6 Easy Ways to Avoid Job Search Mistakes (No Sweat)

Many of us have made missteps in a job search. Here are some common mistakes and how to avoid them. 

close up of a man in a business suit

Six Job Search Tips:

  • Streamline your resume 
  • Use keywords from the job listing.
  • Quietly downplay your age.
  • Be selective in your job search.
  • Cultivate patience.
  • Keep faith in yourself.

According to the Pew Research Center, people are searching for – and moving to – new jobs in numbers we haven’t seen since the 1970s. Wages are a large factor, as inflation has eroded earnings, and low pay has been one of the top reasons Americans quit, along with no advancement opportunities and feeling disrespected at work

The majority of U.S. workers who change jobs earn higher wages at their new position. Most workers also find that they are more satisfied at their new job than they were at their old job.

Job seekers can encounter a number of challenges that are caused by common mistakes and missteps. Some mistakes merely cause confusion; some can cause your resume to be passed over; and others can cause you to miss out on jobs you’re completely qualified for.

If you’re preparing to jump into the job search, it’s wise to learn from job searchers who have already been through the process. Here are some tips on how to avoid a few common job search mistakes.

Mistake #1: Too much information on your resume.

You’ve got a world of experience and you really want recruiters to know it – so you pack your resume, cramming in your entire work history whether it’s relevant or not. This impulse is understandable, but it only serves to create a cluttered mess that confuses the HR professionals who read your resume.

Solution: Streamline your resume for easier reading.

Even if you have a long and diverse work history, narrow it down to only include the previous jobs that are relevant to the position you’re applying for. For increased clarity, you can also use bullet points to lay out your job duties and make it easier for recruiters to quickly scan your resume and sum up your work experience at a glance. 

Mistake #2: Not optimizing your resume for keyword scanning.

So, you’ve sent out your resume to jobs that you know you’re qualified for, but you don’t get a single response. The problem may be that your resume lacks keywords. Many companies use Applicant Tracking Systems, or ATS, a type of software that scans resumes for keywords based on the job description. Companies receive hundreds of job applications for a single job opening, so they use these keyword scanners to more quickly find resumes with work history related to the open position.

Solution: Use relevant keywords from the job listing.

Look through the job description for words and phrases the company uses often and add these to your resume. Make sure your job titles are all pertinent to the position you’re applying for. Focus on matching those job titles to some of their qualifications, but try to avoid keyword stuffing. Sentences like “My customer service skills in customer service entails giving customer service to our customers” may help in the early stages, but the hiring managers will likely notice your tactics once they see your resume.

Mistake #3: Showing your age. 

Older people are re-entering the job market due to increased layoffs and the desire for higher wages. If you’re one of these older job seekers, you might notice your resume – which shows you graduated high school in 1989 – gets passed over a lot. Conversely, you may be a fresh graduate who is new to the job market and trying to signal to the recruiters that you have the necessary qualifications to do the job.

Solution: Quietly downplay your age.

For the more experienced job seeker, tailor those years of experience to match the job listing. If the job requires five years of experience, and you have 10, focus on the fact that you meet and exceed the necessary experience without completely dating yourself. As far as dates go, quietly cut the years you attended high school. If you have a college degree, or are currently attending college, use those dates instead.

If you’re a young applicant with limited “real world” job experience, look at your educational experience. Have you led groups, worked as a volunteer, built up an audience on social media, or participated in academic groups? Use those qualifications to enhance your resume in lieu of direct work experience. 

Mistake #4: Applying for every job that exists.

You are desperate to get work, so why not boost your odds by sending your resume to every company in the four-state area? While common and understandable, the problem is that you end up wasting your time with scattershot submissions – time that can instead be used to find jobs you’re better qualified for, which in-turn increases your chances of getting hired. 

Solution: Be selective in your job search.

Sit down with your resume and figure out what exactly you’re looking for in a new job. What salary do you need? Do you need to work full-time or part-time? Remote work or commuting to the office? Ask yourself what kinds of jobs you’re most excited about and focus on those listings. 

Once you’ve narrowed down your focus, feel free to use a more scattershot approach when applying for jobs. Maybe the job description sounds a little out of your reach, or the job description is a little vague – send them a resume anyway. Even lackluster job listings can sometimes lead to intriguing interviews and exciting new career opportunities.

Mistake #5: Being pushy or rude to recruiters.

You may have heard some version of this story: A man hurrying to get to a job interview cuts off somebody in traffic, or takes their parking spot, or doesn’t hold the elevator for them – only to discover that the person they offended was the person conducting their interview.

While this cautionary tale may not happen to you, it’s important to remember that the people conducting these interviews are people too, and it’s important to treat them with the same respect you would expect for yourself. 

Solution: Take a deep breath and be patient.

Job searching is hard, and it’s easy to feel frustrated at the glacial pace people at your dream job are moving. While this frustration is normal, make sure to be courteous and professional to the people you interact with during your job search – especially receptionists and random people you see around the office. Kindness is golden. 

After the interview, write a thank-you email and check in again a week later. If you’re interested in applying again in the future, it’s important to be kind when following up on these job applications, even if you don’t get the job.

Mistake #6: Losing faith in yourself.

For some, the hardest part of a job search is keeping that faith in yourself intact. Sure, you expect a certain number of rejections, but receiving multiple rejections from multiple companies is tough – especially when they’re jobs you really want. 

Solution: Take a break and regroup. 

Rejection can exhaust even the toughest job seeker. Sometimes you have to take a break from the job search and try a different approach. Instead of sending out applications, take a little extra time to network with friends and other professionals in your field. You can also send out your resume to have it critiqued by an industry professional, who will look at it and give suggestions for improvement. 

After you’ve taken some time to regroup, it’s important to get back into the search. If you’re feeling down on yourself, remember that many people are in the same boat you’re in, and every rejection prepares you for that final interview when the recruiter finally tells you those four magic words – you’ve got the job. 

Need a little extra assistance? Contact KU’s Career Center for more information.  

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