Whether you’re just about to graduate from high school, college or a training program, if you’ve never looked for a “real” job before, you may be a bit nervous (understandably so). After all, you want to make a good impression on a potential employer and are worried about making some first-timer mistakes that could cost you the opportunity.
Read below for a few mistakes that people new to the job seeking game often make and how to avoid them.
- Avoid sending out the exact same application/cover letter/resume to each position. Instead, fire up your word processing software and tweak your cover letter and resume so that they show how your skills and experience fit the specific job opening. You also should take a look at a company’s website, social media feeds, etc. to learn more about the company’s history, its goals and its particular culture.
- Speaking of social media accounts, take a good, hard look at yours. Look at them from an employer’s standpoint. That rant about how your professor gipped you of a B doesn’t look so professional now, does it? That photo of you playing beer pong with your buddies? Ditto. Clean up your social media profiles and make them as professional as possible.
- Double- and triple-check your resume and cover letter for grammatical mistakes, spelling errors and typos. If possible, have a friend or family member proof the documents for you. Don’t think that even one tiny mistake doesn’t matter – it definitely does. Many employers receive dozens if not hundreds of applications for one position and so to narrow down the pool a bit, they’ll cull through resumes and look for even the merest of mistakes as a reason to reject you as an applicant.
- Do work your network for job leads. Really do this. Contact your school’s career center to see if it has an active alumni network and tap into that. Talk to as many people as you can (your parents’ friends, your neighbors, folks at church, people you meet at the gym). Talk to everyone and anyone about what you’re looking for, your career/job goals, and ask if they know of anyone they could refer you to. If they have someone in mind, don’t wait for them to make the introduction: ask for their contact’s information and ask if you can say “John suggested I give you a call.” Then…call the contact.
- Get rid of the cutesy e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org) and get an e-mail address with your name in it: JohnSmith@gmail.com or even JohnSmith23@gmail.com. This shows maturity and professionalism. Also, clear up your voice mail message; make it something along the lines of “Hello, this is John Smith. Please leave your name and number and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.” Your voice mail message may be the second impression (after you resume/cover letter) a potential employer has about you, so make it a mature, professional one.
- Many employers now use phone screenings as a first, short interview. Make sure you answer any questions in complete sentences, don’t talk in a monotone (it connotes disinterest), and have some questions prepared yourself. Again, think maturity and professionalism.
- Perhaps the three biggest mistakes you can make are to a) dress too casually for an interview, b) show up late for the interview and c) have done no research on the company at all. In other words, you’ve just shown the interviewer or hiring manager that you don’t care a whit about his or her needs.
If you remember nothing else about the job search, remember this: employers hire people to solve problems. That problem could be making sales, answering phones, creating code, making websites, fixing cars, creating a new filing system, and so on. You want to show an employer how you can solve her problems (hint: the job ad or job description will tell you what problems the employer needs solving). Showing up late, ill-dressed and not having any idea about the company only shows an employer that you’re immature and inconsiderate and that you’re definitely not someone who can help her solve her problems.