i.e., what potential employers can see. Remove anything that could be perceived as offensive, including badmouthing former employers. No company wants to hire a "problem". And if your social media content makes you look like a lawsuit waiting to happen, you’re a problem.
If you don’t pay close attention to these details, you could be losing opportunities to snag your perfect job. Nail the basics, and you’ll be on your way to securing an interview and getting hired.