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?