Looking for work can be a hard (not to mention lonely and frustrating) experience and the last thing you want to do is scupper your efforts. Take a tip from the experts and discover the common pitfalls to avoid.
1. Going for jobs you don’t really want
Casting your net wide can open up opportunities but beware of a scattergun approach.
‘Apply only for jobs that you genuinely want and for which you have the relevant skills and experience,’ advises Corinne Mills, Managing Director of Personal Career Management.
‘No employer will consider you unless you meet their exact requirements or if you seem half-hearted about working for them.’
Not sure what you want or what is possible for you? Corinne suggests spending time researching your options and perhaps working with a career coach to help with your career planning and decision-making.
‘Job-search campaigns which are clear and focused are far more likely to be productive and enable you to present confidently to employers.’
2. Not tailoring your CV
You might have spent hours writing your CV – but the work doesn’t stop there. Once you have a basic template, be prepared to tweak sections for the particular job you’re going for.
‘I know this sounds strange, but your CV isn’t about you,’ says recruiter and careers coach, Aimee Bateman of Careercake.
‘It’s about how relevant you are to the job you’re applying for, and how you can benefit the employer reading it.’
That also means sending a tailored cover letter.
‘Don’t make an employer feel like you have sent out a batch full of CVs, hoping someone (anyone) invites you for an interview,’ says Aimee. ‘If you want an employer to be genuinely interested in you, you need to make them feel like you are genuinely interested in them.’
3. Don’t make finding work a full-time job
Finding work is often described as a full-time job – but there are good reasons why you shouldn’t let it become the sole focus of your day.
‘Looking for work can be lonely and frustrating but staying glued to your computer all day can do more harm than good,’ says career coach Richard Maun.
‘If you sit bashing out job applications you could very well be getting into bad habits and making the same mistakes. Take time out for a networking ‘coffee and cake’ chat (with friends, ex colleagues or LinkedIn contacts) and you’re likely to come away invigorated with new ideas and inspiration.
‘Keep a balance and make time for hobbies and family and friends and you’ll be a happier and more positive – and that will come across to employers too.’
4. Not practising for interviews
When it comes to interviews, fail to prepare and prepare to fail. As well as researching the company and preparing answers to typical questions, think about how you come across.
‘When you are preparing for interview, you need to practice your answers out loud,’ says Corinne.
‘Ideally this will be a mock interview with someone you trust, but even if you say your answers in front of the mirror, what you often find is that the message is clumsy and will need refining and you can only do this by practising different versions until it works.’
5. Not asking for feedback
If you’ve been job hunting for a while, seeking a second (objective) opinion can reveal areas you need to work on. Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer for feedback – and ask someone you respect for more general advice on how to approach your job search.
‘Always get feedback to ensure that you are presenting your skills and capabilities in the best way possible. This means asking others for their views on your CV, Linkedin profile and interviews,’ says Corinne.
‘While you may understand what you are trying to say, the employer may not, so test it out beforehand with someone who can give you honest and constructive criticism.’
6. Not giving examples or quantifying achievements
The jobs market is more competitive than ever and having the right skills and experience is just the start – to stand out from the crowd you need to differentiate yourself.
‘Focus on your key achievements (not just your skills and experience) and make sure to communicate these to a potential employer,’ advises Richard.
‘Have you made a difference and done something out of the ordinary? Is there a particular situation you did well in that is unique to you?
‘Try to quantify the achievement (how much money you made/saved for the company) and include this on your CV – recruiters are more likely to remember an interesting achievement than the usual list of skills and experience they’ve read 100 times before.’
7. Not taking control of your career
Things can change quickly – so make sure you keep up to date with your chosen industry and what today’s employers are looking for.
As Richard explains: ‘The days of the traditional career where we worked for one organisation for years are gone. Today we’re expected to move between 9-to-5 jobs, consultancy work and self employment – and perhaps do several at the same time as part of a ‘portfolio career’.
‘To survive in this brave new world we need to develop new talents and be able to spot and create career opportunities for ourselves – rather than waiting for them to fall in our laps.
‘Put time into networking (at real-life events and online) and research your chosen industry, whether that’s making contacts with key figures, reading trade magazines or keeping up with new technology. Keeping up to date and demonstrating a good awareness of advances in your sector could be what makes you stand out from the next candidate.’