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What Are the Mistakes to Avoid in Job Hunting?

Help with your employment search: job hunting mistakes

Job hunting is something that looks simple from the outside, but once you have to do it, that perception can change.

In an ideal world, even if you lose your job unexpectedly, you will move quickly and seamlessly into a new role with a minimum of fuss – and perhaps have the opportunity to take a short break.

But if this doesn't happen, the search for a new job can become more challenging, and in some cases, people can become demoralised – even desperate. It can seem that there are no jobs out there that would be suitable for you. At such times, it is important to stay positive and focused, and to learn from the mistakes made by you and others in the past.

Blaming others

It can be easy to become demoralised and to imagine that you are falling victim to huge and intractable forces that you have no chance of overcoming. These are perfectly normal feelings – but you should try to avoid indulging in them at all costs. You must stay positive. Moping about changes in the job market or the passing of time are not only making you feel bad, but they are also getting in the way of you taking the positive action that is needed. Give pessimism the order of the boot and get down to work. It is not just a better use of your time: getting into a positive mindset will prepare you for some of the ordeals to come.

Not living a balanced life

Do not become a compulsive job-hunting machine, a person who pores over the ads, re-writes his or her CV for the hundredth time and then falls into a troubled doze for a few hours, before starting the process again. Instead, treat your search like a job, which is to say do your best, put in the hours and then stop and relax. Socialise with your family and friends, pursue your normal hobbies, perhaps do a little voluntary work or go on a course to learn a new skill and meet new people. At the same time, be sure to take care of yourself with a healthy diet and exercise. You will stand a better chance of finding a job if you are fit, rested and calm. Employers may look askance at a bleary-eyed, nervous person who seems to have been living on a diet of coffee and fingernails for the last month.

Taking it all personally

It is likely that you will get knocked back a few times before you get a job. A first time success really is a very rare occurrence these days. Take any setbacks on the chin and accept that rejection is part of the process. Remember that you have been rejected for a job, not in a proposal of marriage. It is not a comment on your personality, your morals or your personal hygiene: you were just not the person for this particular job. There is no harm in finding out why you were not taken on; In fact this is an important way of turning a positive into a negative. Ask for feedback and use it to move forward.

Following the herd

By all means start off your job search by surfing all the job sites. Do bear in mind, however, that everyone else is doing the same thing. There are other places to find a job, places where the competition may be less frenetic. So after absorbing the information provided by job sites, move on to considering professional networks, recommendations and referrals. You could even make use of your own personal contacts to see if friends or colleagues know of any positions. LinkedIn will come in handy here.

Confusing the issue

Imagine that you are your own prospective employer. What sort of information would you want to know? Do you want a War and Peace-sized resume of everything the job applicant has ever done during his or her time on this planet? Would you want to read something like that? Or would you rather be interested in finding out what each applicant can bring that is special to the job? Employers are looking for the value-added features that demonstrate a candidate's relevance, so make sure you advertise all the factors that you possess. Think of your CV as being a film trailer of your skills, a compilation of exciting and interesting moments that leaves the audience wanting to experience the whole.

Being ashamed and keeping it all to yourself

Everyone goes through the job hunting experience at some point in their lives, which is a way of saying that everyone is unemployed, or unhappy in their current position, at some time. It does not denote any kind of personal failure on your part and it should not be hidden away. Yes, you are looking for a job, and, you can be sure, you will find one. Think positively, don't hide the fact, and the process will be easier. If you can use selected family or friends as a sounding board or support network (without grinding them down ...) this will help a great deal.

Panicking and applying for everything

This is a classic mistake and it usually ends badly. You will remember how we mentioned desperation in our introduction, and this is one of the ways in which it manifests itself in the job hunter. You effectively throw a lot of job applications out to various companies in the hope that one of them will stick. This is not a wise policy. You should be focusing on a job where your skills are matched to what the employer is looking for, and you cannot do that if you have dozens of applications pending. Even if you make it to the interview for one of these jobs, what sort of figure will you cut when it becomes clear that you actually don't know much about the company, or what it does, or what the job that you are applying for entails? Scatterguns are, as their names suggests, imprecise weapons: You want to be shooting a very well-aimed bullet instead.

Being too modest

Modesty is a virtue and an attractive one at that, but writing your CV is the not the time to indulge in it. In fact, it is the time to sing your own praises as loudly as possible. Of course this doesn't mean that you should turn into a braggart – that is as bad as excessive diffidence and actually gives the impression of insecurity. No, what is needed is a confident, self-assertive, non-confrontational statement of all the good things about you and how they will bring great dividends to anyone who employs you.

Living in the past

It may be years since you have been in the market for a job and you might wonder if things have changed in the interim. Rest assured - they certainly have changed. The approach that stood you in good stead ten years ago may not work if you try it now. Take a sensible interest in the subject of job hunting as it is done now and adapt your approach to suit modern conditions.

Forgetting that you have to stand out

Think of all those other people out there, looking at the job ad pages. Many of them will want to get the job that you want. How are you going to beat them? It sounds brutal to be put that way, but it is a fact that a job for you is a rejection for others. So wherever possible, you want to make yourself stand out: uniformity is not what employers are looking for; they don't want an undifferentiated mass of applicants with similar CVs who will spout jargon at the interview. They want to know how you can make a positive contribution to the way in which their business functions, why you make the cut above the rest. So, it is important for you to place stress on those times in your career when you have actually made a quantifiable difference, when you have undertaken a task and carried it out successfully. This is your opportunity to stand out from the rest.


By maintaining a positive attitude, you will find that you land a new, appropriate job in a far shorter space of time than if you have a negative attitude. Job hunting can be a stressful experience, but one which will – if handled well – lead to bigger and better things. Your competitors will have similar skill-sets to you and comparable amounts of experience, but they have not done the same things. So always try to emphasize what you have done. When you get to the interview, talking about a set of concrete achievements and showing a positive attitude will make a good impression on an interviewer who may have become bored by hearing generalisations from others.

At the same time, read up as much as you can on the company and the position you are applying for. In this way, if your interviewer has questions, then they will be on a subject which you have at your fingertips. You will exude both competence and confidence and employers are impressed by these factors. And with perseverance – and maybe a little luck – you will find a new job much more quickly than you may have expected.


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