Most of the biggest mistakes that candidates make when looking for a new job are actually fairly easy to avoid – if you know to watch out for them.
I was talking to a professional recruiter from one of the big placement firms last week. This was actually just at a social get-together, but I’ve been in the business so long, that these are the kind of discussions I have over drinks now.
She told me that she sees the same common mistakes in candidate behaviour over and over again. She wasn’t complaining though. Those mistakes are things her team now routinely checks for first, in order to quickly weed out weaker applicants. It actually makes her job easier.
Since I would rather help people land jobs than help recruiters veto their candidacy, here are the most common mistakes professional recruiters watch for – and often see.
Applicants adding too much irrelevant information to their resume or cover letter. If a recruiter fails to see the relevance of your application at a glance, they will quickly move on.
The fix: Keep your application focussed on just the facts that employers will be interested in. These include your credentials, experience, and accomplishments. (They don’t include information about your personal life or beliefs.) Keep your resume and cover letter concise, focussed and relevant.
Making spelling and grammatical errors. When recruiters have numerous candidates to consider for a role, the ones who have produced error-free applications will always make the short list over those who have mistakes in their writing.
The fix: There’s no mystery here, but it bears repeating: proofread. Even one resume typo can remove you from consideration. Review your materials thoroughly, and ask a friend to read them for you, as well. Here are our expert tips for proofreading like a pro.
Candidates who fail to prepare. I’ve heard this before, but this recruiter confirmed it. One of employers’ biggest pet peeves is candidates showing up for an interview with little or no knowledge of the company or what they do.
The fix: Research the company thoroughly before applying, and especially before interviewing. Read their website and Google any recent news articles. Use your findings to make your application as relevant as possible to the mission, challenges, and culture of the workplace. Ask smart questions in the interview that demonstrate your awareness of the industry and the employer’s place on the market. (As opposed to dumb questions that make you sound clueless such as, “What do you guys do here anyway?”)
Dishonesty. Recruiters find that many, if not most, candidates include some fabrication or exaggeration in their applications. Many of these falsehoods are easily revealed in a background check, and they immediately disqualify the candidate from consideration.
The fix: Be honest. Overstating your education or experience is never okay. You will probably be caught and lose any hope of landing the job. Instead, sell the relevant skills and experience that you do have. If they don’t exactly match the job description, write an application that demonstrates how you would be great at the job with what you do bring to the table.
There is no need to exaggerate, anyway. In many cases, you only need about 50 per cent of the job requirements to land an interview.
Having a questionable online presence. Employers will look you up on social media and Google you. I know it’s legal now, but if there is a bong in your hand in every picture taken of you, it’s still going to hurt your chances.
The fix: Clean up your social profiles. Remove any content or photos that you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see. This isn’t just bong shots, but could also include angry rants, poor spelling and grammar use, or negative posts about work or former employers.
Make sure any information about your work or education matches what you’ve listed in your resume. Discrepancies can make employers suspicious.
Being unprepared for salary discussions. If your candidacy is going well, at some point you will have to discuss compensation with the employer. They find it unprofessional for a candidate to either not know how much they should be paid – or to have wildly unreasonable expectations.
The fix: Don’t bring up salary first. Let the employer broach the topic. However, be prepared for the discussion when it comes. Research how much similar roles pay. Find out anything you can about the company and its compensation policies. Name a salary range – ending in slightly higher than you’d like to be paid, and say that you are open to negotiate based on the details of the role itself and the overall benefits package.