5 Ways to Ruin Your Job Search

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.

To find IT management jobs, click here.

“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.

Upload Your RésuméEmployers want candidates like you. Upload your résumé. Show them you’re awesome.

Image: Alan Poulson Photography/Shutterstock.com

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

  1. Christopher

    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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • I agree with Christopher. However, the omission becomes a lie if during the interview process this was not disclosed. I find it is better to be completely honest up front. Integrity is a good indicator that a person would do the job with the highest level of ethics.

    • Ron S

      I also agree with Christopher. HR should never EVER act as police!! Their job is to protect the company, yes, but they should never act as cops. Especially for non-issue little nothings.

    • I also agree. In this day and age, with so much unprofessional behavior from the very same people passing judging a new potential candidate, companies need to cut people slack. I hate the one sided-ness of the whole charade. If job seekers are getting patted down before even being hired then we the job seeker should be able to get a full report of who the racists, misogynists, adulterers, man-haters, those with pending lawsuits against them, people who are not paying their alimony, and all the dishonest people currently employed at said company.
      I mean job seekers need to know if they even want to work with those kinds of people too.
      I guarantee that most companies have several people they could name on that list. And those are people that still have not been fired. So why the double standard and for minor things? New hires have to be strip searched almost, as intrusive as employers think they have to be, but tolerate liars and dishonest people in the ranks who are drinking buddies or do tit for tat for bosses. No wonder our society is such a big mess.

  2. Unca Alby

    “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.

    • 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.

      • UncaAlby

        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.

  3. Unca Alby

    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.

    • Unca Alby

      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.

  4. 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.

    • Hi Andy,

      Interesting research that I’d be very interested to learn more about. It seems I used to be an great candidate, until I hit 50. Now I don’t get any responses even when I’m supposedly in the top 10% of applicants.

      Good luck in your research – I’d love to know how it turns out.

      • Well that first post was three years ago so I hope he/she has some results from that research by now. Meanwhile, it hasn’t done anything to slow the rampant age discrimination in hiring.

        In the US we don’t put photos on our resumes — I’ve heard some companies will immediately reject any resume with a photo because they’re concerned about discrimination. But what’s the first thing they do if you get past the ATS? They look at your LinkedIn profile, followed by your FB, Twitter, Insta and any other links they can find. What will they see? Your profile photo(s), also family & marital status, sexual orientation, (likely) your political leanings, religion … let’s see, what else is listed in those EEOC disclaimers? Now, I’ve been told I look young for my age, and like most I leave off all but the last 15 or so years from my LinkedIn profile — but once they see the pics from my daughter’s wedding a couple years ago … well, it ain’t hard to do the age math from there.

        I was on a webinar recently that was giving advice on how to use social media in a job search. It was led by an experienced recruiter. He recommended putting things like your college, hometown, hobbies and activities, favorite sports teams, etc., on LinkedIn and elsewhere — anything that might possibly spark a connection with a talent or hiring manager and could be played up in communication. Why? Because, he said, people “want to work with people who are like themselves.” He said this like it was an obvious and natural fact. Which I guess it is, but he didn’t realize he was admitting that all sorts of bias are at work there — including illegal kinds — and that social media is not only feeding it but also providing anonymous cover for it.

  5. 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.

  6. Matt Sullivan

    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.

  7. 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.

  8. I disagree with all of this we’re just monkeys in suits trying to get other monkeys to accomplish A company mission.
    How do you focus on your little details and attention to details you’re your own worst enemy.
    I’m a computer tech, i’ve been one of the best, Like most techs I’m a stereotypical geek, humble considerate and I “love” helping people (im good with people) and I’m damn good at everything that I fix. It stays that way! Experience has proven it to myself. And I’ve been told by no less then a thousand customers/clients ( I worked for a major healthcare company) I’ve been told how grateful they are and how much they appreciate everything I’ve done so many times it doesn’t even mean anything to me anymore. Even my manager got sick of all the letters of praise I was receiving. She just had to stop reading them at mettings and stopped forwarding them to me.
    And I am not even close to being a model employee. Especially when applying.
    My work history was ravaged by a break up so I make up some fake company that makes it seem like Keep busy. It was a legitimate attempt. But failed after 3 months. I cant be honest with my past and expect to find a job, but I really am a good employee. I’m a customer friendly brilliant tech. All sorts of experience. But so much much more I don’t tell. I was expected to “clock-in” before 8. I’m sorry no I’m not going to do that. It’s not a 1920s factory and I could just login to the god damn clock and do what I want. When you have someone like me, in charge of half a Healthcare companies 2500 computers all by myself I think I’ll do my job despite what time I get to my “time-clock”. This clock does not tell me when I get to start fixing compters that a hospital relies on. The punch in clock doesn’t tell me I’m at work, this shit has to work. They say I’m late but a computer tech is rarely interested in attendance nonsense. I could be in fucking McDonalds in China do my job. And clock in.
    The complete story is far too complicated to get into. But I was a good tech and good person and I still use the references of my managers and supervisors, they only have good things to say about me, even though they fired me nicely, by asking me to leave at the end of the day. They said it was not clocking-in but truth was obvious too me. They paid me $15k a yr too much, and that’s really why they wanted me gone. BUGET CUTS. I called their bluff but I didn’t expect they would just ask me leave on my own. But hey they wanted to save $15k a yr. Those overpaid dumbasses you love to keep around dont know how much work I really was doing or what my value really was. I was saving the company over a hundred thousand dollars a year, Doing the work of two tier 2 techs, and I actually fixed stuff.
    I closed more tickets than any other tech there. I was extremely quick, And everybody loved me, I was a direct point of contact for doctors directors and people who don’t have time for bullshit ticket policies. I just did my job the best way possible. 1 tech, 2500 computers, 20 locations, and all the medical staff. Maybe 200 printers, meds carts, etc. this was a healthcare company that had 2 major hospitals, 21 offsite locations and a standalone ER. The other half of the company ( 2 big hospitals) were taken care of by about 8 techs.
    Resume trolls make such stupid decisions on stupid little things that can’t possibly give you proper insight into a person. If someone lies about the last date worked, or lies just to make it his resume pretty. It really shouldn’t matter.
    When I’m asked if I have a criminal background I always say no because I got arrested for pot once over a decade ago. Yes I lied about it. It was 14 years ago. I didn’t tell you because how could you even care? And why would you give a shit even if I lied about it. There is not a single scenario where that would make any sense at all. But HR may say I’m a liar, or not trustworthy, or maybe they have some commonsense and don’t give a shit either. That’s a good HR dept. So that’s kind of what I count on and so far so good. Obviously I didn’t rape a child or anything that would be bad. It’s just bad. Don’t sugar coat that.
    Obviously this is all relative to the position but we need to stop treating each other like we’re just fucking perfect princes and princesses with no secrets. If you want an explanation why I have a gap in employment, I think, fuck off…. but I would say I was working with the band and toured the United States. Not a lie just not worth my resume: We are all flawed, liars. Only thing a company needs is someone that can do the job and get along with everyone else, that’s it, fuck everything else. Do the fucking job don’t kill your team workers, and work together to accomplish the company’s goals. I should be the only requirements.
    Can you do this job ? ( This dies include being at work)
    Applications are beyond absurd these days. They have those 75 questions that try to trick you.
    Is it OK to take a pen from work? No! But because you asked. Im taking every fucking pen I see on my first day.
    I don’t even waste my time on those I make my sister or my mom who arr both psychologist w/ PhD’s take those stupid goddamn things. I just hate them too much.
    You can just ask one question; do you have ADHD can skip the fucking 75 others

    And I’m also a former United States Marine capable of handling serious mental stress. I shot big fucking cannons. But I didn’t know how to protect my heart and apparently I don’t like punching in too much.

    My point is simple resumes are bullshit.
    Ex: Look at this idiot he didn’t spell the word knowledgeable correctly on his resume.
    Is he applying to be a goddamn English teacher ? No then fuck off. He didn’t spell it he fucking typed it with his goddamn fingers. Maybe he can’t see well, but he can spell. I admit attention to detail is important because but it’s becsuse of you dumbasses
    I have a good resume, but it starts off with a complete lie. And I’m about to get a job somewhere in DC for some major consulting firm. And it won’t matter a bit I’ll do great and I will be great. Obviously resume references help even if they cover a lie. However if this candidate can really do the job they will lie comfortably. And that’s good too.
    I suppose I could be completely nuts but when your computer breaks I’m the one that has to sit at your desk, fix your fucking problem, I don’t give a shit how many hearts you have installed. But your computer will fucking work in just a minute. Or maybe you hired some other perfect little fucking fairy that wants you to put in a ticket as policy states and wait for a call to schedule, and all that bullshit. Take your fucking pick. Call me directly or put in a ticket. I’m just an example and there’s so many more that would rather live like this but they can’t handle the stupid bullshit that you guys have in place. Why the fuck can’t I wear jeans I fix your fucking computers. I hate that shit that shit,

    I’m just so sick of all the new age digital bullshit, I’m not sorry. Destroy someone’s life, their chance of being great because they have too much fucking white space in their resume. What kind of piece of shit would judge someone like that.

    And yup I do you apologize for using the word fuck, I am much more intelligent than that, I just think it’s funny, I’m sorry. I was to trying be professional here. But I am, I have an outstanding resume and experience but there are a quite few lies. Harmless little ones. But many of them. I would not be so arrogant and blunt about this if I knew I wasn’t so good at my job but now that I am I feel obligated to say how I think. I’ll still play the game because I live in the goddamn DC area. But I will be a great employee. I’m expendable I guess but my God the last hospital paid dearly for that mistake. I wish I could tell you. But I’ve said enough. Just a value people that really know what they’re doing and make your work a better place. They deserve to be treated with the same heart they show your company.

    • Mrs. Blunt

      Hi Aj, just wanted to thank you for saying what many of us feel. I see both sides but I definetly think you cant always follow the rules and its impossible to make everyone happy; if your not smart enough to make the right lies and make sure they generally can’t be verified you probably are not smart enough to get that job. Thank you sincerely for your service.

  9. Lies? By the candidate??? Omg. Nothing compared to the LIES your employer will tell you throughout your career. Can we skip this puritanical sharade where candidates have to PERFECT and employers get to do whatever they damn well please? Great, thanks.

  10. Everything I read is conflicting, honestly. I just read an article that said an applicant SHOULD look up a company’s contact on LinkedIn after applying…then following up if there is no response. They call it networking. I think honestly it really is a crap shoot.