A seasoned career recruiter who has interviewed close to 10,000 job candidates shares the most common mistakes that trip up job seekers.
There are no shortage of tips on how to have a successful job search. But when you fail to get the gig you want, you may be left wondering why. Hiring professionals are deluged with applications and donât have time to write a âthank you for applyingâ letter. So candidates are left guessing.
I decided to go straight to the source and asked a seasoned career recruiter what the most common pitfalls are. In a far-ranging discussion with Tejal Wagadia, a career expert at Jobscan who has interviewed close to 10,000 job candidates in the past seven years, Wagadia shared the biggest things that can trip up job seekers.
1. APPLYING FOR EVERYTHING IN SIGHT
The No. 1 thing that will derail you, according to Wagadia, is applying for a broad range of jobs that youâre not qualified for. Itâs understandable that with so many jobs being advertised on job boards, and coming to you directly from sites like LinkedIn, youâll feel youâre in demand.
But think again before you apply. âUnless you have 70% to 80% of the qualifications, you shouldnât go for it,â says Wagadia. And that doesnât mean you anticipate that you can do 80% of the job. It means you have already done 80% of that job. âItâs one thing to say âI can do this,â and itâs another thing to say âI have done this.’
For mid-to-senior-level positions, companies look for at least three to five years of experience. So for example, an account manager might apply for a Director of Sales position, but lacking any experience in that area, they wonât get the job. Instead, stay focused and apply only for those positions where you have several years of actual experience.
2. USING THE SAME RĂSUMĂ OVER AND OVER AGAIN
A second roadblock to landing a job is using a single rĂ©sumĂ© for all your job applications. âCandidates apply with the same rĂ©sumĂ©, over and over again,â says Wagadia. âThey havenât looked closely enough at the job description and made sure the skills listed are reflected in their rĂ©sumĂ©.â
âIâve interviewed candidates whose rĂ©sumĂ© doesnât match the job, and when I question them [about a skill] they say, âOh yeah, I did that.’â But they hadnât put it on their rĂ©sumĂ©. âWe recruiters arenât clairvoyant,â says Wagadia. âIf you donât show your skills and experience on your rĂ©sumĂ©, we have to assume you donât have them.â
The solution, she says, is to customize every single rĂ©sumĂ© you send out. Make sure the skills you have on your CV align with those in the job description. If you want to know how well your rĂ©sumĂ© matches the job description, check out this site. âItâs particularly important to customize your rĂ©sumĂ©,â says Wagadia, âwhen applying for âbridgeâ (contract) jobs or when making a career change, like going from one industry to another.â You will be evaluated on the fit.
3. FAILING TO SHOW YOUR IMPACT
The third thing that can trip job seekers up, according to Wagadia, is ânot showing the impact youâve had in the jobs youâve held.â
âI donât just want to know that you led a team,â she says. âI want to know how much you as a team generated in revenue each year.â You need to show the actual value youâve created for your company in those roles.â This should be quantifiable (e.g., a recruiter might list the number of people she hired; a software engineer might list the number of programs developed and customers reached, a communications professional might share employee engagement figures or social media impact). Give at least three impact figures for each job youâve held.
Not giving figures for your impact is a serious problem. âAlmost every rĂ©sumĂ© Iâve seen just lists job duties rather than the value created,â says Wagadia. âCandidates copy and paste the job description they were hired into and forget to show the impact they had in that role.â If you want to impress the recruiter or hiring manager, give the quantifiable results youâve attained.
4. ASKING THE INTERVIEWER NO QUESTIONS
Another thing that can derail candidates is their failure to ask the recruiter or hiring manager questions in an interview. âWhen they have no questions,â says Wagadia, âthey appear not to be interested in the position”
Wagadia has six favorite questions she recommends asking:
A.What does success look like in the first 90 days for this person?
B.What problems are being solved by the team right now?
C.What is the No. 1 stakeholder complaint you have heard about the team?
D.What is it about my background that you think would add value to your current team?
E.How do you define culture, and what is the team culture?
F.How do you communicate when someone isnât meeting their monthly goals?
5. MISREADING YOUR INTERVIEWERS
A fifth way to undercut yourself, is to misread people in team interviews. These group interviews are becoming more common, and they present challenges.
âBe aware how you are addressing the interviewing team,â says Wagadia. She has seen situations in which male candidates donât address the female interviewers, especially in tech companies. Also beware of directing all your attention to the team leader or hiring manager. Treat everybody equally.
Group interviews can also be challenging because you have to customize your answers for each person. Think about whoâs asking the question and choose a narrative that the person can relate to. For example, if an internal customer asks for an example, make it a customer-centric story. And size up whether the person wants a short answer, a big-picture answer, or a detailed ânuts and boltsâ answer.
6. BEING DISENGAGED IN INTERVIEWS
A final way job applicants can go astray is to appear disengaged by giving short, curt answers in interviews.
I asked Wagadia if there was a point in an interview when she made a decision not to proceed with a candidate, and she replied, âYes, when theyâre giving me one-word or one-sentence answers.â
She explained: âI might say, âTell me about the kind of position you have been looking for.â
âThe candidate answers âtechnical positions.â
âWhat kind of technical position? I ask.
âWhen it feels like Iâm pulling teeth,â Wagadia says, âI decide not to proceed with that candidate. An interview is a conversation, not an interrogation.â
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