As an HR professional I see it day in and day out. Educated, qualified people, myself included, who get passed over for positions because of simple, yet avoidable mistakes. With the job market crashing and burning around us, it is really an employer’s market and even the smallest mistake can cost you the job of your dreams. Here’s a list of obvious mistakes that many job seekers are still making and how to avoid them.
Just Like Me
You wouldn’t believe how many people of color come into my office, see my face, and feel it’s okay to drop their interview persona in favor of a ‘round the way’ mentality. I can’t even count on one hand how many applicants have sat across from me and thought my brown skin was an invitation to say ‘nigga’ after every other word. They thought our ‘bond’ made it okay to show up late, have inappropriate conversations and entitled them to a ‘hook up.’ The fact that I was going to be the one looking over their paperwork and/or interviewing them didn’t seem to matter simple because in their mind I was ‘just like them.’ Not all of these people were uneducated hood folk, some of them were clean cut, otherwise well spoken, qualified, multiple degree holding candidates….that didn’t get the job, and in some cases didn’t even make it through the door.
Regardless of perceived similarities it is important to remember to be professional at all times during the interview process and even after. Although the interviewer, receptionist, employee, etc are ‘just like you,’ these people are not your friends. They are your supervisors, coworkers and most definitely your competition. Be cordial, be respectful and engage in small talk, but don’t ever get it twisted and above all maintain your professionalism.
Contrary to popular belief, degrees and skills picked up at various jobs aren’t the only ways to land that plum job you’re looking for. It’s often very difficult to make it in any field without the support and guidance of someone who is or has been where you are trying to go. Having a mentor in your life is a priceless asset. Not only can they teach you for free what you would have to pay to learn in a classroom, but because they’ve guided you, taught you all you know and are seasoned professionals in the game with serious connections, they are the best job board and business reference you will ever find. Don’t have a mentor? No problem, it’s never too late to seek one out. Just make sure your mentor is a seasoned and respected professional in your chosen field that will truly take the time to help nurture your talents and lead you towards your goals and dreams.
For the most part during the day I’m busy…very busy. When there are openings for positions at my company there can be hundreds of applicants for just one job. With all the other things on my plate, the last thing I want to do is read long, drawn out cover letters that usually end without telling me why you should get an interview. I don’t want to read a novel and I don’t care about the hundreds of jobs you had that have nothing to do with what I’m hiring for. Cover letters are like first impressions, and more often than not, your cover letter has one minute to make a good one on the HR professional or hiring manager who is reading it before ending up in the trash. Your cover letter should be no more than 2-3 concise paragraphs that highlight work experience pertaining to the exact position. It should be catchy and use language familiar to the organization as it shows that you have done some research. Try not to smother the reader with too much info, get straight to the point and you’re guaranteed to go straight to the top of the pile.
Thank You, Thank You, You’re Far Too Kind
It should be an obvious do, but for many it is an obvious oversight that ends up being a fatal mistake. The two little words known as ‘thank you,’ can get you far in this world, yet so many overlook its importance. Remembering to send a potential employer a handwritten thank you note can set you apart from others in the running. Why handwritten you ask? Well, because I guarantee you that the employer has hundreds of emails waiting for them in their inbox and an email from an address or name that they probably don’t remember is sure to end up in the trash folder. Also, because most organizations have serious spam filters on their mailboxes it’s very likely that your e-card won’t even get opened.
Before sending, make sure your thank you card looks professional and doesn’t have too many bright or distracting colors. Be sure to clearly state the reason for the card, thank them for considering you for the position, let them know you look forward to hearing from him/her in the near future, and of course, proofread, proofread, proofread! Finally, make sure the employer receives your card a day or two after the interview so you’re sure to stay fresh in their minds.
By putting your best foot forward and avoiding these simple, yet still common job hunting mistakes, you will be well on your way to landing that dream job and taking the world by storm!