It’s time for a little tough love to current job seekers. Some people have excellent resumes, cover letters, and interviewing skills, and some do not. Chances are if you are reading this blog you are looking for some help. Congratulations for taking the first step in a job search: asking for advice!
I have compiled a list of absolute, never ever, do not’s for your job search. These are golden standards that apply to every job sector, and the types of issues that result in resume trash-dunking contests across the country. The tips may seem like no-brainers, but pay attention to each of them to make sure your resume doesn’t end up as a paper airplane cruising your dream job’s office.
1. Never use family and friends as references. Employers know your mom will give the most glowing reference of your selfless dedication and organizational skills, but what they really what to know is why you couldn’t find a real reference for your application. If you have worked somewhere for several months and you use your sister as a reference, the “red flag” is immediately raised for the employer.
2. Watch for suspect job skills or descriptions. In the wise words of George Washington in his Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation, “Show nothing to your friend that might affright him.” Review your resume and have others critique your resume. You might be surprised how many mistakes remain even after you have spent hours formatting and editing. Look for strange descriptions that might make for hilarious office emails but not a credible resume. If a friend reading the job description has no idea what tasks you performed, find another way to describe your duties. Also, avoid labeling yourself as unemployed or unlicensed. Find a positive way to express your current job status (i.e. jobseeker).
3. Check any bad attitude or negativity at the door. The job market is tough right now, there’s no question about that. You have probably been working your tail off applying for jobs, networking, and sending out your resume to everyone you can think of. It is a frustrating process! Despite any aggravation you’ve had with previous failures, adopt a positive and upbeat attitude for the job interview process. Find positive things to say about your job search and experiences or say nothing at all.
4. Avoid oversharing during the interview. Returning to the wise words of our first President: “Be not tedious in discourse or in reading unless you find the company pleased therewith.” When asked the inevitable “Tell me about yourself” question, be prepared to answer with a concise and relevant response. The employer does not want to know your life story despite the open-endedness of the question. It is easy to become stressed in the interview and spew useless information; review potential questions before the interview and practice your answers.
5. Do not be the silly applicant. Read and re-read the job posting and any document you submit to the employer. Nothing is more embarrassing than sending the wrong cover letter to an employer or sending your application to the wrong person. Be sure you have the correct email address and that you have properly submitted all documentation. Incomplete applications rarely go further than the recycle bin, and incorrectly submitted applications cause employers to assume that you are incapable of following directions. If the job posting is confusing, do not hesitate to call or email the employer for clarification.
6. Work your opportunities. Has someone offered to help you? Did a colleague provide some advice? Have you utilized your network? From my personal experience, it is easy to complain about not having a job, but it is harder to continually apply for jobs, seek new avenues of employment, and ask for help. Make sure you take people up on their offers to help with your job search. If you are a new jobseeker, all advice should be relevant and at least educational. It only takes one person to take notice of your ambition and qualifications to land the perfect job. Talk with people, find out their opinions on potential employers, and discover their personal career path. It is often said that searching for a job is a job in and of itself. Are you working 8 hours a day to find your dream job? Chances are other people are working just as strenuously.
I hope you will use this advice to your advantage as you apply for jobs and receive interviews. Talk to any hiring representatives, and they will have some hilarious and horrifying stories of their own. Make sure that on the interview day you are the polished, confident, and intelligent candidate. Good luck!