5 Ways to Ruin Your Job Search

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It’s difficult enough to remain actively engaged in a job search without worrying about self-sabotage. Fortunately for you, there are some strategies you can employ to make sure you don’t end up pursuing bad ideas that you think are really great at the time.

The ‘Spray and Pray’ Method

According to Melissa Cooley, founder of The Job Quest, the biggest mistake that job-seekers often make is using the “spray and pray” method: firing out résumés as quickly as possible at anything that seems even remotely related to their industry and skills.

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“This hurts candidates in a multiple ways,” she said. “The same résumé is used for each position. Even within the same niche in the same industry, there are going to be nuances that differentiate one job opening from another. By doing this, they aren’t bothering to assess for a good fit.”

The Linear Quest

The converse of “spray and pray” is a linear search, which is just as fruitless. According to Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide, approaching a job search as a one-option-at-a-time process is unproductive. “It doesn’t build a dynamic energy into the process,” he noted, “and by having many more irons in the fire, you diversify the risk and disappointment that is inevitable when any single opportunity disappears.”

Creative Stalking

Overly aggressive contact with everyone who has anything to do with a position you think may be perfect is a recipe for disaster. Don’t litter peoples’ inboxes and voicemails with notes and résumés, and don’t try to be cute—at best you’ll become spam, at worst you may get the attention of law enforcement.

Speaker, author, and consultant Barry Maher can personally attest to what he described as “the worst job hunting strategy mistake I’ve ever encountered.”

In Maher’s telling, a candidate went to a business’s website and found the names and business contacts for everyone he assumed would be making the
hiring decision. Using letters cut from the newspaper, he sent his targeted list a series of single-word notes that, once put together, resembled ransom threats. He started with his first name “John,” following it up with “Smith.” Subsequent notes transformed the message into “John Smith Is,” then “John Smith Is Going,” followed by “John Smith Is going to,” and, “John Smith Is Going to Blow.”

“Apparently,” Maher said, “he thought he was clever enough to avoid creating a problem message. But the next note, ‘John Smith Is Going to Blow You Away!’ was when the police showed up at his door. He never got the chance to send out the next letter with his résumé, which explained just how his expertise was going to ‘blow everyone away.’”

Delete, Delete, Delete

As you well know by this point, the Internet contains potentially damaging information and images. A candidate’s carefully built persona can evaporate in a heartbeat with a single indiscretion. Even if you’ve restricted your personal sites, some content may still be accessible. You never know who’s taken a screen shot of that particularly inflammatory joke, or shared an untoward photo.

How can you prevent an employer’s online search query from turning disastrous? Make it a point to keep your public social-networking presence as PG (or PG-13) as possible, and lock down or eliminate anything you think might burn you later on. For those of you who’ve been involved in any public lawsuit or other recklessness, whether it was major or minor, managing search engines should be a top priority—and if your potential employer does dig up the info, honesty on your part is critical.

Pretty Little Lies of Omission

“One of my clients made it to final rounds with a large financial institution and then received an offer,” Cohen said. “She never told her interviewers that she was no longer employed and had actually left her former employer many months before. Her résumé and LinkedIn profile implied that she was still there. When she completed the mandatory application, she disclosed the actual date of separation.”

An associate in the Human Resources department caught the inconsistency and brought it to the attention of the hiring manager. The offer was pulled. “It was explained that she could not be trusted,” Cohen added. “If she misrepresented a matter as simple as this, and at the very beginning of a relationship, she could not be trusted to be truthful on matters of greater importance.”

Bonus: Friendly May Come Off as Creepy

A post-interview note is necessary, but don’t try too hard. Tracy Vistine, lead recruiter for Messina Group, had a candidate follow up by sending chocolates to the office as a thank-you. “Some people thought it showed interest,” she said, “but the rest of us saw it as being creepy.” Don’t be creepy.

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13 Responses to “5 Ways to Ruin Your Job Search”

January 15, 2015 at 10:25 am, Christopher said:

I don’t agree with the “Pretty Little Lies of Omission” section of the article. There are so many job boards out there (Monster, Dice, Beyond, Indeed, Career Builder, LinkedIn, etc) that is becomes difficult or time consuming to update every website that you have a profile on. One little update error should not prevent you from landing the job / having trust issues by Human Resources. Employers should just look into the information provided by the online application and the resume, which should both be up to date and not into Facebook, LinkedIn or other resume saving sites, which may not have been updated recently.


January 15, 2015 at 12:07 pm, Lourdes said:

I agree. There are more grievous omissions or worse things people do on the job that should hold attention than the fact a person is no longer at the company she/he last listed on their resume.


January 15, 2015 at 4:48 pm, Shawn said:

I agree with Christopher as well. There are probably dozens of my resume in different states floating about the internet–I get calls about them all the time. And let’s face it there are plenty of Lies of Omission that come from the hire-er as well. Plus, a well documented trend of not hiring people that are out of work as opposed to poaching those that still have jobs, you can’t really blame the candidate.

I also think the Friendly may come off as creepy is disingenuous as well… this person is merely trying to be endearing and stand out–what does it say about that company? We only want you if you are somewhat personable…but by all means please don’t be yourself… we are looking for a cyborg really.


January 15, 2015 at 11:34 pm, Unca Alby said:

“Spray and pray” is a viable option, given how 90% of job applications don’t even get so much as an acknowledgement of receipt, .

Basically, if you send out 10 resumes, you’ll get 1 “Thanks we got it.” and 9 black holes.

Send out 30 resumes, you’ll get 1 “Thanks”, 2 “No thanks”, and 27 black holes.

Send out 70 resumes, you’ll 3 “Thanks”, 2 “No thanks”, and 1 “Can we call you?” (I’m not counting recruiters, who ALWAYS want to call you, whether your skills fit the position or not)

Multiply that 10, and now maybe you’ll have 7 interviews (2 of which get a second interview), and 1 job.

Just thank the Stars you don’t have to pay for postage.


January 16, 2015 at 12:47 pm, kari said:

This approach hasn’t been a good one for decades. A better approach is to find a research specific companies and the people who would make hiring decisions, what kind of skills they are looking for. Then send a targeted letter and resume specifically to that person, bypassing HR. Pick 5 companies at a time. This takes more work, which is why I’ve found using contracting companies easier, cause they do that work for me. One thing many of those deciding that people taking unemployment are ‘lazy’ and don’t want to work, don’t realize that for most of us looking for a job IS a full time job.


January 16, 2015 at 10:39 pm, UncaAlby said:

You make some good points, Kari, except for the issue that very often the people in charge of making the decisions will avoid you like you have leprosy. As soon as they find out you’re looking for a job, they will steer you right back to the HR morass.

Contracting companies work, but only to a point. Remember, they’re not working for you, they’re working for the employer. They’re not finding you a job, they’re finding the company an employee. Some are little better than dropping your resume into the HR black hole, and others will contact you for the sole purpose of “padding” their “inventory”, with little chance of actually submitting you to an employer.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some very good recruiters out there. If you find one, hold on for dear life.


January 15, 2015 at 11:44 pm, Unca Alby said:

OF COURSE you omit that you are no longer employed on your resume and Linked-In profile. It is well known that the longer you have been unemployed, the less employers want to hire you.

Your resume is not a court document, isn’t notarized, and shouldn’t be expected to be without omissions. I’m not saying to tell outright lies, but it’s foolish to tell every little detail. “… and in 2009, I made a mistake that cost the company $20,000. Boy was my face red!” No, no, no! Tell the whole truth on anything with your signature on it, which does NOT include your resume.

Companies much prefer “stealing” employees from other companies, and if they believe you are currently employed, they’ll give you much more attention and your odds of getting a job are much better. This is documented fact. If they want to retract their offer after finding out you’ve actually been unemployed for a while, it’s probably not a company you’d want to work at anyway.


January 15, 2015 at 11:54 pm, Unca Alby said:

Basically (since I can’t edit my post), OK, fine, there are cases where you don’t get the job when they find out you were actually unemployed and “forgot” to update your Linked-In profile. Odds are, if they knew you were unemployed, they would never have called you for an interview in the first place. So you’re out of luck either way. You might as well take your chances.


August 26, 2016 at 11:23 am, Andy said:

Do not be over a certain age. The last (hopefully) area where discrimination in the job place is acceptable is age. I am doing research in this area and hope to prove that job search engines and employers use a variety of techniques to weed out applicants solely on the basis of age.


October 11, 2016 at 11:53 am, Katie said:

I think the “omission” section is spot on. It does not refer to someone who posted a resume without an ending date. The candidate went through several rounds of interviews and received an offer without revealing that she had been not working for months. That would make me very anxious about an applicant’s candor, as it would imply recent experience that is not necessarily valid. I cannot imagine how I would get through an interview without revealing this-all interviews ask about what you are doing currently, and you would have to obfuscate to give the interviewer the impression you still have the job.


October 15, 2016 at 11:32 pm, Matt Sullivan said:

Why is HR interviewing people who already have jobs? It really should be FLFH. First Laidoff, First Hired.

Also, HR needs to stop looking for the perfect fit. The one who had the experience. Look, everyone can do any and every job. It may take a week or two to learn everything, but in the first week or two it is all about learning the company, the tech learning comes during that process.


October 23, 2016 at 11:15 am, Gail Bradshaw said:

The information provided makes people not want to give suggestions based on the fact that an employer might be using this as a weeding out process. Great job.


March 13, 2017 at 3:40 pm, MJ said:

Getting into a job is not that easy now a days. Employer thoughts became weird and beyond anyone thoughts with unnecessary questions.
This is my current exp:

*Job board numbers became more now. You need to spend couple of hours or more a day.
*Some job boards are confusing and post our resumes to other job boards and employers without our knowledge
*Some clients want to fill whole personal data while applying for a job. They might want a person who is just off a previous job. Today you applied while on a job or just left but you didn’t get an interview call. You cannot resubmit after 3-4 months for another opening because the client wants a person who is currently on job or just left a job etc.
* They might ask you ‘Why should I hire you’ while submitting your resume online. This is a nonsense question. Are they ok if we write some thing to impress them today to get the job and leave them later?. They should talk to you and then decide whether or not you are fit for the role.
*More of internal and referral recruitment happening and job postings are just for record purposes
*There are ATS recruitment software’s. We don’t know whether these ATS software vendor submit our resumes to all its clients without our knowledge once we submit our resume to a client which was using the ATS software.

Only thing to practice is be positive to get out of stress.


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