You might be sabotaging your job search without even realizing it. Are you doing these things? If you are, heads up — it’s time to change.
You spend all your time on job boards. You email everyone you know to tell them you’re looking for a job. You sent your cover letter and resume to approximately 12,000 employers in one day. Yet, the only response you get are rejection emails.
You can blame the economy. You can blame the educational system. You can even blame your parents. But should you be blaming yourself?
Job seekers make some pretty silly mistakes that sabotage their job search. It doesn’t always matter how many applications you send out. What matters is whether you submit a well-written, targeted cover letter and resume to an employer that showcases why you’re the perfect fit for the position.
Hiring managers are flooded with applications for each open position. To narrow down the list of applicants, the easiest way for them is to delete the emails from people who make glaring mistakes. Here are four actions you can take if you want your application deleted before the hiring manager bothers to look at your qualifications: (Click here to tweet this list.)
1. Fail to tailor your cover letter
Employers have their choice of applicants. If you dash off a cover letter that doesn’t highlight your skills as they apply to the position, you have little chance of getting an interview.
Your cover letter should contain information that the employer requests, including a description of your relevant background and skills. It’s your chance to tell an employer why you’re the perfect candidate for the position.
Does the job description state the applicant must have experience managing others? Write about the office manager position you held and your supervisory role. Does the job prefer someone fluent in Spanish? Mention your translation experience and the year you lived in Spain.
Highlight items from your resume and tell the employer how your experiences have prepared you to take on the responsibilities of the position.
Take the time to explore the company website. What is their mission statement? Read the bio of the hiring manager. What’s their background? Don’t be creepy and mention that you Googled them and saw an award that they received in Boy Scouts 20 years ago, but know your audience.
Make your cover letter stand out by mentioning a recent initiative the company has undertaken and discussing how your skills would benefit the employer.
Hint: You shouldn’t send the same cover letter to every employer. Take the extra time to read the job description carefully and address how your experience meets the employer’s needs.
2. Don’t proofread
Hiring managers may take it personally when you spell their names or the name of the company incorrectly. Same goes if you address someone as “Mr. So-and-So” when that person is female.
If you’re unsure whether the contact person is male or female, take a minute or two to find their bio online. If you can’t find one, address the hiring manager as “Dear First Name Last Name.”
Other mistakes also make it easy for a hiring manager to put your application in the rejection pile. Did you use spellcheck? Don’t stop there. Spellcheck won’t tell you if you used “too” instead of “to” or if you missed a word.
If you use an old cover letter as a template, be sure to change the name of the company, not only in the address block, but also in the body of your cover letter. For example, if you write, “I am interested in the XYZ position with ABC Company,” make sure you change it to fit the current company.
A hiring manager is unlikely to invest time in interviewing a candidate who sends along a cover letter with obvious errors. If you make sloppy mistakes as an applicant, chances are you’ll make sloppy mistakes as an employee.
Hint: Your cover letter is your first impression. Take the time to proofread it. Can you blame a hiring manager for not wanting to hire someone who can’t spell the company name correctly?
3. Don’t send the requested information
If a job description asks for a resume and cover letter, don’t send only a resume. If the job posting requests you indicate in your cover letter where you saw the job posting, don’t forget to do so. If the company asks for the information, chances are they need it or they’re weeding out applicants who can’t follow instructions.
Hiring managers who receive a large number of applications sometimes test how well applicants pay attention to detail by making certain requests such as instructing applicants to use a specific subject line in their emails. If you don’t follow the instructions, your application may be rejected outright.
Same goes for document type. Some companies will only accept PDFs. Others want Word documents. Some prefer that you copy everything into the body of the email because they’re afraid of viruses in attachments.
If you send your documents in the wrong format, chances are the hiring manager will delete your application instead of spending the time to email you and ask you to follow instructions. And please, make sure you attach what you say you’re attaching. Nothing says sloppy like forgetting the attachments.
Hint: Look at the job description and instructions one last time before you hit send. Ensure you’ve included all requested information, that your documents are in the requested format, and that your subject line clearly states why you’re writing to the hiring manager.
4. Wear a tanktop in your Linkedin profile
Hiring managers do check Linkedin to verify the information in your resume. Make sure you’ve filled out your profile completely and accurately and that you have a professional photo. Having no photo makes your profile incomplete.
What’s worse than no photo? Having one that looks unprofessional. If you don’t want to find gainful employment, by all means, have a Linkedin profile picture like these:
- a photo of you on the beach
- a photo of you with alcohol
- a photo so small and pixelated you can’t discern if it’s a human face or abstract art
- a cropped photo that gives you the appearance of a third arm
- a photo of you wearing a tank top, workout clothing, pajamas or anything other than professional clothing
Hint: Your Linkedin profile picture should be a clear headshot. You don’t have to spend the money on a professional photographer. Enlist a friend to take a photo of you dressed appropriately with a neutral background and upload that picture to your profile.
Avoid the above mistakes if you want to increase your chances of getting past the initial review of job applications. It may take a little longer to proofread, tailor your cover letter and build a professional online profile, but it’ll pay off with more interview opportunities. It’ll be time well spent when it eventually lands you a job.
Kristin Gallagher is a writer and attorney who lives in New York City.