Common Mistakes Job Seekers Make

Reading Time: 6 Minutes

The current labor shortage in the US has industry experts predicting a higher likelihood of being hired, more job security, and improved compensation. However, that doesn’t mean that for the job seeker finding the right job is a piece of cake. Even if the process is arguably easier today than at any other time in recent history, there are still several common mistakes job seekers make that prevent them from taking full advantage of the opportunities available to them.

In this short article, we’ll take a look at some common mistakes job seekers make, how to avoid them, and steps to take to ensure you are getting the most out of the opportunities currently available in the job market.

Here is our short list of common mistakes made by job seekers.

1. Searching Without Focus

With an abundance of job offers available, it can be easy to approach the job search process with the notion of “casting a wide net.” It’s relatively quick and easy to apply, so job seekers often find themselves applying to a variety of jobs they might not have researched well or may not be that interested in when given more scrutiny. After all, applying for a job doesn’t necessarily mean you are willing to take it if offered. Why not take a chance and you can decide later if it’s right for you or not?

There are a few reasons why this makes the job search process problematic.

  • Time-consuming: While customizing a resume and filling out an individual job application might not seem incredibly time-consuming in and of itself, there is a cumulative effect. Over the span of several days or weeks, often, the job seeker has dedicated his or her time to applying for jobs that are less than ideal, and only a small percentage of their efforts are focused on jobs they are likely to get and be successful in.
  • Not playing to your strengths: When you apply for jobs outside your main area of experience and expertise, you are less likely to be able to leverage said experience and expertise to land the job and demand more favorable compensation. Unless you are actively trying to branch out or change career trajectories, doing so limits your chances of success.
  • Increased frustration: Searching for a job requires patience and self-confidence. Landing an interview with a company, taking assessment tests, and taking the interview only to find out that you would never work with that company or they would never hire you might not be that big of a deal in and of itself. In fact, it’s part of the process. But there is a cumulative effect. And if too much of your time is spent pursuing opportunities that aren’t a good fit, that could easily lead to frustration and self-doubt.

What To Do Instead

Have a clear plan of action. Define the parameters you are looking for, both in terms of the job itself and of the company. Choosing the right job search platform is essential, too. Take advantage of AI-powered search engines that can do much of the heavy lifting for you. Check out this podcast on creating a positive company culture to help you identify what criteria you should be looking for in a company.

2. Not Customizing Resumes

Today’s online job portals make it easy for job seeker to send out their resumes to prospective employers. This is a good thing. However, when something becomes easy to do, if we aren’t vigilant, we can develop lazy habits.

It might be tempting to type up a standardized resume and send it out to whatever company you come across in your job search. However, if the resume is not customized, more often than not, that is apparent to the recruiter, and you are seriously decreasing your chances of getting called in for an interview.

What to Do Instead

Research the company you are applying to. Look for their mission statement and how they describe themselves and their work culture. You’ll want to incorporate into your resume the exact language the company uses to describe itself. For example: if the company emphasizes the idea that they are innovative, you should do the same on your resume.

The exact language found on the job offer should also be found on your resume. The advantages of doing this are multiple.

  • It shows your level of seriousness as it shows the recruiter that you have taken the time to research the company and the position.
  • It suggests that you are more likely to successfully integrate the company and the team as you share the same values and objectives.
  • It makes it easy for the recruiter to identify you as being a candidate who fits what they are looking for. They’ve specifically stated they are looking for a well-organized person with experience using software X or Y, and you’ve identified that you are a well-organized person with experience using software X or Y. This takes all the guesswork out of the equation for the recruiter and increases your chances of being called in for an interview.

Matching the language of the company to your resume and cover letter can also serve as a sort of litmus test. If you are easily able to match the language on your resume with that used by the company, you are on the right track to finding your ideal career.

3. Not Highlighting the Value They Brought Previous Employers

Many job seekers fill their resumes with lists of responsibilities or duties they performed at previous jobs. This is a rather old-fashioned approach to resume writing. What every recruiter or prospective employer is looking for is to add value to their company or organization. This is what you need to show them.

For example:

When writing about a previous work experience, instead of simply stating: “Answering phones” as a duty or responsibility, consider expressing the value your actions brought to the company.

  • Over the phone, I assisted clients with their orders, directing them to the services they wanted.

Instead of stating: “Drafting marketing materials”, emphasize the value of your actions.

  • I created materials that increased the company’s online visibility and improved engagement on social media platforms.

4. Not Taking Advantage of Social Media

Just as the job seeker is likely to consult a company’s social media pages to find out more about the company they are considering applying to, so will the recruiter or prospective employer consult a candidate’s social media pages.

Your social media profile, to a certain extent, acts as a complimentary resume. Failing to acknowledge or take advantage of this reality is a bit like sending out an incomplete resume.

What To Do Instead

Firstly, you’ll want to make sure that your social media pages are free of any potentially embarrassing or “not safe for work” content. Secondly, take advantage of social media to portray yourself the way you would like the recruiter or prospective employer to see you. They will take a look, even if you don’t prompt them to do so.

5. Not Doing Enough Research

Doing research is an integral part of the job search process. This includes combing the company’s website and social media pages to determine if you think you would be a good fit and, if so, what precise language to incorporate into your resume and cover letter.

Additionally, you should research the salary ranges for the position you are applying for so that you are well-prepared, in the event of an offer for employment, to negotiate a fair and attractive salary.

Some of the best websites to search for salary ranges include:

To avoid any unpleasant surprises in terms of work culture and unfair labor practices, research the company, including contacting current employees, and see if there are any red flags. Websites such as Glassdoor and Indeed are good places to start. Additionally, you can peruse the company’s website to find out who works for them and then find them on social media and contact them there with your query. Generally speaking, people are flattered to be solicited for their opinions and are happy to give them.

Researching a company also involves finding out what the customers or clients think of the company. If a large number of customers leave unfavorable reviews, this could mean that the company is unlikely to have long-term success. It could also mean that you are headed for a lot of headaches working for them as you will invariably be dealing with unhappy customers and probably incompetent management.

Some of the best websites to search for customer reviews include:

6. Not Leveraging Job Offers

The initial objective of a job search is to land a job interview and then potentially an offer for employment. However, once this has been accomplished, that doesn’t mean you should stop looking for a job. Too many job seekers end their job search once they’ve received a satisfactory job offer. While this is cause for celebration, it should also be cause to motivate you to keep looking.

The benefits of continuing to look for a job even after you’ve received an offer are multiple:

  • Multiple job offers give you leverage when negotiating your salary.
  • Having more than one job offer decreases the chances that you will settle for a job that is less than ideal.
  • Having options stimulates the imagination and will help you to determine if you do, in fact, want to dedicate a significant amount of time and energy to the company that has made you an offer.


While it’s never a good time to be unemployed, if you’re searching for a job now, the labor market is currently offering more opportunities than at any other time in recent history (and favorable opportunities at that). There is an abundance of online tools to help you to find offers and to research the companies you are applying to. However, don’t let the relative ease of the job search process lull you into laziness or half measures. Avoid these common mistakes job seekers make, and increase your chances of landing your dream job.

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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