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5 common job search mistakes that are easy to avoid

Amanda Datchens //  2 Comments

If finding a new job is taking forever, these 5 job search mistakes could be the reason. Find out what they are and how you can easily fix them now.


“I’ve applied for 50 jobs and heard nothing back. What am I doing wrong?”

“Everyone’s getting interviews except me”

 “Why is it taking me so long to find a job?”

If you can relate to any of the above, there’s a good chance you may be making one, or more, of these 5 basic job search mistakes.

Let’s take a look at each and how you to avoid them so you can turn things around.

lots of applications

Job Search Mistake #1 – Applying for everything

It is very tempting to apply for everything and anything in the hope that at least a few might come good and invite you to an interview, but that is the wrong tactic.

It may feel like you are being very effective, but the truth is that you need to work on the quality of each application you submit which takes time, something that is impossible to achieve if you are sending out multiple applications at once.

Your only option with this ‘spray and pray’ method is to use generic, bland applications to handle the volume, but these simply won’t get the same result as thoughtful, considered applications.

Multiple rejections from these generic approaches can make you feel despondent but remember – it’s the approach not you that is being unsuccessful.

The Solution:

Instead, slow down, set up some job search process rules based on a select group of target companies and record all activity on a job tracker.

Your results will improve, and you will feel much more positive.

Here’s an article that will help you do that.

Busy searching and applying for multiple jobs? Then you need a proper job application tracker to keep things under control.

fancy peacock

Job Search Mistake #2 – Using a fancy resume template

Applicant Tracking Systems, or ATS, are used by employers and recruitment agencies to manage job opportunities across their organisations by screening incoming resumes from job seekers.

So, when you apply for a job online, your resume will most likely be screened first by an ATS rather than a human.

First it will read your resume and parse basic information into an applicant database and then it will grade your application according to key criteria set by the recruiter.

Sounds good doesn’t it but there is a problem.

75% of resumes are rejected for online applications simply due to the way they are formatted.

75% of resumes are rejected for online applications simply due to the way they are formatted.

Just to be clear, that’s you being rejected for a position on the basis of your resume design rather than your skills and experience.

That’s not so good.

Photos, graphs, tables, boxes, graphics, multiple columns and fancy serif fonts are often used in templates to attract attention, helping your resume stand out from the crowd and be more interesting.

Yes, they look nice but most ATS cannot read them and if they cannot read yours, you are not going to get an interview.

The Solution:

Ditch that fancy template now and swap it for a plain,  ATS optimised resume that can be read and understand.

Here’s a free course on how to ATS proof your resume, which includes a downloadable template.

Applicant Tracking Systems: how to beat the bots. Mini Online Course.

tailored suit

Job Search Mistake #3 – Failing to tailor each application 

There was a time when having just one standard, generic resume was ‘good enough’ – but times have changed.

Due to the rise of online job boards and recruitment software, it is now so easy to submit job applications that recruiters and hiring managers are inundated with response each time they advertise a position.

This means that your resume will be pitched against a hundred or more others every time you apply for a job.

Clearly you need to stand out to get noticed but, as you now know, you can’t use a fancy design to do this.

The Solution:

You need to use a targeted resume.

A targeted resume is one that is written to highlight specific skills, knowledge, experience, qualifications and aptitudes required by a specific role. Its purpose is to show recruiters and hiring managers why a candidate is a perfect fit for a role by matching them to both essential and desirable criteria.

You may now be thinking “hang on. So, I have to write a completely new resume each time?!”

If you are, you’ll be relieved to know that you don’t.

All you have to do is have one core resume and edit it for each application you make.

Follow the steps in this article and watch your results improve.

Turn your job search around and start getting interviews with this targeted resume guide.

Checklist for a letter

Job Search Mistake #4 – Not following application instructions

The application process is the first step of the screening process.

In addition to your resume, recruiters and hiring managers may ask for additional information such as a cover letter, an application statement or certificates.

They may also have set some knockout questions that you need to answer or require a response to Key Skills Criteria.

Ignoring these instructions or refusing to comply tells the recruiter or hiring manager one or both of the following.

  • You didn’t pay attention to the instructions.
  • And / or you couldn’t be bothered to make the effort to fulfil their request.

If you fail to give them what they need, your application will be incomplete and therefore you will be rejected.

The Solution:

Be vigilant so you don’t miss a thing and always give them exactly what they want.

Not sure how to write a targeted cover letter? Follow these steps.

How to Write a Cover Letter: a step by step guide

LinkedIn on phone

Job Search Mistake #5 – Forgetting about your social resume

Not sure you have one?

If you have one or more active social media accounts, then you have a Social Resume.

It’s there 24/7 and could helping - or stopping you - get your next job.

Studies have shown that up to 70 per cent of employers have rejected job applicants because of something they found on social media.

Studies have shown that up to 70 per cent of employers have rejected job applicants because of something they found on social media.

Further, over a third of recruiters (37%) use social and professional media as their primary way to find talent.

Plus, it’s not just important when you apply for a job.

It can also be a way for recruiters to invite you to apply for their vacancies.

So, a poor social resume can both stop you getting a job and hearing about them too.

The Solution:

It’s time to perform an audit of your online profile.

Here’s a guide on how to create a great social resume that will help not hinder your job search.

10 ways to stop your Social Resume ruining your job applications

Key takeaways

Each of these 5 job search mistakes can have a profound impact on your ability to land a new job.

Thankfully, with a bit of effort, they can all be easily avoided if you do the following:

  • Concentrate on the quality of your applications not the     quantity
  • Ditch the fancy resume template and opt for an ATS     optimised format
  • Tailor your resume and cover letter for each application you submit
  • Diligently follow and comply with all application instructions
  • And check your social resume so that it will work for you, not against you, when you apply for your next job

If you found this useful, please share.

Have a question related to job search? Just leave a comment below and I will be happy to help.

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About the Author

A career coach, headhunter, Amanda has founded and been involved in developing multiple companies known for innovative HR and recruitment solutions. Originally from London but now in Queensland, Australia, she is the co-founder of Real Life Career Advice

What are your thoughts?

Leave a comment or ask a question.

  • Hi,

    May I add one important point in a job search.
    Forgetting to network in a 'real' life and maintaining your professional and private connection and friends.
    This one many people forget and apply for the positions online, tweak their CV, search online…


    • Hello Darko

      Great comment and I totally agree with you.

      These 5 points are just the beginning.

      A successful job search involves many things of which networking is a key factor.

      The kind I am talking about though is not the salesy, prescriptive 'make x calls to x people each day' to get results.

      The active element of networking should be integrity, professionalism, and a genuine willingness to help others – that way people are happy to recommend you for positions they hear about and help you back.

      And, when you land a great job, don't stop being helpful to others – you never know when you might need their support.

      Have a great day



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