In celebration of April Fool's Day, I was asked by my fellow bloggers with the Career Collective to address foolish job search tactics. However, it's hard to write something funny when what you're seeing is no joke. We've got 15 million job seeker right now. I'd argue more than 70% of them are conducting a weak job search. I guess the good news is, if you are reading this, you can avoid the lame job search efforts below and get an edge on your competition. Here are 10 job search tactics that get you nowhere...FAST. If you are guilty of any of these, let's talk.
#1 - Spending an hour each day tweaking your resume. FACT: Resumes don't get you hired - people do. Your resume needs to be formatted logically, using a clean-line font, and presents the facts (ie. quantifiable accomplishments) in an easy-to-read fashion. If you can't do this yourself, stop wasting time tweaking it and making it worse. Get some help and start focusing on the high-payoff activities like meeting people you can actually give the resume to.
#2 - Applying to jobs on-line that don't list the employer's name or let you apply at their company website. Understand that without the company name, you have no idea what they are all about. You can't tailor your cover letter to speak to their needs. In short, you can't do anything to increase the chances you get a call. Most of these are jobs being posted by recruiters or headhunters. Thus, you are better off seeing which agency is posting the job, picking up the phone and trying to land an appointment to go visit them to share your credentials in-person. That way, they might choose to represent you. Recruiters sift through 1000s of applicants. If you want to stick in their mind, find a way to connect with them live. Submitting a generic application to one of their job postings is like being a needle in a haystack - unless you are super shiny, they won't see you.
#3 - Playing the 'numbers game' by applying to as many jobs as you can in one sitting (even if you aren't fully qualified for the position), and then further ensuring you'll never get called by including a boring 'all about me' cover letter. Did you know? Hiring managers choose a candidate based on three primary qualities, in this order:
A) Would your personality fit in this organization and for this position?
B) Do you have the skills and ability to do the job?
C) Do you have the experience?
Notice that experience is 3rd on the hiring priority list. When you apply blindly to jobs, you get absolutely no shot at showcasing your professional personality or your transferable skills. All you get to do is present your experience - just like the other 100,000 people who applied online. Guess who gets the phone call? The person who got their resume walked in the door by someone who works at the company where the person said, He/she is really nice (personality) and I know they can do the job (skills). See why 'spray and pray' job searching doesn't work?
Moreover, if you are sending a generic cover letter that starts with, I'm applying for your XYZ position and I think I'm a great candidate because, then you are putting yourself in the 'no' pile. Companies don't want to hear about you, they want to hear about themselves. (See the end of this post to get FREE video that explains the 3 things they want to hear.)
#4 - Submitting online your credentials to a recruiters and then sitting back and waiting for a call. See #2 above to reconfirm why a recruiter is not going to call you. You can also read this article on Why HR Just Isn't That Into You.
#5 - Surfing the net and reading career advice articles but not bothering to apply what you read. Okay, so I'm glad you've come to our site because we do have over 40 proven, approved experts giving some of the best career advice available right now. But let's be honest, what's the point of reading it if you don't step back and ask yourself, How can I apply this right now? I get e-mails daily from folks asking for advice and when I e-mail them some ideas, they write back, Ya, I read that online somewhere. I guess I'll try it.
#6 - Sending out a blanket e-mail to every family, friend and former colleague that simply says, I'm looking for a job. That's like sending out a one-line note to all those folks and saying, I'm looking for a spouse. You have to explain to contacts how they can help you. Being specific in terms of A) companies you'd like learn more about, and B) specific people you want to meet, makes it possible for people to focus in on how to help you. A generic request like the one above gets filed in the back of the mind of the recipient as follows: I'm sure if I come across of a job I think Joe fits, I'll call him. Guess what Joe...that call isn't coming.
#7 - Going to network events and sitting in the corner because you didn't think about how you'd introduce yourself and what you wanted to get out of meeting others. What were you thinking? That people would be welcoming you at the door and would hold your hand as they walked you around and personally introduced you to each person there? Of course you didn't expect that, right? You don't have to be a master with words to successfully network at an event. BUT, you do have to give some thought as to what you want to share about yourself so that you can make a good, lasting first impression. Everyone, yes everyone, has one or more USP (Unique Selling Points) they can work into conversation. I realize we are taught not to brag about ourselves, and as a result, we aren't really prepared to talk about ourselves in a way that doesn't seem off-putting or weak, yet this is a skill that needs to be worked on if you are looking for work. This is actually an area where we devote a large amount of time in our CAREEREALISM Club, so I know what it takes to develop a comfort-level with it. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to improve in this area. If you can't plan to make an effort at a networking event, don't go. I'd rather you stay home an make no impression, than go and make a weak one.
#8 - Requesting to connect with 100s of people on LinkedIn, but failing to personalize the request message. Now, I will admit, this is a personal pet peeve. I get a lot of requests to connect on LinkedIn and I really like connecting with all types of people. However, I always pass on connecting with anyone who couldn't take 10 extra seconds to personalize the request and tell me why we should link-up. To me, it's not enough that we are in the same online group. So, just give me one VBR (Valid Business Reason) to connect and I'm in. I just want to know you are sincere in connecting and aren't doing this as a meet-your-quota-for-the-day activity. Besides, if you say something interesting or witty, I'm probably going to write back and start an actual professional relationship with you instead of ignoring your request. I realize this may sound nit-picky, but that's the beauty of social networking, each person gets to choose how and why they connect. I will tell you though, I've talked to lots of social media professionals and they all feel the same way.
#9 - Randomly approaching your job search without any clear path and action plan on a weekly basis. Why do we create to-do lists at home? Simple, we 1) we don't want to forget anything, 2) the list keeps us focused and on-track, and 3) it feels REALLY GOOD when we check things off our list. Each week, smart job seekers map out their job search strategy and determine the high-payoff actions that will get them the best results. Then, they write them down and check them off when they accomplish them. If you can't do the same, your job search is random and unproductive. Lists get results. Not to mention, completing the items on your list makes you feel productive and satisfied - a great motivator when conducting something as challenging as a job search.
#10 - Assuming that because the economy stinks you won't find a job no matter what you do, so you do a half-baked job search with a lackluster attitude. Yes, there are 15M people looking for work, but there are also 13M open jobs...and those are the ones we know about! Studies indicate there are millions more jobs that aren't posted. Employers are just waiting to find the 'right-fit' for the job and they'll create the position. And, let's not forget, new jobs are cropping up every day. To assume you won't get a job until the economy improves is like saying, I'll just wait and be the last person picked for the dodgeball team. Bad idea folks. Great way to get labeled as a sub-par performer. The economy is going to be slow to recover from a jobs standpoint, but honestly, we could still drop the unemployment rate significantly if job seekers really invested in learning how to reach out and connect better with employers. Why should it be your job to be a better job seeker? Because you want the paycheck and the employer's the one who can give it to you. They are the customer who can actually buy the services of your business-of-one, but you have to work to earn their business!