As recent graduates, we all have experienced or are experiencing the fear of applying for jobs that meet our specific interests. Jobs that will not only pay the bills, but also allow us to grow our career, save for a house, and not cause us to spiral into job created misery.
The job market is so competitive that sometimes we don’t even know where to begin. Many jobs that are advertised as entry level also ask for five years of experience. Without that experience, we often feel as though we are unqualified for the job and that we are going to live with our parents for the rest of our lives.
We often find ourselves committing various faux pas while applying for these mystical entry level jobs, delaying and minimizing job prospects, or finding ourselves in a job that is below our skill level. In this process, we often mass apply to jobs or pay for incredibly expensive career advisors (that we can’t afford to begin with), seeing little to no results or getting a job we absolutely hate. Our only other option is to drop off our CV at the local job agency and hope for decent temporary work.
So what shouldn’t we do when applying for jobs?
15. Long CVs or Resumes
We all want to show how much work experience we have, but as a 20 something our CV should not be longer than a page. It’s alright to omit that summer lifeguarding gig you had during your sophomore year of college or only include the title and dates. For example, if you’re applying to be an analyst, shorten work experience descriptions that don’t apply to analytics and elaborate on ones that do. Your CV should only be longer than a page if you have publications or conference presentations. Long CVs may scare employers or demonstrate that you are unable to commit to any one job.
14. Include A Picture Of Yourself
There’s a lot of mixed advice on whether or not to include a picture of yourself in your CV, but just be aware that this may create hiring bias based on how professional employers think you are. Excluding a photo gives everyone an equal opportunity to display their work experience and skills without being judged on their appearance. You definitely don’t want to lose out on a job because your photo didn’t look professional enough or get the job because you look like a model (well maybe you do). Focus on your appearance during the interview process, where how you look will also be judged by your personality.
13. A Generic Cover Letter
Many of us think that one or two standard cover letters should suffice and we can mass apply to jobs. But you should take the time to make them personal to each position you apply for. This cover letter should demonstrate that you know a little about the company and your personality. Much like a CV, they shouldn’t be more than a page. However, when writing these, don’t just go to the company philosophy and repeat it verbatim. This looks desperate. Look at the philosophy, the products they produce and search any relevant news articles to inform your cover letter writing.
12. Your Cover Letter Is Not Your CV
Many cover letters include information present in the CV. Your cover letter should demonstrate your personality and capabilities without restating the information on your CV. Great, you did your undergrad and have a bachelor’s degree in archeology. That doesn’t need to be said twice and just takes up unnecessary space that you could be using to sell yourself. If you are into archeology talk about where your passion came from or an experience from your course work that demonstrates this job is the PERFECT fit for you. You have two chances to make an impression, don’t make the same one!
11. Submitting Your CV In PDF
NO! NO! NO! If you are applying to a big company, this is a guaranteed way to ensure they don’t even read your application. Many companies use programs to draw keywords and experience from your CV and they are not PDF compatible. Always submit your CV and your Cover Letter in Microsoft Word or Pages. Most business probably have access to at least one of these softwares and will definitely be able to read your CV in Microsoft Word. If you’re applying to a smaller company that you don’t think uses this software, then go ahead and risk it, but it’s probably a better idea to just get into the habit of submitting it in Word. Did I mention, NO!
10. The Gap Year
Taking a gap year is perfectly acceptable in the business world, but you better be ready to explain it. Taking a sentence or two in your Cover Letter to say what you’ve been up to instead of working may make you seem less risky to employers. They want to know that you weren’t unemployable for the last year. Many employers would want to know if you were traveling the world or pursuing a music career and that you were not fired from your job and blacklisted by your company for a massive error. Be honest with employers and this might get you the interview where you would otherwise be passed up.
9. Writing In The Passive
I have edited so many CV’s and Cover Letters that are written passively. They are boring to read and make the applicant look like a robot that did stuff for a former employer. Writing actively, replacing all forms of the verb to be (was, is, am, are) with active verbs such as create and conduct make for stronger CVs and Cover Letters. For example, often they say something along the lines of “I was asked to email clients about account changes.” Did you do it? Then take ownership and write: “I emailed clients about account changes.” You look more like a go-getter and someone they want on their team.
8. Only Applying To Jobs That You Are Overqualified For
Figuring out what jobs to apply to is often the hardest part of the application process. But be wary of jobs that you not only meet the minimum requirements, but your experience exceeds the ideal candidate requirements. If you are in desperate need of money, then it may be an easy job for you to get to pay the bills. Long term, you should be aiming and jobs that will allow you to grow and develop, whether it’s a new skill set or mobility in the company. If the job offers neither, and you aren’t three months late on your bills, don’t waste your time applying.
7. Only Applying To The “Perfect Job”
This is a good way to ensure that you will live in your parent’s house for the rest of your life. There is no such thing as the perfect job and if you only apply to one job a month because it meets your super high expectations, you’re missing out on other amazing job opportunities. Don’t wait for a job that has your exact set of skill requirements and work experience. Apply to jobs that you meet the required qualifications (or the qualifications are easy to learn) and is in the field you want to be in. Often, companies will train you if you don’t meet their requirements.
6. Coming On Too Strong
You want to show the company you are interested, but emailing and calling multiple times to check your application status almost always results in being put in the no column. Recruiters and HR staff are busy and probably dealing with more than just your application on a daily basis. If you harass them, they’ll flag your application as not to hire. Only send a follow-up email after your interview to thank whoever took time out of their busy schedules to meet with you and two weeks after the interview. This email should be a brief I’m still interested and just checking on the status of my application.
5. Show Your Nerves At Interviews
Everyone gets a little nervous at interviews because they are nerve racking experiences. You are literally going somewhere to be judged on your experience and personality for a job. To counteract this, practice common questions like “what is your biggest weakness” beforehand, but treat each interview as though you are practicing for the next. Treating each interview as an experience that will help you learn about the interview process can help distract you from the fact that there may be a panel of people who are literally determining your career fate. It can help reduce your anxiety and make you appear more confident.
4. Casual Dress
Although many companies are shifting to a casual dress code, show up to your interview dressed to impress. Wear clothing that makes you feel confident and look professional, even if the company policy is super casual and everyone wears jeans and a t-shirt. Wearing professional clothing will demonstrate that you take this job seriously and only when you start working somewhere should you partake in the casual dress code. So what does this really mean? Donning a suit and tie (or bow tie if that’s your thing) if you are a man and a suit or a dress if you are a woman.
3. Get Upset If You Don’t Get The Job
In big cities jobs are competitive with hundreds of applicants. If you get an interview but get the “sorry, someone else got the job” call, be professional and ask for interview feedback. You will learn if you made a major mistake or someone was just slightly more qualified. Jobs are competitive because the market sucks so don’t blame yourself for competing against some pretty amazing candidates. Many companies also keep applications on file for people who interviewed and didn’t get the job, so being as professional as possible is your safest bet, especially if you want a job there later.
2. Give Your Lower End Salary Range Expectations
Employers will want to know how much you expect to get paid. ALWAYS give them your higher end expectation. Make sure this is reasonable for the job. If you get an offer, then the employer will try to negotiate down, but the offer should remain within your salary range. Don’t expect to get your initial offer and be prepared to negotiate for other benefits (vacation leave, health insurance, etc.) if you are taking a cut in pay. If you get your initial salary request, then you have probably undervalued the worth of your work and will be better equipped to fight for more during your next job offer.
1. Apply To Jobs You Have No Interest In
If you know 100% that you will not accept a job if it’s offered to you, don’t waste the recruiters time with your application. You are also wasting valuable time you could use to apply for jobs that you actually want. Trust me, the confidence boost of getting a job than saying “No way in hell would I ever work for you” is a pretty good way to burn bridges with employers and industries. You may want to work for this company at a later point and some companies will blacklist you so it could come back to haunt you.
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