If you’re job hunting you’re surely aware of the most egregious and common no-nos: showing up for the interview ten minutes late; answering your phone during the interview; handing over a resume riddled with typos; using a silly-sounding E-mail address; failing to demonstrate you’ve researched the employer; bad-mouthing your last boss; neglecting to follow up. You’re not doing any of that, are you? Of course not.
But you may not have considered some of the less-discussed, under-the-radar issues. Give this list a look and ask yourself, "Do any of these sound like me?"
1. You have unreasonable expectations. Everybody wants the perfect job. But if your criteria are too high, if you’re being too demanding, you may well remain unemployed. Nobody wants to be told to compromise, but the fact is that much of life involves just that, at least temporarily. Analyze your wants and needs. Which are must haves? Which are negotiable? Which can be put on hold?
2. You’re relying too much on one search technique. Maybe you are only applying online, or only networking, or only using employment agencies, or only approaching companies that you know are hiring. Don’t limit yourself to just one job-search method. Try them all. Cast a wide net, continue to build your connections, get creative.
3. You use the word “I” too often in your cover letter. The most effective way to endear yourself to potential employers is to put the focus more on them than on you. Show you’ve done your homework and understand what your target companies are seeking. Then tell them how you can fill those needs.
4. You are not demonstrating long-term potential. We get caught up in the moment. We need a job now. But employers, the good ones at least, tend to think long term. They want to know not only how you will contribute today but in the future, too. That “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question is not just for drill. They really want to know.
5. You are unknowingly repeating mistakes. After interviews, are you taking the time to review and analyze them? Many times the reason you don’t get a job is beyond your control, and, in fact, has nothing to do with you, but not always. Trying to understand why the answer was “No” may help you to fine tune your approach.
6. You have not rehearsed. You may hesitate to rehearse answers to the most common questions. You don’t want to sound canned. You want to be yourself. But consider the benefits of creating great answers to those questions you hear the most—short, vivid, three-sentence answers brimming with examples and facts—and practicing them until you can speak with conviction and confidence.
7. You put your job search on hold while waiting to hear back. Don’t we all fall into this trap at one time or another? You’ve had a super couple of interviews with your dream employer. You just know you’re going to get “the call” any day now. You think, I’m going to hold off until I hear back; after all, I deserve a little break. Well, no doubt you do deserve a little break--but don’t. Keep on networking, applying, interviewing, and researching until you have a firm job offer in hand.
Looking for work is an enormous project. In many ways it’s more difficult, and takes more energy, than even the most demanding job. So, in the midst of it all, find a way to nurture yourself. Keep on fine tuning and strengthening your approach. And hang in there.
Karen Burns is the author of the illustrated career advice book The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, recently released by Running Press. She blogs at www.karenburnsworkinggirl.com.