It's a spooky time of year. Ghoulish decorations, goblins, and jack-o-lanterns abound, reminding us that it's time to stock up on bowls of candy for greedy trick-or-treaters. It's also a good reminder to make sure that you aren't frightening off hiring managers and squandering opportunities to land jobs. Is it time to dress up your job search strategy?
You don't need to transform into someone else altogether, but if you haven't been successful in the past, make sure you avoid these 10 scary job search mistakes.
1. Frightening your network. Unwittingly, many job seekers compel their contacts to turn and run as if Freddy Krueger were chasing them. If you are asking everyone you know to help you find a job and are not having any luck, change your approach. You may have more luck if you focus on what you have to offer the people you want to meet and don't mention anything about looking for a job when you network.
2. Not following up with contacts you meet during networking. Most job seekers are guilty of not keeping in touch with the people who may be able to influence their search. When you meet someone who seems interested in you and who is willing to be a resource, make sure to keep in touch. It's not stalking if you mail your contacts links to articles you think they'll appreciate. Also make sure to circle back when you meet with someone that suggested you call. Keep yourself top-of-mind and you're more likely to hear from them if an actual opportunity becomes available.
3. Not identifying and including targeted keywords in your resume and online materials. If you're applying for jobs and hoping for the best, you may as well dig a hole and throw your resume inside and place a "RIP" tombstone on top. It's crucial that your job search materials clearly indicate why you're a good fit for the positions you want. Analyze job descriptions for the words describing skills and accomplishments the employers require. Be sure your resume reflects your abilities in those selected areas, or you'll never be the "fairest of them all."
4. Making your resume about your past instead of your future. Be sure you don't mummify your skills. The resume is a marketing document, not a history of things you've done. Make sure you make clear connections between what you want to do next and your accomplishments instead of emphasizing irrelevant past history.
5. Failing to eliminate errors. Mistakes are a job search killer. That includes ill-advised online posts that will make a hiring manager question your judgment, as well as typos and outright mistakes. You're touting how detail-oriented you are in your mistake-laden resume? It's unlikely you'll land any interviews. Applying for jobs where there is little supervision? Your inappropriate photos online will stop hiring managers in their tracks. Make a concerted effort to "dress yourself up" and present yourself in the best possible way via all of your materials.
6. Scaring off hiring managers by applying for every position. Just because you can apply for every job does not mean you should. Don't be like the kid who grabs a handful of candy just because it's there—be selective and apply for the jobs you're most qualified to do. When you try for every job, recruiters and hiring managers will identify you as unfocused, and you aren't likely to land any interviews at that company.
7. Not preparing to answer important questions in interview. If you want to win a competitive costume contest, you'll plan in advance and have everything you need to create your "look." Similarly, when it's time to interview, it's up to you to practice what you'll say. Identify the company's pain points—what are the employer's main concerns and why is this position available? If they need someone with specific skills, be sure you'll be able to describe why you're the best person with those skills. Create several stories—and make sure they aren't horror stories—about why you're a good fit for the job.
8. Not tapping into social media. If you've decided your privacy is more important than anything else and you don the equivalent of Harry Potter's invisibility cloak online, you're making a big mistake. Seize the opportunity to let people know what you offer via social media. Use your status updates in LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to showcase your expertise and to grow the network of people who know, like, and trust you.
9. Throwing up your hands and giving up. Unlike unsuspecting people in scary movies who always seem to find trouble, people who aren't putting out the right feelers are not likely to find jobs. If you haven't had any luck in your job search, it's time to change your luck by trying some new things. Follow the tips in this list to start off on a new foot.
10. Letting your guard down once you get a job. Once you do land in the job you've been seeking, celebrate, but don't get complacent. No job is forever. Keep your resume up-to-date, and don't stop networking. That way you won't be effectively going into the dark, scary room the next time you need to find an opportunity.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success.