5 Behaviors That Will Murder Your Job Hunt

No matter how extensive your experience and skills, a new job hunt is always stressful. If you’re competing for a wildly sought-after position, the margins of error are tiny; you feel like you must ace every interview and testing round.

With all that pressure bearing down on you, it’s easy to make mistakes. Some of these are potentially forgivable; answering “I don’t know” to a technical question during an interview, for example, won’t always wreck your changes of landing the gig (depending on the question, of course, and how you follow up on it). But other things will kill your momentum absolutely dead. Let’s examine some of those:

Neglecting Your Cover Letter (Or Worse, Your Résumé)

More and more companies rely on browser-based job applications to screen candidates. If you’re hunting for a job, you’ve no doubt completed your fair share: page after page of blank fields to fill in, from your name to your education and skills.

These applications often ask you to upload your résumé and/or cover letter, with the cover letter portion sometimes presented as “optional.” That’s a trick—you should always consider it mandatory to submit a cover letter.

Beyond these application systems, one of the worst things you can do when seeking a new job is neglecting to customize your résumé and cover letter to each position you want. The tech industry’s low unemployment rate might lull you into thinking that you can send a company a generic résumé and receive a call-back; or you might think that résumés and cover letters are horribly outdated concepts, documents that hiring managers and recruiters barely look at.

But the reality is that hiring managers, recruiters, and teams all examine the résumés and cover letters of potential team members—and they’ll know instantly if the documents are a weak and un-targeted effort. When in doubt, spend as much time polishing your résumé and cover letter as possible. Make sure the message conveyed by your materials is on-point and laser-focused on the position you want.

Getting Too Creative

Unless you’re a graphic designer applying to a firm that’s known for its eccentricity, there is absolutely no reason to get too creative with your résumé, or show up for the job interview in costume.

Sure, some candidates have succeeded by creating CVs that look like Amazon pages or Instagram posts, or even 3D-printing their head and leaving it for an interviewer. But the screening software utilized by many companies can’t read “uniquely” formatted résumés, and trying a stunt during your interview might seem weird instead of intriguing, depending on the interviewer’s personality and frame of mind.

When in doubt, try to color within the lines when it comes to the application process. Once you’re sitting in front of the interviewer, you can describe your creative approaches to successful projects, for instance—but save any “arty” impulses for your personal pursuits.

Getting Too Pushy

You sent in your application for a job you really want, and never heard anything back. After waiting a few weeks, you shot an email to the recruiter, who didn’t bother to respond back. What’s your next step?

Many tech pros would probably assume they didn’t get the job, and move onto the next application. Others might send another email, or even phone the recruiter or hiring manager, before giving up. Those are all reasonable responses.

Whatever you choose to do in the face of silence, though, there’s one behavior you definitely shouldn’t engage in: Obsessively phoning or emailing about the gig. Blowing up a recruiter or hiring manager’s inbox or voicemail is the surest way to ensure you’ll end up blackballed by that company for good, even if your skills align with the current or future positions on offer.

You might think that constant calling is doing everyone a favor (you’re the best person for the job, after all), but it’s really making you come off like this:

Don’t be that dude.

Lying About Your Skills

It might be tempting to “fudge” your CV a bit. But embellishing your skills and experience will inevitably blow back on you. A hiring manager or recruiter might discover your duplicitousness pretty much immediately, via simple scan of social media; or your future co-workers will find out when you’re not really capable of doing what you claimed on your application materials. And keep in mind: There’s no anger quite like the anger of a team that’s discovered a new member can’t do the job they were hired to do.  

Not Doing Your Prep

Have you built out your network of contacts (i.e., professional colleagues, former co-workers, etc.)? Is your social media scrubbed of anything that potentially makes you look bad? Have you scanned (and re-scanned, and re-re-scanned) your résumé, cover letter, and other materials for typos and inaccurate information?

The point is, you can’t just spontaneously plunge into a new job search. Make sure that the people who need are alerted, that your documents and online profiles are up-to-date, and you have an idea of what you want to do (and for how much). Otherwise, you could very well end up spinning your wheels.

27 Responses to “5 Behaviors That Will Murder Your Job Hunt”

    • MichèLe A Richter

      I agree. I’ve used cover letters and have not… If the position clearly states they want one, then I definitely send one with my resume. The other is the thank you letters.

  1. Linda Johnson

    I’ve felt this exactly Nick and thus not utilized uploading my resume to ZipRecruiters, Monster, etc. I prefer customizing each resume and cover letter. So what suggestions do you have in order to get in the companies’ sightlines with this in mind? Is it best to NOT upload one’s resume and only apply individually to jobs you see? Should we skip using these online job connecting companies altogether?

  2. Agree in this day and age it’s so easy to handle big data only the real laggards still use the ‘if you haven’t heard back within…’ line. Also blue chip HR departments need to invest more in their jobs boards if you have looked at the fake jobs on microsoft recently, the Indian support dept says they can’t work out how to remove them lol Think was dubaihires that alerted me to that one something about thinking like an idiot gets your cv read.

  3. So many of these articles with mixed/conflicting information. Still a good read. I think differently about the cover letter. As a creative, I’d rather not work for a company that prioritizes the cover letter, why? To me I feel they’re poor when it comes to thinking. Cover letter writing is a legitimate business. So many people pay to have their cover letters written, so, a recruiter or hiring manager reading and getting excited from a letter potentially written by someone else is laughable. That’s not who you’re hiring in that letter, but it seems they either don’t care or they didn’t think of that simple possibility because they assume it weeds out the ones not serious enough to submit one. Just my opinion on it.

  4. Job hunting has turned into a worse nightmare than dating. I thought I would never say that. I have manually created so many resumes and cover letters, tailoring them to each job and got nowhere. I’ve had many recruiters and hiring managers say I have comparable experience and skill set they are looking for , only to get the dreaded email. I’ve been invited by recruiters on zip recruiter to apply for their open position after the liked my resume, only to see the reviewed my application but no follow call or email. I’ve prepared well for each interview, studying their products, services. And company. I once was told “not many are prepared like you I appreciate it” and it still didnt help. I have a degree in IT and certifications and can’t land a job in IT due to no recent experiences. But when I apply for non IT jobs I get asked litterlly in interviews “what peaked your interest in this position seeing you have a IT background “? The real answer is because my IT career has hit the impenetrable wall. But I always find a clever response.

    I have studied interview tips and techniques, resume tips and techniques . I am utterly clueless on what will it take to get a job these days. It seems my luck at lotto are about the same as job hunting.

    • Dal Atwal

      It might be age factor, also I find that the job description may not spell out exactly what the manager is looking for. Some times it is games being played out, they already have a person in mind, but to please HR they will go ahead interview folks, then say we liked x person, even if you were better qualified. It’s happened to me. I even cases were some else interviewed, but first day the person that showed up was someone else.

    • Duane M. Navarre

      Brian, one thing that has worked for me is registering with all the contract companies,
      and taking short term contracts and accepting out of town ones. Also accepting lower
      pay ones will get you recent experience. Other option is looking through city and county government sites in your region who often do not post to job boards.

    • John,

      I feel your pain! I have an MBA, certification in Project Management, am PMP certified and PS1 certified for Scrum and I cannot seem to do anything right to get a job either. I am getting interviews, and interview up to the Director (3- 6 interviews in) and then have someone with 20 years experience bump me out to my 6 years as a certified PMP. I don’t think I can spell frustrating large enough!

    • Hello Biran hope you are doing well.
      Most of the time in our resumes we provide a good long list of skills that apparently look good but it fails the recruiter/interviewers to figure out what exactly you are solely capable of and can do, Bookish knowledge is good to present along with Intelligence, your learning curve , positivity , and dedication. These are the factors usually you should sit with in any interview.
      About luck that is not a factor to always count on for. It shows its miracle but not any time. Have patience. Where there is nothing there you see a light or a tiny flower.

  5. Daren Scot Wilson

    This article is crap. Cover letters truly are dead and gone. I’ve asked around. If you’re going to fine-tune your resume, you’ll put the most important bits of info near the top, and make it clear what job you’re after. No need for a cover letter to repeat that. Whatever it does say, it’s just tossed or ignored. So I have been told by the people I end up working for!

    • I thought so too, until I was sent to a mandatory ‘training’ put on by the State of New York in order to collect unemployment.

      There were two hiring managers that said they don’t consider people who don’t take the time to write a cover letter. Another said that you should always write a Thank You letter.

      I never did either, now I do both and have four potential jobs.

      Fact is, nobody will NOT be considered for doing either of those things, but it may reflect negatively if you just fling your resume over the wall and don’t do something that most of the others attend to diligently.

      𝕀𝕟 𝕤𝕙𝕠𝕣𝕥, 𝕀’𝕧𝕖 𝕓𝕖𝕖𝕟 𝕤𝕖𝕟𝕕𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕔𝕠𝕧𝕖𝕣 𝕝𝕖𝕥𝕥𝕖𝕣𝕤.

  6. Dal Atwal

    It might be age factor, also I find that the job description may not spell out exactly what the manager is looking for. Some times it is games being played out, they already have a person in mind, but to please HR they will go ahead interview folks, then say we liked x person, even if you were better qualified. It’s happened to me. I even cases were some else interviewed, but first day the person that showed up was someone else.

  7. Duane M. Navarre

    All cover letters and resume’ are read by web spiders. I have had phone interview ppl ask me questions that indicate they did not even read my resume’. I have sat in a contractor/temp agency and listening to the workers high speed grinding through the thousands of ppl applying
    for hundreds of jobs. I have had experienced veterans of the labor wars forget to send me
    attachments they just emailed me asking me to fill out. Too much is being expected of too few, and the ppl on the ragged edge are showing signs of fraying.

  8. Charles Porter

    I was a hiring manager for a well known designer and manufacturer of big ticket consumer products. I got resumes forwarded from HR, the same also went to managers looking for similar talent. HR threw away the cover letters because they did not think it was worth out time to read them. The resumes were very unprofessional. We rarely every hired anyone we didn’t already know. Unless the resume indicates that the applicant can actually walk on water, it’s just not worth the time.

  9. I let them know I’m pushy right up front. I won’t put up with their BS. I’ve been at this too many years.

    I have a family to support. There has to be a level of reason with this aspect!!


  10. Horatio

    In this day and age of low unemployment, the job hunter has an advantage over the job hirer. Update your profile on LinkedIn, and tell the recruiter/HR rep that they can print out your profile, and that’s your résumé. If it’s good enough for a recruiter to contact you, it’s good enough to get an interview. Do not play HR’s game. Do not create a cover letter, it’s a waste of time and effort. You’re in charge, not the person doing the hiring. Be prepared to walk away if they’re playing hardball about a piece of paper. You can play hardball as well.

  11. I asked our recruiter about how to get people in for resumes because I was receiving a lot of feedback at conferences from people who applied to our company and heard nothing. He told me to tell them that if they see a job they are interested in on the webpage then they should contact him on LinkedIn. I can say that I’ve tried it and it does help. But also, if you’re in tech, try to go to a couple conferences or meetups where you can meet people from the company. That way when you are asked how you heard about them you have a connected history.

  12. Larry Tessari

    I find the issue about “lying about your job skills” somewhat misleading. In the technical professions, newer technologies are similar enough to existing technologies and you can often just start using them without formal training, but other thia method leaves you unaware of some of the finer details ofthe new technology. This is excabriated because companies often will pay for training for their direct employees, but not contract employees. This leaves the contract employees being not up to date on the latest technologies

    • Blue Sun

      If you don’t have a skill in Foobar Framework, but you do in Snafu Framework that is the functional equivalent, DON’T tell the interviewer you are a Foobar expert, but DO make the point that your Snafu experience is directly transferable to Foobar. With so many different work-alike alternatives, I’ll take an applicant who knows the principles & functionality even if its a slightly different “flavor” of the same principles.Any medium to top-tier programmer should be able to pick up the Foobar Framework in just days. In well over 40 years of top-tier consulting in domains from Wall Street to bleeding edge commercial video technologies, I’ve virtually never started a new contract with experience with every third-party or open-source tool – especially in recent years where so many development departments are relying on code not internally written to provide them with major highly-skilled pieces of their applications that are beyond the skills of the programmers who will work for the lower wages & more toxic IT cultures of the current era.

  13. rational one

    Awful. So that’s telling that you have to create a good lie.
    No one of this counselis can make any difference.
    As ever, the rrhh people justifiying their no-job.

  14. John Harig

    I do not see anything at all about seekers in my situation. I am a senior citizen with an MBA. I am a Certified Management Accountant but i also have Parkinson’s Disease. I have spent the last couple of years trying to get a remote job that I am well qualified for, with no positive results at all. I am a prolific reader and life long learner. Should I just give up and realize that hirng managers believe i belong on the trash heap?