In today’s technology-centric workplace, there are more ways than ever to mess up when you’re trying to get hired. From incriminating tweets to questionable Facebook photos, the road to a new job is littered with minefields.
To help you avoid a costly faux pas, I’ve put together a list of the six missteps that’ll sabotage your job search:
1. Failing to proofread job-hunting materials. I know, you would never email a resumé with a typo or a cover letter with grammatical errors.
But guess what? We all make mistakes. Writing is a big part of my job and I make them all the time. In my case, the errors might embarrass me or even cost me readers. In your case, they could lose you a job.
(MORE: The Right (and Wrong) Ways to Use Job Boards)
According to a 2012 survey by the CareerBuilder job site, 61 percent of employers said they’d automatically dismiss from consideration a resumé with typos.
It’s not just poor typing that can wreak havoc: Improper word usage (using “it’s” instead of “its”) and faulty grammar are equally problematic. So, proofread at least three times everything you plan to send out.
Incidentally, when applying for a job, use a professional sounding email address. You won’t be taken seriously with an email address that begins with something like honeypie@. As Paul Bernard wrote in his Next Avenue article, “6 Fatal Mistakes Job Seekers Make,” an email address like firstname.lastname@example.org will do the trick.
2. Ignoring your online footprint. The first thing an employer will do after reviewing your resumé is look for you online. If you don’t show up there, the hiring manager will either conclude that you are a technological dinosaur (especially if you’re over 50) or have little to offer.
This also means that anything you write on a social media site, like LinkedIn or Facebook, or on a personal blog are potentially part of your prospective employer's screening process.
You can limit the damage of a weak online presence by being proactive.
Flesh out your LinkedIn profile. Establish yourself on the Google+ social network so you’ll come up more readily in Google searches. Post thoughtful comments on industry-related blogs and Twitter. Write reviews of work-related books on sites like Amazon.
These steps will not only help you create a strong professional digital footprint, they’ll keep any less-than-favorable information about you online buried deep in search results.
(MORE: 3 Ways LinkedIn Just Made It Easier to Find a Job)
Don’t forget to proof everything you write online. If you’ve made any typos or writing errors on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, clean them up.
3. Sounding wishy-washy about your job objective. When networking to find employment, you’ll probably be asked, “What type of job are you looking for?”
If you haven’t prepared a crisp, succinct and compelling answer to that question, you’re toast. The more confident and clear you are, the likelier others can and will help you.
It’s fine to say you have two goals, if you can concisely explain both of them. For example: “I’d like a VP-level position with a Fortune 500 consumer products firm in either the beverage or packaged foods sector.”
In my Next Avenue article, “The Perfect Elevator Pitch to Land Your Next Job,” I offer tips on crafting precise wording to sum up who you are and what you want to do.
4. Playing the pity game. Yes, it’s a tough economy. Yes, age discrimination is real (particularly for women). Yes, it’s increasingly difficult for the long-term unemployed to find jobs. But you know what? Interviewers and your networking contacts don’t want to hear it.
Blaming the economy for your unemployed job status or saying things like “It’s just so much tougher for people over 50 to get hired” will do little to inspire enthusiasm for your candidacy, no matter how talented you may be.
So if you’re feeling down, find a support group or a few trusted friends with whom you can vent.
Focus on the positive during interviews or networking conversations. Keep your emotions in check and try to convey an upbeat attitude.
(MORE: When Networking Isn’t Working for Your Job Search)
5. Not preparing a list of questions for your interview. While I was a human resources director, nothing spoiled a job interview faster than when I got to the end and asked, “What questions do you have?” only to get a blank stare.
On the flip side, applicants who came in with a list of well-researched questions made me smile. This preparation showed me they were enthusiastic and had done their homework.
So spend as much time compiling great questions for the interviewer as you do prepping for ones you’ll be asked. Begin by doing a search in Google News for articles about the employer and its field. Sites like Vault.com and Glassdoor.com can give you a peek into a big firm’s corporate culture.
In your initial meeting, keep your queries focused on the work. Save questions about compensation, flexible schedules and other benefits for later interviews.
6. Forgetting to say “thank you” when networking. Sadly, I’ve found this to be a common error made by job searchers who’ve received advice or referrals from their contacts.
Not only is failing to express your appreciation bad manners, it’s just plain dumb. The people who’ve assisted you probably won’t say anything, but they won’t forget about your lack of grace.
Don’t be a networking nitwit. Make it a point to thank everyone who takes the time to speak with you or offers an introduction on your behalf. It will be appreciated more than you realize.
And if you’re fortunate enough to actually land a job partly due to their helping hand? Well, then, saying thanks is the least you can do. It's a good idea to also take your job search Samaritan out to lunch or buy him or her a small gift.