I generally write in a ‘how to’ format, using positive reinforcement and practical advice to get my point across.  This month I’m taking a different approach.  Every week I talk to dozens of talented professionals who are looking for a new position.  They are frustrated, tired and confused about why they aren’t getting hired.  Although there is always a unique combination of items that are contributing to their lack of success in the job search process, I’ve discussed some of the most common mistakes below.  I hope this commentary will help you tweak your approach and get where you want to be.

Your resume is too broad and boring
I’ve written more than one article about resumes.  The biggest mistake that professionals make on their resume is that they try to capture all potential positions.  This causes you to appear unfocused and the unique value you have to offer gets lost.  Pick your poison – be a specialist – and get noticed.  The second biggest mistake that job seekers make is that their resume looks ‘academic.’  Using words that you get from the thesaurus in order to make yourself look better is transparent to the reader.  As a result your resume is boring to read, looks like everyone else’s and will be discarded.  Use words YOU use in daily communication on your resume – be yourself and guess what?  You’ll be noticed.

You are not prepared

You are really not as good as you think you are.  No one can ace an interview on the fly.  If you are showing up to interviews without researching the people you’ll be meeting, knowing as much as you possibly can about the company, competitors, industry sector, trends, partners and strategic vision – then you will not get an offer – the guy who did his homework will.

You spent precious energy chasing positions that aren’t a good fit
I hear this phrase a lot from job seekers, “but I could do that job.”  Of course you could do a lot of jobs, but we’re in a fiercely competitive landscape right now.  Applying for jobs that are outside your core competency is causing you to spend energy on positions you aren’t uniquely qualified for.  This wasted energy keeps you from strategically pursuing positions that you ARE precisely qualified for.  There are only so many hours in the day – spend them wisely – pursue quality, not quantity.

You’re playing hard to get
Every contact with a potential employer is part of the selection process.  Taking 2 days to return a phone call, making it hard to schedule interviews with you and failing to follow up immediately with thank yous will deliver the message that you simply aren’t interested.  Often, the eager beaver gets the job – because they want it more!  Responsiveness and access are paramount to your success.  Even if you don’t ultimately accept the position, you need to go after it 100%.

You’re still hanging onto old ‘junk’
OK, so your last position ended badly. You are angry, disappointed, feel betrayed, scared, duped; all of the feelings that go with a breakup.  You gave everything to your former employer and they let you go anyway.  These are all natural emotions – as humans, we have them.  But as intellectual beings we also need to forgive and forget.  Forgive yourself, forgive those who made you angry and forget the junk.  You may think you are putting on a game face, but you’re not.  If necessary, take some time off, go away, clear your head – but don’t expect to nail an interview while you are still holding onto bad energy from your previous employment situation.  And one final thing – don’t hold your future employer responsible for your past employer’s behavior.

You talk too much
There is a strange phenomenon that occurs during the interview.  Even the most introverted people talk – nonstop!  There are 3 possible reasons why you talk too much during an interview. 1. You’re nervous, 2. You aren’t prepared and you are making up answers on the fly, 3. You over answer to compensate for not knowing what you’re talking about.  All three are going to prevent you from getting the job.  The hiring manager is thinking to himself, “I can’t possibly hire this person, he takes forever to get their point across, is unfocused, and doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Your friends, colleagues and associates all mean well when they give you advice on how to conduct a job search.  Remember to take their advice with a grain of salt.  If someone who has only done a job search twice in their career is giving you advice on how to do it, does that make sense?  If I need plumbing done I call a professional plumber, if I need tax advice I call my CPA– food for thought.

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