The 7 Biggest Job Search Mistakes (That Are The Easiest To Fix!)

Sawing off the branch you are sitting on

A man is sitting on a branch he is about to cut off. The background shows an industrial area which … [+] is polluting the surroundings. Thus the image conveys a secondary meaning towards environmental pollution.


With the unexpected downturn in the economy, if you find yourself suddenly in a job search (or suspect you might be in one soon), you’re going to experience a market that is highly competitive. Not only are many others looking, but organizations are running lean in the midst of uncertainty, only filling the most critical roles. Also, with the success of remote roles, companies are broadening their search criteria beyond the local geography. So, you can’t afford to make amateur errors in your job search if you want to land the role.

Here are seven of the biggest job search mistakes that are super easy to correct:

  1. Not personalizing your LinkedIn invite. If you’re making the time to build your network, you’re ahead of the game. But don’t sell yourself short by cutting corners. Writing a brief, personalized sentence or two when asking to connect on LinkedIn only takes a few moments, but leads to a dramatic increase in acceptance rates. You’re able to easily connect with 2nd level contacts (i.e., those connections of your 1st level contacts), so building your primary network will expand your options exponentially. If you’re in a job search, work regularly with customers or have your own business, it’s worth investing in a Premium account that offers InMail credits, which can be used to connect with people outside of your network (e.g., 3rd level contacts). Another option is to join LinkedIn “Groups” in your industry or field of interest, which will grant direct access to all group members, even those outside of your personal network. So, skip the standard (and lazy!) “I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn” message and instead comment on something you share in common or an interesting part of their profile. And whatever you do, don’t: sell or solicit business in an intial outreach. This is a massive turnoff and will likely get your request deleted.
  2. Being overeager. While energy and zeal are generally positive qualities in a job candidate, be careful about diving in with both feet without doing your homework first. Now that social media makes it incredibly simple to reach out, you may be tempted to hit “send” without investing in your contact, which will likely lead to diminishing returns. First impressions are lasting, so invest time looking at your target contact’s social media, website, or products. Follow them and comment on or share their content. Thought leaders publish information online because they want others to benefit from it. Respect their efforts by reviewing it before haphazardly reaching out, and you’ll significantly increase your results. And whatever you do, don’t: forget about the power of a warm introduction if it’s available. Having a common connection open the door to a conversation will increase your odds of getting a “yes.”
  3. Believing what got you here will get you there. Landing the offer usually has more to do with your most relevant achievements, not your most impressive. Sometimes these are one and the same, but in today’s one-click world of distraction, if you don’t lead off with a skill that solves your audience’s greatest pain points, you’ve lost them. If you’ve ever interacted with a salesperson who jumped right into explaining a product’s key features without first learning about what was important to you as the consumer, you know how off-putting it can be. Employers feel the same way. A hiring manager wants to know how a candidate will solve their core challenges, so once you identify their needs and which skills will be most critical, it’s worth the time to take an extra step to ensure the accomplishments you convey show a benefit to the team or company. While your resume may be impressive, without context and application, interviewers may not connect the dots between your value and their needs in the way you hope. A helpful strategy when creating resume bullet points or preparing for the interview is to create SOART stories, which stands for Situation, Obstacle, Action, Result and Tie-in. Many job seekers forget the final piece (the tie-in), which leaves the work of figuring out how your achievement translates into helping the company to the hiring manager. So do the work for them. And whatever you do, don’t: neglect cleaning up your social media when in a job search. I’ve seen stellar candidates get passed over for questionable content. In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s likely others have access even with privacy measures in place.
  4. Not practicing out loud. It’s a little shocking how many people skip this critical step prior to interviewing. Remember that hiring managers have a day job that doesn’t include regularly interviewing candidates, so most are not trained and may not ask questions that showcase your most relevant skills. So as a candidate, you must be 100% prepared to leave the information on the table that gets you hired, regardless of where the discussion turns in your 45 minutes with the hiring manager. Plus, what’s in your head often sounds better than what comes out of your mouth, especially in a stressful environment like an interview. There are many things you’ll be unable to control in the hiring process, so it makes sense to shore up those aspects that you can. And whatever you do, don’t: forget to send a brief thank you note that reiterates your value and interest within 24 hours. An email is fine, but you might be surprised how many candidates skip this simple step (and it’s noticeable).
  5. Asking lame questions. Another part of the interview that many fail to prepare for adequately is the part where the Interviewer asks what questions you have. This is not only a perfect place to showcase additional skills (e.g., curiosity, insight, analytical ability, etc.), but I’ve seen this section of the interview completely turn the outcome around (both for better and for worse). A useful strategy is to craft questions as if this were your first day on the job because the questions will be more relevant to the success of the team and project goals rather than about you and your needs (which will come later once you receive an offer). Prepare more questions than you believe you’ll need since many may be answered during the conversation, and think about your audience when asking questions. For example, a Recruiter isn’t likely to be able to adequately explain what the day-to-day role is like, so that question may be better held for a potential future peer. And whatever you do, don’t: ever say that you don’t have any questions or that they’ve answered them all. There’s always more to learn about the people, company, culture or goals.
  6. Forgetting about references. If you’re in a job search or soon may be, start thinking about references now. In fact, it’s helpful to be considering potential references as you progress through your career because it’s highly likely you’ll need them to verify your credibility at some point — and you’ll need stellar ones. A neutral reference is considered a negative reference because the assumption is that you can come up with three non-related people who will sing your praises (and it doesnt’ always need to be a direct boss, so think creatively about your network). And don’t forget to prep your references. It’s both helpful to them and you. Share your resume, the job description and the key attributes you’re trying to convey well in advance, and also coach them on the projects or examples that might be most valuable to convey. What may be a key project to them may not showcase the most relevant skills to the employer, so some guidance is usually worth it. And whatever you do, don’t: coerce someone to be a reference. If someone indicates they may not be the best person to ask, respect that they are being kind to warn you ahead of time and recognize that this is the absolute best way they can assist you.
  7. Skipping the negotiations. Even if you’re satisfied with the offer, the company says you’re at the top of the pay band, and you’re so tired of the job search that you just want it to be over, always take a day or two to sleep on it. And be especially wary if you feel pressured to accept on the spot because while most companies would love for you to do that, they recognize that you’ll likely want some time to mull over the details and many expect that you’ll negotiate (Side note: When I hired candidates, if they didn’t negotiate, my first thought was “I made a mistake”). Yes, it can be uncomfortable, but isn’t 10 minutes of discomfort worth an extra week of paid vacation, a $5000 sign-on bonus or a start date that gives you a little break between roles? And whatever you do, don’t: accept on the spot. Yes, I’ve already said that, but trust me, you’ll want to in the moment, so it’s worth repeating. A simple, “Thank you, I’m really excited about this. When do you need my response?” is a phrase you should practice (out loud) multiple times before the offer stage.

Happy hunting!

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