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7 Biggest Job Search Mistakes and How to Solve Them

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Even the highest performers don’t avoid all mishaps, but they are adept at quickly learning and recovering from a job search setback. What follows are 7 job search mistakes to be wary of. Most of these mistakes aren’t intentional instead they tend to creep up on you like a bad cold.

The voice mail trap: Speaking too fast and forcing the listener to replay the message may be one of the biggest mistakes that job seekers make. Ironically, high-velocity voice mail messages are a crime, not of imbeciles, but of some of the brightest people. Smart people’s brains work extremely fast and they’re constantly trying to get their verbal faculties to keep up. A rule of thumb when leaving your phone number on voice mail is to write your number out on a piece of paper and say it in the same sequence as you’re writing it. If you can write it down, then the person at the other end of the line has the time to write it out as well. Also, while you’re leaving your number, hyphenate it with a pause and, please, no jokes, no music, no voices in the background, no press 1 for Susan and press 2 for John. Just a straightforward way to contact you.

The failure to toot your own horn: Always strive to show your potential employer how your skills and accomplishments will support their company. Stay focused on the needs of the company when crafting your key selling points. Ideally, be able to show how your skills and past experience will “solve” their business problems.

Provide concrete examples of how you have worked in the past or how you have solved a difficult business problem. Don’t hesitate to point out to your potential new employer how the process or methodology you used to solve a problem at another company is exactly what’s needed for success at their company. Don’t assume that the employer will draw the comparison or analogy for you. Do it yourself.

The big red flag … why you left your last position: Many people leave jobs because they dislike their bosses, their co-workers, their work, or because they’re bored, want more money, or want to move to a specific city. The personality clash is the most common. Deep down, many interviewers believe these personal issues can be valid reasons because many of them changed their own positions for the same reasons. However, mentioning bad blood with your former or current boss can be suicidal. I don’t know why someone who wants to get hired would say they had a clash with their previous boss. That always puts up a big red flag. It was either your fault or the supervisor’s and why should I believe you when he/she is not here to tell their side of the story.

Remove focusing on yourself: When interviewing, stay focused on the needs of the employer. From the time you leave your home until you leave the parking lot of the potential employer, forget your needs. Don’t bring in your anxiety about being unemployed or your frustration at the length of your job search. The more focused you are on the needs of the potential employer, the more likely that attitude will shine through during the interview process.

The cultural fit trap: Just like countries, companies have unique personalities or cultures. Someone who succeeds in one won’t necessarily do well in another. When something isn’t working out, it’s almost always a cultural fit. To avoid a bad fit, here are a few questions I suggest you ask during interviews: How does the company communicate with employees? Does the company encourage employees to learn more about the business? How do people get feedback? How do executives expect to be addressed? What is the company’s dress code? How are decisions made? How are raises and promotions decided?

If you do enough digging, you’ll have a fairly accurate profile of a company’s culture. But that still won’t help much if you don’t also profile yourself. We recently tested a client for personality traits before a job interview with a company that makes consumer products. When he asked what traits were needed to succeed at that company, the interviewer said it was a demanding, stressful culture that rewarded quick reaction and spontaneity. From the testing, the applicant knew those were traits he had in abundance. When he was offered the position, he felt confident about taking it.

Letting network contacts slip away. There is a statistic floating around the career management world to do with the number of job seekers who, after accepting a new position, actually communicate with their networking contacts about their career move – especially how they can stay in touch or find them when they need to. If you guess that less than 5% do it, you’re right.

One would think with all the data that underscores that it’s the relationships we build, far more often than not, which result in building the bridge to the next career move, more of us would make the effort to keep connected. Supportive network contacts are difficult to build and well worth your time and effort to maintain. One would think that as smart as we are, more than 5% of us would keep the communication alive.

Drifting without a sense of purpose: This is the big one. Unfortunately, instead of having a strong purpose most people are like locomotives pulling their ideas along behind them like a little string of toy boxcars. The most fortunate people on earth are the ones who have found a purpose so great, so challenging and exciting that for the rest of their lives this purpose will pull them along behind it.

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