The No. 1 question I get from professionals is: “Why am I not getting hired?” Whether you are changing job titles, looking to move on from your current company, or trying to make an industry transition, there are a few fundamental tips to landing the job—but you may be going about them all wrong. Here are some common mistakes:
1. You Have No Job Strategy
Being unclear about your strategy, blindly applying for jobs with no clear plan, as well as not targeting your search sets you on a course for job search failure.
Make a list of 10-20 companies that you specifically want to target as top employers. Then, strategically research events their representatives may attend and attend them yourself to connect with recruiters. You should also create career profiles on sites like LinkedIn that trigger alerts when jobs come become available.
2. You’re Applying All Wrong
The application process can sometimes feel like your applications are being sucked into a black hole or like you are shooting at a moving target. If you want to outsmart the online job tracking systems you should know a few things.
First, redesign your résumé for keyword search. Online recruiting systems are built to make it easier for recruiters to source job requisitions; not for you to display all of your competencies and accolades in calligraphy font.
Next, make sure your résumé isn’t verbose—think more elevator pitch than dissertation. If a recruiter can’t summarize your awesomeness in 140 characters or understand your greatness after a 30-second glance, it’s too wordy. Keep it simple: Get rid of graphics and special characters; choose a web-friendly font, pepper your skills section with popular keywords from the actual job description, and avoid spelling errors to bypass the automated talent system.
Lastly, make sure your résumé isn’t lengthy. Keep it between 1-2 pages and have up to three different versions. Résumés are generally lengthy because you try to squeeze everything in rather than creating multiple versions to suit your jobs of interest. Using the same résumé and cover letter for every job you apply for is a mistake.
3. You Aren’t Using Your Social Capital and Network Properly
The old adage, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” still rings true, especially in a job search. Failing to attend professional events, reach out to your network, or connect with your network face-to-face can cost you a great job referral. While applying for a role is a great first step, knowing or meeting someone who can hand-deliver your résumé with a recommendation to the hiring manager or recruiter is the ultimate goal.
The most important thing of note about networking is that you can’t wait until you need your network to nurture the relationships. You should always be growing and cultivating your network at every stage of your career.
4. Your Social Profile is Scaring Recruiters Away
Maybe you have no social footprint or you are over sharing, but chances are recruiters aren’t contacting you because they don’t like what they see or what they can’t see at all. Remember, you control your social narrative on the web.
For example, you don’t have a great professional picture so you use a car selfie, a cropped prom photo, a picture of you featuring your dog, child, or younger sibling. If this is you, abort mission. I repeat, abort mission.
When in doubt, go pro—professional photographer that is. Hire a professional photographer to snap quality shots of you. You can even hire someone who will complete your LinkedIn profile for you, if you are unwilling. You will get more LinkedIn contacts if your photo stands out and is instantly recognizable. In fact, researchers at PhotoFeeler, a site that enables you to receive feedback on your LinkedIn photos from real people, recently analyzed 60,000 ratings of perceived competence, likeability, and influence across 800 profile photos to identify the winning element and determined that great pictures increase the likeliness of clicks.
And according to Inc, LinkedIn profiles with headshots get 14 times more profile views than those without profile photos. It’s not only advantageous to clean up your LinkedIn profile photo, but also to scrub anything that’s not consistent with the personal brand you want to convey.
5. You never follow up
Waiting to hear back from a potential employer is like watching paint dry, which is why you have to take the lead.
Many job seekers fail to realize how much power they actually have in their hand. If you haven’t received a call at all yet, locate a recruiter online and send an email with a brief introduction, letting them know you applied for a role and are looking to schedule a time to discuss the role.
When you do land an interview make sure you ask very specific questions such as: “When can I expect to hear back regarding next steps?” When do you anticipate this role being filled and what is the start date?” And, always follow up with a thank you letter.