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4 Ways You May Be Sabotaging Your Job Search

4 Ways You May Be Sabotaging Your Job Search

Have you ever been told to get out of your own way? In our personal and professional lives, we often make things more difficult for ourselves; taking troublesome routes around obstacles, making obvious-to-others-but-not-ourselves missteps, and tripping over our own mistakes.

A fantastic example of this self-sabotage can be seen in almost every job seeker’s approach to the job search. Here are four ways that real job seekers tripped over their their own job applications, with tips on how you can avoid these pitfalls and pave a smoother, more productive job search path for yourself.

1 Using impossible language.

Using claims like “I am a perfect fit…” or “My qualifications are unique…” is setting yourself up to be proven wrong quickly< and easily.

When concluding his cover letter, a recent job candidate wrote, “I have attached my resume and I am certain that, after you review it, you will agree that we should discuss a potential partnership.”

To a recruiter or hiring team, this is often seen as a challenge, because certainty is not something found in spades in the hiring process. Even the best candidates—the ones who eventually get the job—can’t be certain that their applications will pass muster. As you might have guessed, the hiring team, after reviewing this resume, was not at all certain about discussing things further.

How to fix it: Don’t use language that doesn’t leave room for any other result, because the odds say you’ll be wrong more than right. Some better ways to phrase this would have been, “I feel confident that…” or “…after you review it, I would welcome the chance to discuss a potential partnership.” Confidence is refreshing, but certainty is just cocky.

2 Applying to jobs you’re clearly not qualified for.

It’s one thing to have most but not all of the requirements listed in a job description—most employers are willing to overlook some minor deficiencies in a job applicant as long as the major qualifications are in order—but sometimes job seekers can’t help but get in their own way.

A comment in a cover letter for a blogging and social media job read as follows: “Please note that I am not currently on LinkedIn, Google Plus, etc.”

Since this person was applying to work for a virtual company whose entire presence is based on its website and social media platforms, this one line sent the entire application down the drain.

How to fix it: If you’re a job seeker who is lacking a very important qualification that can be easily remedied within minutes and for free, then remedy it! Creating LinkedIn and other social media accounts would have taken this person a matter of minutes, and placed them back in the running for the job.

3 Offering skills no-one has asked for.

Unless you have a pretty good idea that a company can use a skill, telling them you’re fluent in Russian isn’t going to add to your application.

A job seeker who applied for a career advice writing position spent a good deal of their application explaining their long background in journalism. “I’ve reported and written on a variety of subjects, including education, consumer health care, social issues, women’s issues, politics, business, the military, animal welfare, government and much, much more.”

Sounds great! The only problem was that this job required previous HR or career advice writing experience, neither of which were included in this applicant’s laundry list of topics.

How to fix it: If the “much, much more” portion of this applicant’s writing experience involved either of the required subjects, they should have started out with that fact. Don’t clutter up your application with skills that an employer neither asked for, nor needs.

4 Ignoring or glossing over your lack of requirements.

If you have gaps in your employment history or you’re missing a requirement, don’t pretend employers won’t notice if you gloss over those areas. Instead, address them directly, or reconsider whether you are the right candidate for the job.

A company whose services are typically geared towards mid-level career professionals was recently hiring for a role that would work directly with customers to offer them practical advice. One applicant who had yet to graduate from college felt that he was a “strong candidate”, even though he lacked the required years of experience as stated in the job description.

How to fix it: Hiring managers can tell almost immediately if someone is trying to gloss over a lack of experience or qualifications. Rather than hope no one will notice, address any perceived deficits directly in your cover letter and explain how you can fill them. If you truly are qualified for the job, this should be easy to do. And if you’re not qualified, why are you applying?

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Brie Weiler Reynolds

Senior Career Specialist at FlexJobs

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

More Tips to Improve Your Interview Skills

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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