TAO Self-help

Title:New Grads: These 10 Job Search Mistakes Cost You Time and Money

Author:Susan P. Joyce, © All rights reserved

Date:June 2014


Your first "real" (as in, now-I-must-be-self-supporting) job search is a learning experience like no other. So many options; so little time! You do NOT want to make mistakes, but you may not be clear on exactly what to do next and what is appropriate.

The 10 mistakes that new grads (and many others) make that postpone that first paycheck:

  1. Don't apply too slowly.

    According to a 2011 study of 6,600 hires in 10 industries by StartWire.com:

    "Of those hired, 27% applied within the first two days after a job was posted. Nearly 50% of the hires were applicants who applied within the 1st week; approximately 75% of all hired candidates applied within three weeks."

  2. Don't apply too quickly.

    This is the flip side of not applying quickly enough — many job seekers seem to apply too quickly. They don't appear to take the time to read more than the job title of the posting. So they waste time and energy applying for jobs that are not appropriate, and they look dumb while doing it.

    If you don't meet at least 80% of the job's "requirements" move on.

  3. Leverage the mutual benefits of employee referrals.

    According to the annual CareerXRoads' "Sources of Hire" survey, the number one source of "external" hires is referral by an employee. Year after year, referrals are # 1! (An "external hire" is someone who is not an employee.)

    Many employers have "employee referral programs" which reward employees if someone they recommend is hired. Connecting with people who work for your target employers or in your target industry is a great foot-in-the-door move on your way to being referred in to an employer. Everybody wins with this approach!

  4. Be skeptical of websites, employers, and job postings.

    Human predators are as plentiful on the Internet as in real life, perhaps more plentiful because through the Internet they can reach you from all over the world. These predators target job seekers because job seekers are willing to share information that most people are not (location and other contact information, education details). So, verify before you trust with your resume and other personal information.

    Be wary of employers you've never heard of, and verify the ones you find. A job posting by Google (or any other genuine employer) could be a fake. Even though Google is real, a scammer could be using Google's name to attract victims. Look for a published business phone number in the location where they claim to have a job ready for you to compare with the contact information included in the job posting. Superpages.com is a good source.

    Learn more about online scams and how to avoid them in Job-Hunt's Guide to Avoiding Scams and Scammers.

  5. Understand that most job seekers are "selling," not "buying."

    It's too easy to approach a job search from a WIIFM (What's In It For Me) perspective. However, when you are corresponding with an employer, a focus on WIIFT (What's In It For THEM) is a more successful approach!

    The example, below, is a WIIFM-style "cover letter/email," a very bad approach -

    "I saw your job posting on Indeed, and I want to apply for the job. I think that your company would be an interesting place to work. I think it offers me a great future, and I would like to live in Phoenix where you are located. I have attached my resume for your consideration."

    Nothing in that paragraph offers a benefit to the employer! Nice as the employer reading that paragraph might be, he or she doesn't really care what you want. They care what you can do for them. So, look at the opportunity from the employer's perspective, and sell your qualifications for their job. First, make it clear the job you are applying for so they won't need to figure it out, and then connect your qualifications with their job's requirements.

  6. Don't spend too much time networking online.

    While LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus, and Facebook can be very helpful for job search, the best networking is done face-to-face.

    Networking can happen any time at least 2 people are in the same place. I saw 3 people connect with good jobs at a colleague's wake! So, go to those association meetings, attend those seminars, talk to people in line at the grocery store, etc. You never know who knows about job opportunities that might be right for you.

  7. Don't ignore your online reputation.

    Like everyone else, employers use search engines for research, but they are researching job applicants. And if they find something bad, even if it is by or about someone else with the same or a similar name, you are done. So establish a "clean" name, use it in all your job search documents, and practice Defensive Googling regularly, even after you have found a job.

    BTW, LinkedIn and Google Plus are very effective for claiming your name and establishing your online reputation. You control what both show employers about you, and both rank high in Google search results, so they are very powerful and effective for online reputation management. Read Job-Hunt's Guide to LinkedIn for Job Search and Guide to Google Plus for Job Search.

  8. Don't passively wait for the job offer.

    Find a way to network in, if you haven't already. See if you know anyone who works there, or anyone who knows anyone who works there. Someone else from the same school? Or someone from the same town? Do they know the hiring manager? Can you get your resume to that internal person to hand to the hiring manager or the HR manager or the Decision-Maker with a big smile and a personal recommendation?

  9. Don't stop looking too soon.

    So many job seekers stop their job search when they have what feels like a "hot lead." They wait for that job offer to come through. They stop looking for opportunities, and they spend a lot of time wondering what is taking so long.

    However, you don't have an offer until you have a starting date and a starting salary. So, keep networking, and keep looking!

  10. Act like a grown-up.

    That means not applying for inappropriate jobs and not using texting language and slang in resumes or other business communications.

    That also means being prepared for job interviews — dressing appropriately, knowing the job and the employer, using good grammar and language, having good questions to ask (NOT about the salary and vacation!), not bringing in food or drink, and not answering your cellphone during the interview (turn it OFF!).

Bottom Line

Yes, you will find a job. You will make mistakes (part of being human), but you will hopefully learn from them and not make the same mistakes twice. And, BTW, new grads are not the only job seekers making these mistakes.

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff "graduate" who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased WorkCoachCafe.com, and Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then. Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org, is a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and a columnist on HuffingtonPost. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.

Featured Employers all