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5 rookie mistakes to avoid when job searching

Give your job search the best chance of success by cutting out the basic errors highlighted by career coach John Lees.

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Candidates of every age tend to make the same mistakes at the beginning of a job search – throwing themselves at the market with a half-cooked message, or applying for random jobs in the hope that something will work.

Avoiding these classic errors will shorten your job search time and make it easier to get a role which fits your skills and experience.

1. Offering a vague message

Going to the marketplace too soon usually means writing a CV that is unclear. If you hope that employers and agencies are going to help you solve your career puzzle, you’ll be disappointed.

Showing you don’t know what you’re looking for puts you out of the frame for most roles. Suggesting that you’ll do anything makes you sound desperate.

Explore – by talking to people in roles and sectors before you send your CV anywhere or take agency interviews.

2. Telling a downbeat story

You may have been made redundant or had a bad experience in your last role. Resist the temptation to share that information – you‘ll get sympathy, but not job offers.

Employers are into risk avoidance, and are attracted by motivated rather than complicated people. Learn to talk about your whole career as a single coherent story and explain why the job on offer is the next, logical, fulfilling chapter.

3. Firing blanks at random targets

You might feel tempted to play a numbers game and apply for as many roles as possible. This ‘spray and pray’ approach has a hidden cost – disappointment.

You won’t hear anything further or receive feedback. Your unstated message is that you don’t care what you do next, and you’re unclear what value you can add.

Research a small range of roles and aim carefully at targets where your experience makes sense and you are likely to be short-listed.

4. Only using screens to search

Many jobs are advertised online, so you might be tempted to focus just on job boards. The internet is a fantastic research tool to find out more about career paths and work sectors, and job boards can point to target organisations and candidate-hungry agencies.

However, make sure you use the full range of job search methods – including networking, talking to people in interesting organisations, following up personal leads, and unsolicited approaches to employers.

5. Talking to people in the wrong way at the wrong time

Tell people what you’re looking for, not how you feel about job hunting. The more people who understand the key ingredients of your preferred job, the more chance your phone will ring.

Spend at least one day weekly wearing smart clothes and getting in front of people. Focus on asking smart questions rather than pitching yourself, but be prepared to talk about the work that fascinates you.

If you have high-level contacts in your address book, don’t waste their time by approaching them before you know what you have to offer – and what you’re looking for.

John Lees is the author of How to Get a Job You Love.

Boost your job search with expert advice:

Your job search in 2017: When’s the best time to apply?: Michael Page takes a look at the best months to apply for a job.
10 tips to make your CV stand out: Get your CV noticed with help from professional career coach Charlotte Billington.
How to improve your online image in 3 quick steps: Polish your online image and land an interview with advice from career expert Natalie Severt.
Power up your CV to get more interviews: Give your CV the power to secure more interviews with expert advice from careers trainer and writer Jon Gregory.
How to get a job in 2017: Get motivation for your job hunt from The Apprentice finalist Claire Young.

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(All comments have to be approved before they appear)

  1. mike Saturday, 11 Feb, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    Part of any job hunting “technique” is to apply for a certain quote of jobs per week.
    In the UK, this is ESSENTIAL if you’re unemployed, as you will NOT get benefits, of your don’t meet this quota.
    So I find your article misleading, and, not at all “real” in terms of this.
    Also, it’s to be expected, to have a certain amount of “failure” in terms of applications. If you went month after month, for a year, without re-assessing, refining, and, tweaking your CV, then, things will pretty much stay the same.
    It’s important to start a job search thinking about what you want, what your skillsets are, and, what you are happy to offer. Once you weigh that up with yourself, you will be good to go.
    However, again, there are exceptions to this rule.
    Many many people are in jobs for different reasons, some a stop-gap, others for career progression, and, most just to make ends meet.
    It’s not a perfect world in terms of jobs.

  2. Zed alexander Saturday, 11 Feb, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    Thanks for the tips but the reason im looking for a change in employment is because i have had a stroke 5mnths ago.I need to disclose this for insurance purposes in case anything happens at work and im not coverd.

  3. Maria Saturday, 11 Feb, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    How wonderful tips!
    Thank you so much!!
    I lost my 4 years job recently and even tho this one wasn’t supplied by any job source except my efforts delivering my CV in hand. I did Townsend of apply and I only get my last job dropping CV’s everywhere!
    Now I was doing exactly the same mistake, and was thinking what’s going on with job sources???
    Thank you so much!!

  4. esmeleleu Sunday, 12 Feb, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    Well, f**k “smart clothes”. As if competence is defined by the way a person chooses to dress. And let me tell you that the people who judge others based on their appearance instead of their skills (by making them take a test, for instance) are just shallow and futile, and should not be in charge of hiring people.

  5. tompasp Tuesday, 21 Feb, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    when searching for jobs swallow your pride and you might get the job you want. If you’re not willing to do that then you won’t get a job. Harsh truth.
    I agree it’s bad wearing smart clothes, but I’ve also been to interviews where I’m the only one wearing smart clothes…

  6. Simon Friday, 24 Feb, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    As a previous employer and now in the market for change I would offer the following. Cut the crap, get to the point and be honest. Warts and all, experience is everything. I have employed people with nightmare backstories that have been unique and valuable employees because they have life experience. Almost all are in senior positions and better people.

  7. R Rajan Wednesday, 12 Apr, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Hi, this is great write up for job hunter because they do many mistakes during their job search. This post is really appreciated job seekers point of view. I agree with you that job hunters should avoid mistakes when they search jobs. I had made such a mistakes when I went to my first interview in

  8. peter williams Saturday, 20 May, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    Hi John
    Your comments at bang-on, your direction for possible work makes good sense. It can be difficult to find a job at the best of times. I’ve been looking for a job because I’m self employed and work hasn’t been coming in, despite walking the streets dropping flyers in home owners letterboxes’ and sending our emails. My aim is to get into something with responsibly and purpose because I a good manager and leader but, are having trouble in finding what’s right? I suppose if given a chance I can make a difference. Hank you once again for you valuable message.

  9. Zandro Bilbao Saturday, 1 Jul, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    Thank you for giving tips… I applying on this site because I’m not content my job experiences i want to upgrade it. And I want also work abroad so that I can learn more knowledge for what I applying for….

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