7 Foolish Mistakes Too Many People Make When Looking for a Job

Charlie from <em>It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia</em> attends a job interview.

Charlie from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia attends a job interview. | FX

You’ve been in the middle of a job search for weeks, maybe even months, and now the perfect job has appeared. As you read the job description, your heart leaps with excitement while you go through your mental checklist, realizing you fit everything the hiring managers are asking for. You’re the perfect candidate, and you know it. You just need to let your potential employer know it, too.

Before you start planning what you’ll wear on your first day at work, make sure you’re not doing anything that could hurt your chances of moving through the job hunt and interview process. There are many opportunities to mess up, and here are seven foolish mistakes too many people make when looking for a job. The second mistake is simple to avoid, and it can help separate you from the rest of the candidates, so you get the job.

1. Being too aggressive with follow-up

Businessman using smartphone and holding paper cup

Take a step back, and allow some breathing room. | iStock.com/Ridofranz

Contain your excitement. There’s a big difference between being assertive and aggressive. And it would be in your best interest to learn to differentiate between the two. You might be enthusiastic about working with a particular company, but that doesn’t give you a license to become the hiring manager’s personal stalker.

Take a step back and allow some breathing room. Remember you aren’t the only person applying for the position. The hiring team most likely has to wade through hundreds of resumes and interview a dozen or so candidates. Be patient. If you are a top candidate, you could ruin your chances by being too aggressive. Unless the hiring manager has given you a different timeline, your best bet is to wait at least a week before following up. And don’t show up at the office unannounced; that’s just creepy.

Next: But you still must follow up to show interest.

 2. Not following up

business man standing at his desk

Make sure to send a thank-you note or email to show your appreciation for the interviewer’s time. | iStock.com

On the opposite end of the spectrum is not following up at all. Just because you don’t want to be annoying doesn’t mean you should do nothing. Following up (not pestering) is key. Make sure to send a thank-you note or email to show your appreciation for the interviewer’s time. We’re in an age where people are often too busy to offer a simple word of thanks, so this will set you apart from the other candidates.

It’s important to stay in the interviewer’s mind, and this is a good way to do it. Send a thank-you email to each person who interviewed you at least within 24 hours (same day is best). If you’re going the snail-mail route, mail your notes as soon as you get home. Just be sure to double check those business cards. It is vital you get everyone’s name and title right. Speed is important, but so is accuracy. What good will it do if all of your cards go to the wrong address or you’ve misspelled everyone’s names?

Next: Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

3. Putting all of your eggs in one (virtual) basket

Man at computer

Don’t limit your job search to online job boards. | iStock.com

There’s more than one way to look for a job. Whatever you do, don’t limit your job search to online job boards. The chances are pretty high that your resume will end up in a junk mail folder, go to the wrong person, or never get sent at all due to some technical glitch (which is why follow-up is so important). Also, make sure to tap your network and speak to friends, family, and neighbors about your job hunt.

Next: Don’t rely on a newbie.

4. Asking a newbie to put in a good word

Happy man at work

Give your co-worker some time to settle in first. | iStock.com

When you hear your former co-worker just got a new gig at a great company, you’re likely tempted to ask for a job referral, so you can work there, too. Don’t. Give the person some time to settle in first. It’s rude to hit up your former co-worker for a job when he or she has barely had time to unpack. Unless you’re also close friends and the person said it’s OK to pass on your resume, it’s best to back off for a while. Your pushy behavior could be a turnoff.

Next: Clean up your online reputation.

5. Forgetting online profiles

man checking phone

Roughly 60% of employers check a candidate’s online profiles. | iStock.com/Prykhodov

Many hiring mangers take time to look through candidates’ social media accounts. So, if you had a heated Twitter debate with someone, you might want to delete that conversation. Roughly 60% of employers responding to a Career Builder poll said they use social networking sites to research job candidates. This is up from 52% the year before. If you think the content of your social media profiles doesn’t matter, think again. The Career Builder poll also found more than a quarter of employers discovered online content that caused them to reprimand or fire an employee.

Next: Be careful about the money. 

6. Asking for a ridiculously high starting salary

man being handed money for work

Base your salary request on market research. | iStock.com

Don’t just come up with a salary that sounds good, and ask for that amount. If you ask for a salary that is much higher than the usual for that position or for your experience and education level, you’ll appear arrogant, inexperienced, or both. Always conduct research before making a salary request. Chances are the hiring manager will ask how you came up with your request. Websites, such as Salary.com and Payscale.com, can help you with your research.

Next: Time is of the essence.

7. Taking too long to respond to a job offer

Young woman at cafe drinking coffee

Make sure not to wait too long to respond. | iStock.com/Astarot

If you’re interviewing for a couple of jobs simultaneously and receive a job offer, you might be put in a position where you have to wait to see whether the other employer responds, so you can compare job offers. It’s not easy to get a job offer these days, so when you get one that closely matches what you’re looking for, make sure not to wait too long to respond.

Alison Green, founder of career site Ask a Manager, said taking a long time to respond leaves a bad impression. Green said:

 Not responding to a job offer signals lack of interest or lack of responsiveness, both of which are bad things. You don’t need to call and accept it on the spot, but you do need to call them back and say something. It’s reasonable to ask for a few days to get back to them with an answer, but if you wait to even make contact to say that, they may assume you’re uninterested and move on to the next candidate on their list.

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