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Warning: these 9 mistakes will destroy your job search

Craig Shepherd

When applying for a new job, understanding the job search landscape is one key to your success. Make sure you know what to do and what not to do.

Whether you’re about to finish the study and looking for graduate positions or you’re simply in the market for a new job, it can be an exciting time in your life. It can also be extremely daunting, particularly if the process is new to you. Like everything in life, there is a right and a wrong way to do things and your job search process is no exception. These tips below are designed to help you avoid some common mistakes and get your job search on track right from the word go.

Failing to research the employer

When you’re first starting the job search process, it’s important to know who you are applying with. The job market can be a tricky place to navigate, and it is tempting to start churning out applications for any job you find but remember – this is YOUR career. While we don’t advocate taking job offers for granted or thinking you are bigger than your prospective employers, it is essential that you understand which types of organisations you want to work for. Do your ethical standards clash? Do they have pathways for advancement? What is their core business? These questions might sound simple, but it’s good to do your research before you apply. Getting the full picture will also help you tailor your written application and give your confidence a boost at an interview.

Not understanding the interview process

Preparation is the key to any successful interview process. Many job applications will clearly spell out what to expect if your application passes the first stage, but some may not. Checking an employer’s website may give you some further information, or you may even be able to find staff testimonials online. If the application package lists a contact person, don’t be afraid to contact them with questions but remember not to appear overconfident. Knowing whether you need to prepare for a phone interview, an assessment centre or a panel interview gives you the opportunity to practice and plan accordingly. If you find the thought of assessment centres daunting, we’ve got some helpful hints here.

Disregarding the application instructions

This tip sounds so obvious, but you would be surprised how many employers will simply throw out an application if it is incomplete or doesn’t follow their guidelines. Remember, the recruiters set the application rules for a reason so while you may be keen to hand in a small novella outlining your qualifications, if they have only asked for two pages, that is what you should give them. Read the application instructions carefully as an employer may ask you to include specific information or address certain points. For example, government positions are notorious for having both selection criteria and key capabilities which must be considered within the criteria, so make sure you triple check that you understand what is being asked of you.

Using cut and paste selection criteria

If your job search is presenting you with an abundance of positions you want to apply for, you may start to notice similarities in the selection criteria or application questions. Keeping all your applications is a great idea for a reference point, but blindly copying previous criteria answers into an application is extremely risky. Firstly, you should try to address criteria with each prospective employer in mind, so each application may have a slightly different tone or even mention aspects of their core business and how your skills relate to them. Directly copying parts of an old application won’t have that tailored feel. Secondly, unless you are extremely thorough, there is a huge risk of including words or sentences that are completely irrelevant to the position you’re applying for.

Treating a phone or video interview as non-formal

Phone or video interviews are fast becoming the norm in today’s job market due to the sheer volume of applications a company might receive. In some instances, your first phone or video interview may even be with a recruitment agency who will assess you before the employer sees your application. This is nothing to be intimidated by, it simply means you need to treat every step of the process as though you are sitting across the desk from the CEO. If you are scheduled for a video interview, be prepared with a quiet place free of interruptions where you can use a computer instead of our phone, and dress accordingly. Just because the setting is less formal, it doesn’t mean you should be. Your first impression can make and break your job search, so check out these tips to help you prepare for an interview.

Turning up late to an interview

One of the easiest ways to have an employer put a line through your name is by not being on time for your interview. Life gets busy, we understand that, but if you’re going to arrive late to a scheduled interview for a job you are claiming to want you’d better have a seriously good reason. It may sound like basic advice, but make sure you have every aspect of getting to your interview covered. Check the public transport timetable, and aim to get there with plenty of time to spare. If you’re driving, ensure you have petrol the night before. Don’t leave anything to chance. If you have to sit outside the building for half an hour before your interview to ensure you’re on time, do it. Nothing will irritate an employer more than a late interviewee.

Thinking you can wing it during an interview

This is one of the biggest mistakes people make in any job search endeavour. Even if you’re confident with public speaking and can hold up your end of a conversation with your peers doesn’t mean you can bluff your way through an interview with company representatives. Remember, the people interviewing you do this for a living and can spot an unprepared interviewee a mile away. Researching common behavioural questions such as, 'Tell us about a time you dealt with a conflict,' can help you feel more prepared. You may not get every single question you plan for but rehearsing some standard ones will give you more confidence for the ones you don’t expect. Still nervous about an interview? Check out some handy advice for coping with interview stress here.

Dressing inappropriately for interviews

This should be a no-brainer, but again it is a common mistake people make. Keep in mind that an interview is your biggest opportunity to sell yourself and what you stand for to a potential employer. The people sitting across the table from you are likely to be the ones making the final decision on who they hire. If you turn up to an interview wearing jeans and a t-shirt and answer the questions in an identical way as someone who presents themselves in business attire, you’re going to miss out every time. You may notice an organisation you’re interviewing for has a relaxed dress code for staff, but you should still present in a professional manner for all stages of the interview process.

Not keeping a clean digital footprint

Here’s the one that starts long before you even think about beginning your job search. Social media is great, it’s fun, and has become an important part of our daily lives but it comes with an inherent risk that your personal life is on display for potential employers to see. There are some simple privacy functions you can use on most social media platforms to control who can tag you in photos and posts, and we encourage using these as much as possible. With that said, no matter how private you think your social media accounts are, our advice is to play it as safe as possible. This goes for any posts or opinions that may be viewed as controversial. We are lucky to have free speech, but you need to consider how your posts might be viewed by an employer. Your friends may find it hilarious to see photos of how you ended up at the end of Saturday night’s festivities, but we can assure you that future employers won’t.

These tips should have you well on the way to making your job search a success. If you think you’re ready to take these ideas and embark on your new career, head on over to our job search page and get started today.