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Five Crippling Job Hunting Mistakes

by Chris Poindexter

The unemployment rate, as we commonly measure it, stands at just under five percent. We’re very near the level that economists consider full employment, the point at which everyone who wants a job has a job. All the same a majority of the jobs still open are, for lack of a better word, crap. If you find yourself consistently being the top competitor for loser jobs, then you’re probably going at your job hunt all wrong.

I’ve been on both sides of the hiring process and the mistakes people make are remarkably consistent. People also make similar mistakes when buying a house and for the same reason; because you only buy a house once every five to seven years. You don’t get a chance to practice job hunting or buying a house regularly. If you’re tired of watching the really plum jobs go to less qualified people, then you’re in the right frame of mind to listen.

Don’t Reek of Desperation

One of the major job hunt killers is desperation. People who are too eager reflexively inspire contempt from managers and hiring authorities. Be polite but don’t come across as desperate or a toady. Hunting for the really plum jobs is a long game built on a lifetime of building personal relationships. Going to events, conventions, training classes and seminars may not be your idea of a vacation, but that’s where you meet the people who know about the best jobs. Companies won’t even bother to advertise a position if they know someone available to fill it. A familiar face will almost always get the nod in a job hunt.

Sending a Form Letter, Generic Resume

Why do people even bother with that effort? No one is going to look at a generic resume you spam out to a mailing list. I think people do it because it’s a low effort activity that requires no personal involvement, like posting a resume on a jobs board. Companies with the best jobs and benefits don’t need to troll the slush pile on job boards. Quit wasting your time and looking like someone with no clue. You should have a standard cover letter and resume that you can customize to each opening. Both your letter and resume should reflect some research and understanding of the company. Your goal is to become the familiar face a company hires, not a faceless name in the resume pile.

Negotiating Too Soon

Negotiating salary and benefits in an interview is a minefield that’s almost always a loser. You have to weigh a job by more than the pay. Flexibility in scheduling, a generous time off package, profit sharing, employee shares, educational benefits and advancement potential are all factors to consider when weighing an offer. The time to start that negotiation is when you actually get the job offer, not before. You need to know the average salary and benefit package for people in the same job in your area. That way, if you get a low ball offer, you can ask why they’re so far below the average. Some employers are honestly unaware of what other companies are paying.

When You Win, Stop Negotiating

Because you did your research on salaries and benefits in your area, then you should already know what you’ll accept before you start your job hunt and, when you get what you want, stop negotiating and make it clear you have a deal. You’d be amazed how many times a simple lack of clarity derails a job hunt. It’s a matter of knowing what you want, trying to negotiate a compromise for what you can’t get, making a deal and saying yes.

Practice Interviewing

Interviewing, like buying a house, is not something most people do every day. It pays to get professional advice but, if you’re unemployed, you probably can’t afford that tab. The next best thing is to get a tripod for your phone and record yourself answering common interview questions.  Video is better than a mirror because you can go over and over the recording. You can also send snippets to friends and associates to solicit feedback. You’ll be surprised at the details that you notice watching yourself on video.

You don’t want to rehearse too much, there’s an equal risk in coming off as too polished. If you’re like most people, you’ll be nervous in an interview and being prepared will get you over that hump and into calmer waters.

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