Most people regard the job search as annoying at best, and a dread-filled activity at worst. Unless you’re one of those lucky souls who manages to leap from job to job simply on the strength of friends and personal references, chances are high that you’ll eventually find yourself emailing résumés and figuring out what to wear to your job interview (pro tip: never a t-shirt).
The good news about the job search: if you follow best practices, you’ll likely succeed. But that being said, there are all sorts of ways to ensure that the process does not go smoothly. Here are some things that can transform your quest for a gig into a (metaphorically) fiery mess:
Spraying and Praying
Sending out dozens—if not hundreds—of résumés and applications might seem like a good idea, but it can harm your job search in the long run. Remember that hiring managers and HR staffers skim over thousands of résumés in the course of a given year; if you’re firing off the most generic version of your résumé into their inbox, chances are good that they’ll reject you in favor of a tech pro who clearly took the time to customize their materials to the position on offer.
Instead of engaging in ‘spray and pray,’ take the time to find the positions that align with your interests (and your experience level), and tailor your résumé accordingly. By doing so, you’ll make it clear that you want this job, and the hiring manager will be more inclined to pick up their phone.
And don’t just focus on applying to one job at a time; that will take far too long. Concentrate on a handful, and you’ll likely see results.
Leaving Your Online Presence Unedited
HR staffers do more than just read your résumé, of course: they pick through your social profiles, trying to ascertain whether your stated skills and experience match with whatever they can find online. In doing so, they might stumble on images or text that you meant for only your friends and family.
With that in mind, before engaging in your job hunt, make sure that anything too personal is set to “private,” away from prying eyes. Or just delete it.
Inflating Your Résumé
It’s tempting to give your application materials a little “polish.” Resist that urge. If you claim you’re an expert in a particular programming language or technology, chances are very good that you’ll eventually be quizzed or asked to do something using that platform—and then you’ll have a real problem.
If you really want the job, but lack the technical skills necessary, you can always point to a.) your knowledge of similar technologies or platforms (if applicable), and b.) your willingness to learn. If you’re a programmer with a broad base of knowledge, a potential employer won’t discount you out of hand if you’re less familiar with a particular language.
Whiffing the Job Interview
So you applied to a handful of jobs, submitted your résumé and other materials, and waited for hiring managers to give you a call. And one did! Now you’re sitting down for a job interview, ready to wow your prospective employer with your knowledge and experience.
But job interviews have a funny way of going disastrously wrong, even if you think you’ve adequately prepared. While you can’t foresee every scenario that could potentially trip you up—it’s hard to deal with an aggressively negative hiring manager, for instance—you can prevent some nightmares by taking the following steps:
Turn Off Your Phone: Nothing wrecks the rhythm of an interview like a phone going off at the wrong moment. If you must leave it on (for example, you anticipate having to show your interviewer a Website or project you’ve designed), make sure the ringer is on silent or vibrate.
Don’t Talk Trash About Former Employers: Sure, it’s tempting to rail against all the wrongs at your previous company—but your interviewer doesn’t want to hear it. When in doubt, take the high road when answering questions about your old workplace.
Keep Your Background Consistent: Before heading into the job interview, make sure to review your résumé, because it’s a near certainty that your interviewer will bring up details from it. If there are inconsistencies between your résumé and what you say in the interview, it could knock you out of contention for the position; don’t give the interviewer a reason to become suspicious of your experience.
Don’t Ask About Salary: Negotiations over money can always come later. In the initial interview, refrain from asking about things like salary or perks. If the interviewer asks you questions about your preferred salary, deflect (nicely) until a later point.
Don’t Argue: You have opinions. Lots of them. But when answering an interviewer’s question, make sure you don’t lose your temper over your point of view.
Not Following Up
Even if the interview went badly, make sure to follow up with your interviewer. You never know when your good etiquette will be remembered, and you may end up interviewing with the company again at some point.