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How to Prepare for an Interview

Your job search comprises a few different processes that all have to come together in harmony for you to land that desired job offer. Resumes, networking, cover letters, interview skills, and your communication with recruiters are all critical to your job search.

With so much for you to do, it should come as no surprise that there are a lot of potential pitfalls you might encounter along the way. Here is a survey of 15 common mistakes from each component of the job search, as well as some advice on how to avoid them:

Top 3 Mistakes Job Seekers Make When Putting Their Resumes Together

1. Grammatical Errors and Typos

Most jobs require attention to detail. Grammatical errors and typos serve as glaring signs that this might not be your strong suit! Always print your resume and proof it before sending it out. It’s a great idea to have at least two other people proof it for you as well.

2. Failing to Clearly Demonstrate Your Successes / Limiting Your Job Descriptions to Lists of Responsibilities

Your immediate instinct when describing your previous jobs may be to produce a litany of “responsible for” bullet points. While you definitely want to outline the scope of your responsibilities, you above all want to highlight your successes.

Many job seekers also have a bad habit of using passive language in their job descriptions – even when describing their achievements! Your best bet is to use active words to start each bullet point on your resume. You should also lead with an achievement whenever possible. For example:

– Strong bullet point: “Increased revenue by 30 percent as a result of implementing motivational incentives.”

– Weak bullet point: “Implemented incentives that resulted in a 30 percent increase in revenue.”

3. Using the Same Resume to Apply to Various Jobs

While there may be times that you can use the same resume to apply to more than one job, it’s best to be sure your resume reflects the specific responsibilities of each job you are applying to. Tweaking your resume so it directly relates to the job at hand is very important. It will help ensure your resume comes up in search results as a “match” in the applicant tracking system used to manage the responses.

Top 3 Mistakes Job Seekers Make When Networking

1. Thinking Networking Means You Need to Ask Someone for Something Right Away

People wrongly assume that if they are networking, then they must be doing so for immediate personal gain. That may be true in a very general sense, but the gain may be as simple as broadening your network and/or social circle. The result doesn’t have to be an introduction to the hiring manager of the position you wish you had.

2. Failing to Assist the Other Person in Any Way

Again, if you view networking as a means to personal gain, you will probably forget to selflessly be of service to others. In order to work, networking has to be reciprocal.

It’s so easy to do, and there’s no excuse not to do it – even if you think there’s no way you can help this person. You don’t know what everyone needs. Simply saying something like, “It was so nice chatting with you. I’d love to keep in touch, and if I can ever be of assistance in any way, let me know,” is often enough.

3. Limiting Your Networking to Professional Events

I’ve met some of my best contacts randomly in coffee shops, restaurants, and even while waiting for the bus. You must be open to people and their stories at all times. You never know when a random “hello” might turn into a powerful contact. I ended up with a husband because I asked him about his iPhone seven years ago! Trust me, you have more to lose by not being open!

Top 3 Mistakes Job Seekers Make in Their Cover Letters

1. Not Customizing Your Cover Letters

You must have a different cover letter for every job you apply for. Sending a form letter is the kiss of death. If you can’t invest time and effort into creating a unique introduction to yourself, why would any employer want to invest in hiring you?

2. Failing to Make a Personal Connection Between Yourself and the Company

Cover letters can be tricky to write. It’s easy to fall into the trap of rewriting your resume and highlighting the skills that this particular job posting emphasized, but that’s not going to make a personal connection.

Your cover letter is meant for you to share information that a hiring manager can’t get from your resume alone. What many candidates leave out is why they are compelled to work for the company. It’s critical to remember that you’re not just applying for a job – you’re applying for a job within a department that ultimately serves a company that has a specific culture, reputation, and mission. You must demonstrate a personal connection between yourself and the organization in a way that resonates with the reader. This may take time to master, but it is well worth the effort.

3. Mistaking Length for a Sign of Interest

A cover letter’s effectiveness is in no way measured by its word count. In fact, a long cover letter will scare off most hiring managers.

At the end of the day, this is a writing test. Being simultaneously brief and impactful is a skill. Take it from Mark Twain: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Writing with economy is a lot harder than it seems, so be sure to give yourself enough time to write a cover letter that will be remembered. Keep it focused. Make it personal. Sprinkle in some humor. If you can get a hiring manager to crack a smile, you’ve got an interview.

Top 3 Mistakes Job Seekers Make During the Interview

1. Not Leaving Yourself Enough Time for the Interview

Interviews are generally lengthy. If you’re going to commit to the interview, be sure you dedicate enough time to being there. Having to cut an interview short or not being able to meet with someone else the interviewer wants you to meet will bring the good momentum you’ve been building to a halt.

2. Not Maintaining Eye Contact / Poor Body Language

From your handshake to how you sit in your chair, your body language impacts the interviewer in profound way. According to Monster, interviewers form an impression of you in about six minutes and 25 seconds. You certainly haven’t gone over your entire work history in that time, making it clear that how you carry yourself counts.

3. Not Knowing Enough About the Company

Having few or no questions for the hiring manager and exhibiting a general lack of knowledge about the organization are hard mistakes to recover from. Be sure you can answer the question, “Why do you want to work here?” before entering an interview. If you don’t have a concrete, specific answer, I can assure you you’re not getting hired.

Again, you’re not only interviewing for a job – you’re interviewing for the company. Preparing questions shows you’ve investigated the company and the role and that you’ve put some serious thought into this move you’re potentially going to make.

Top 3 Mistakes Job Seekers Make When Communicating With HR, Recruiters, and/or Hiring Managers

1. Being Too Familiar With Them

You may have gone through 12 rounds of interviews and developed a nice rapport along the way, but don’t forget that you are a professional. These people are not your friends or family members, so you ned to be vigilant in your interactions with them. Using unprofessional language or getting too familiar is a surefire way to lose esteem in the eyes of a potential employer. Remember that every communication you have until you get hired is part of your interview.

2. Following Up Too Often

No one wants this job to close and be taken off their plate as much as the HR pros, recruiters, and hiring managers in charge of it. Following up once after a reasonable amount of time has passed is fine, but checking in for daily updates is the fastest way to go from in the running to the do-not-call pile.

3. Not Being Timely in Your Responses

On the flip side, not being quick to respond to correspondence generated by the employer is also a big no-no. Voicemails and emails can quickly pile up and get buried. Check your voicemail and email regularly, and be ready to respond in a timely manner!

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