How to Recover from these 5 job search mistakes

Job Search Mistake # 1 Are you trying to move to another city, or at least willing to do so? At one point in my career, I wanted to move to Richmond, Virginia to be with my boyfriend. So I applied for jobs there, but my resume had my address in New York City.  It didn’t matter that my cover letter explained that I would relocate at my own expense because when you conduct your job search online, 1) cover letters never get read and 2) the ATS is programmed to reject resumes at considerable distances from the company office (most are programmed to do this).

Recovery If you’re applying to for a job online that would require relocation, leave your home address off your resume.

Job Search Mistake # 2 You gave the wrong answer to a common interview question: “What is your biggest weakness,” or some variation on that theme. And what’s the worst possible answer? You guessed it; the one I gave. Fixing an expression of tireless martyrdom on my face, I replied, “I guess it’s that I never take time away from work – I’m always “on.” Not only was that a total lie (I had two kids at home at the time), but I came off so sanctimonious and unauthentic that I’m sure the interviewer trashed my resume as soon as I walked out the door.

Recovery Identify an actual weakness (in my case, it’s being hopeless with Excel) and talk about the steps you’ve taken to overcome it. But make sure it’s not a serious weakness! What’s good about this approach is that it shows that you proactively address your weakness.

Job Search Mistake # 3 “Why did you leave Company X?” is a common question, but the way most candidates answer it is so bad!  Job candidates too often share their stories of the terrible management, or poor product or service or a zillion other reasons why they felt they had to leave, or plan to leave. Two things happen when you do this: you either unwittingly provide the interviewer with the more negative aspects of you as an employee (you blame others, you chafe under direction, you complain), OR you reveal more about your current or former employer than is prudent.

Recovery Unless the reason was that Company X went out of business or moved to a remote Pacific island, do not go into detail. This is such a potential minefield that I can’t caution against it enough. Here’s what you say, “it was (or is) just the right time to move on.” Then turn the conversation back to your qualifications for the job. The beauty of the this answer is that no one can argue with it, plus it doesn’t actually mean anything, so it keeps you out of trouble.

Job Search Mistake # 4 Putting your foot in your mouth

Recovery If you put your foot in your mouth, take it out quickly and immediately say, “I’m sorry; that didn’t come out right. What I meant to say was…” Acknowledge your gaffe, apologize, and move on by changing the subject so that the final impression is how qualified you are. Take control of your narrative and if the discussion veers off course, bring it back to the matter at hand, which is why you’re a great fit.

And here’s a job search mistake for job seekers older than 40:

Mistake #5 Advertising your age. It used to be that years of experience was a good thing. But now, Gen X and Boomers have to worry about ageism.

Recovery Don’t put your graduation year on your resume – even if you are a Millennial! Just don’t. And don’t go back earlier than 10 – 15 years on your resume. Just because you did something doesn’t mean it needs to be on your resume. It’s not your autobiography.

Want help preparing for your job search? Check out my pricing and process page for a resume that avoids the job search mistakes that others put on their resumes.


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