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October 30, 2013

Avoid These Five Unforced Job Seeker Errors

According to Merriam-Webster Online the definition of the phrase “unforced error” is: a missed shot or lost point (as in tennis) that is entirely a result of the player’s own blunder and not because of the opponent’s skill or effort.

Just as in tennis, people in job search can avoid fundamental mistakes if they will just do the little bit of extra preparation it takes to perform better. In the last week Career Pro Inc. provided screening services for a company hiring for a few $100K positions. We did this in addition to our work in career services and as a part of our HR consulting practice. Our screeners fielded calls and contacts that ranged in response. In almost all cases it became apparent that most job seekers Don’t do certain things that are fundamental during the application process that can screen them out before they are screened in. I don’t know why they do it but some job seekers just feel overwhelmed by the number of ads or the fact “no one seems to respond to online applications” but don’t and I mean don’t use that as an excuse that leads to some of the unforced errors of the job search.

Don’t Read the Ad (or Call a Key Skill a “Whatchamacallit”)
A job seeker said “I read the ad and wanted to call you” even though they actually did not read the ad or have it in front of them. The biggest part about being able to get a job is knowing what the job actually entails. Just because the job title may seem super easy or adaptable it may not be what you think it is. Just because you’ve been a manager in a warehouse before doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be able to translate that to being an supply chain manager because in actuality the two positions require extremely different skills and experience. Read the job description and responsibilities and understand exactly what the position entails before even touching an application. One job seeker we followed up with who had some of the requirements and would be “a close call” answered the cell phone he had and used the word “whatchamacallit” when referring to the advertisements one software requirement. He said: “I think I have everything but that one skills, you know, the whatchamacallit that you need.”

Don’t Research the Opportunity (or Company)
We advertised for a position in “Staffing” with a mandatory staffing sales bent clearly stated in the ad. One job seeker called and, having not read the ad, asked: “Is this for Enterprise Rent-A-Car sales.” Uh no. When the company is revealed in an advertisement it is very important to read about and understand what the company does and somehow reflect that in your cover letter, resume and interview. How can you apply for a job, much less go to an interview if you know nothing about the company? You’re giving yourself the kiss of death on your chances of employment when you can’t answer seemingly simple questions like:

What do you know about this company?

“What do you know about us?”

Find out the company history, locations, divisions, and a mission statement, which are available in an “About Us” section on most company websites. Sit down, read about the company, and brainstorm all the ways you are an asset that absolutely must not be passed up on. Find ways to know the key products the company uses. A recent speaker at one of our Triangle Executive Careers Group functions, Ginny Bradshaw, listed three positions she received during her career that she obtained without the required and I mean required degree because she said she researched the company better than any other candidate. It works. Do your work.

Don’t Look at the Essentials
You want to be careful when defining essential requirements. This isn’t referring to passion or enthusiasm or any other skills that can be picked up on the job. This is about the technical skills or academic requirements you can’t fulfill and make it so you’re not capable of completed the job with even satisfactory work. You want to apply for a job that you have the skill set for so you can WOW your boss by going above and beyond instead of falling short and struggling on every menial task. You should have most of the “Key Duties and Requirements” but you certainly could apply if you don’t have them all; however, make a compelling case for all the skills you do have and try to address the ones you don’t as a sales person might address an objection up front. Dana Gower, a human resources and financial leader, also a recent presenter at Triangle Executive Careers Group suggests reading sales books even if you are not a sales person during your job search. He suggests becoming a “fanatical follower” of every company or organization that interests you during your search and your interview process. Passion and authentic interest sells.

Don’t Customize Your Cover Letter
It’s not unexpected for you to be applying for more than one job at once but it’s also not appealing for the company you are seeking employment from to be able to recognize that with the first thing they receive from you. Your interviewer can tell when you wrote the cover specific to another position because the details don’t fit the one you’re applying to now. And because you are just in this Internet frenzy of applying to “anything close” you don’t like to customize each letter and really make your “written proposal” to win this bid. Yes, a cover letter could be interpreted as the written part of the argument and the resume the key, compelling facts and details of the proposal. One job seeker this past week exclaimed to our small staff at Career Pro Inc.: “You know, I hate customizing ehhhverrrry cover letter” because it is “a pain.” Let me just say this. Most job seekers don’t really take time to customize their cover letter but they should do it every time. Every little extra time you put into a specific response may make the difference in your job search. It’s a pain. It’s part of the pain of search.

Don’t Customize Your Resume
This shouldn’t have to be mentioned but yes, it does need to be mentioned. Similar to your cover letter, if you don’t adjust your resume, you will be missing out on big opportunities. Read and re-read the job description then incorporate the most emphasized skills into one of the first sections of your resume. This will jump out at whoever’s reading it and recognize that you have exactly what they’re looking for! This isn’t suggesting that you lie about your capabilities, but tailor and tie in their expectations to embody one of your strong suits. Remove and replace words in the body of the resume and creatively weave in the words used in the ad into your functional and chronological elements.

Do the things you know may be painful to avoid the avoidable unforced job search errors.


CareerPro Inc. is affiliated in good standing with the following organizations:

  • Affiliate of Society for Human Resource Management
  • Reach Certified Strategist
  • Association of Career Professionals
  • Career Directors International
  • Triangle Business Alliance
  • Certified Professional Resume Writer
  • Certified Federal Job Search Trainer
  • Career Management Alliance
  • Better Business Bureau
  • NC Veterans Business Association
  • NC Veterans Business Association