30 Common Job Search Mistakes You Need to Avoid

Jobseeker hitting head after making job search mistakes

In such a highly competitive job market, even the savviest jobseekers are bound to make mistakes. Though some mistakes are easily forgiven, others can end up costing you the job of your dreams.

To help you avoid potential pitfalls and make sure you impress (rather than annoy) your dream employer, we’ve rounded up the top blunders that grate on the nerves of every hiring manager.

Keep reading to find out what could be holding you back from securing a job!


1. Including irrelevant work experience

If your résumé spills over two pages and contains details of irrelevant work experience, like dog walking while at high school when you’re applying for an IT position, for example, it’s probably best to write a short sentence or leave it off completely. Hiring managers just want to know the highlights and what relevant skills you have for the job.

2. Having a wordy personal profile

If you’re changing careers, applying for an entry level position or targeting a specific role, then a short and concise personal profile is essential. A longer and more wordy one, on the other hand, will just eat up space on your résumé.

3. Including typos

Ah, typos! The bane of every hiring manager’s existence! And yet such a common mistake for many jobseekers. But with a staggering 58% of résumé containing typos, it’s important that we mention this again: check and double-check your résumé for any grammar and spelling mistakes!

4. Lying

Although you might want to make your résumé look really impressive, under no circumstance should you ever resort to lying about your skills and experience. Saying that you’re highly experienced in Adobe Photoshop when you’re really not, for example, can only backfire on you. Chances are you’ll get asked about it in the interview and will get quickly caught out.

5. Not tailoring your résumé to the job

Many jobseekers make the fatal error of sending out the same exact résumé to every position they apply for – and this does nothing but show your unsuitability for the job. It’s important to tailor your résumé to each and every job, and you can do this by simply reading through the job description and incorporating important keywords into your résumé.

6. Including random hobbies

You might be a Scrabble champ or a dedicated raver, but these hobbies are probably irrelevant to the job you’re applying for and won’t help you look any good. Remember: the hobbies you choose to include need to be transferable to the workplace. (If you’re in a bit of a pickle, this list of hobbies might be helpful.)

7. Using slang

I know it’s 2018 and using slang is ‘cool’, but I’m sure the hiring manager won’t appreciate a bunch of words and phrases they probably don’t understand. To keep your résumé ‘on fleek’, make sure you only use professional and appropriate language that can’t be misinterpreted.

8. Not updating your contact information

Your personal information section is probably the most important part of your résumé. After all, you don’t want to lose out on an interview invitation just because you missed the last digit of your telephone number or forgot to update your new email address.

9. Including bad formatting

Hiring managers will bin any résumés that are difficult to read, have sections in different fonts and include other careless formatting mistakes. Make sure you include ample white space, use bullet points to highlight your experience and divide your résumé's sections clearly.

10. Using outdated references

If your list of references includes people from five years ago, it might be time to update it. After all, if a hiring manager contacts someone for a reference and they don’t even remember who you are, it will effectively ruin your chances of actually bagging the job. It’s important to maintain your relationship with referees – you just never know when you might need their help!

Job applications

11. Not tailoring your cover letter

Are you guilty of using the same cover letter for every position, simply replacing the company name and job title each time? If so, you’re probably damaging your chances of actually getting a job. You need to make sure you tailor your cover letter to each role and only include experience that’s relevant and recent. Career consultant Rick Gillis says: ‘If you're blindly sending [résumés], you'll never get a response, and [you'll have] expended valuable energy that would be better used on networking or other activities’.

12. Not attaching a cover letter

The only thing worse than not tailoring your cover letter to the job you’re applying for is to not send one at all. The only thing that you will accomplish by attaching your résumé to a blank email is getting it thrown out.

13. Using an unprofessional email address

Your [email protected] email address might have been ‘cute’ in the 2000s but it won’t make anyone take you seriously in today’s overcrowded job market. Remember: your email address should be professional with a simple name-based account ([email protected]).

14. Not providing work samples

If you’re applying for a job that would usually require samples – like a design or writing role, for example – be sure to include only your finest pieces of work.

15. Not being proactive

Signing up to a bunch of recruitment agencies is a great way to increase your chances of bagging that dream job. However, that doesn’t mean you should sit back and wait to be called in for an interview! Agents and head-hunters are there to help you – not complete the whole job search for you. In other words, staying proactive is the only way you can achieve a successful outcome.

16. Addressing the wrong company

It’s easy to make silly errors when you’re in a hurry but they sometimes can ruin your chances of job search success, especially when you mention how excited you are about the possibility of working at Coca-Cola when you’re actually applying for a job at Pepsi! Make sure you triple-check your email and consider saving all your files in a way that will help you remember which each cover letter is for.

17. Revealing salary expectations too soon

You might have an ideal salary in mind, but you should never – ever – share this with a hiring manager, unless directly asked about it. This is especially true if you've even had the chance to meet them in person! Asking about what they’re offering so early on in the hiring process will only make employers think you’re only interested in the money and not the company or what prospects the job offers.

18. Sharing too much information

Hiring managers won’t care about why you chose to study your specific degree or the fine details of your course. What they do care about is the relevant skills you have for the position, so keep your explanations short and make sure your application only includes your highlights. You can discuss the rest in detail during the actual interview!

19. Not having an online presence

Before starting the jobhunting process, you need to make sure you have an online presence that makes you employable. In other words, be sure to remove any posts that might be considered unprofessional, like that picture of you on spring break chugging down a barrel of beer!

20. Forgetting to network

It’s easy to fall into the trap of simply sending application after application when you’re looking for a job and failing to connect with people who may be able to help you along the process. Reach out to your contacts and let them know you’re looking for a new position; they just might be able to guide you in the right direction.


21. Not doing your research

It’s essential to always research the company and the role before you get to the interview stage. For example, you may discover during the interview that you’d be working for a B2B company, and you’re just not into that. If you had done your research in the first place, this little detail would have mostly come up, and you’d have been able to avoid not only your time but also the employer’s. Whatever you do, don’t show up for the interview without a clue about what the company actually does!

22. Not being ready to talk money

Money is a highly sensitive topic, and it can throw off even the best prepared applicant in an interview. However, it’s becoming quite common, so it’s important you’re prepared for such questions and that you’re confident to say what you’re looking for. It’s a good idea to some research beforehand and find out what the normal rate is based on your experience – sites like Salary.com and PayScale can be incredibly helpful!

23. Not making a good first impression

First impressions are everything in your job search – if your résumé doesn’t impress, you won’t even get a chance to interview. And if you don’t come across well in the first 60 seconds of your meeting, you might as well go home!

24. Turning up late

There’s really no excuse for turning up late to an interview – even if you were involved in a car accident, it’ll be really difficult to recover from that, unfortunately. In order to avoid any issues, leave your house with more than enough time to spare. And if you’re super early, find somewhere close to the interview destination to wait and gather your thoughts before entering the building.

25. Talking too much

It’s good to come across as bubbly and talkative in the interview, but if you’re talking a lot about nothing, you’re likely to p*ss the hiring manager off, resulting in a big red mark next to your name. It’s important to keep your answers short and sweet, and to make sure that you’re giving clear and concrete examples.

26. Not asking any questions

If you’ve been to at least one interview, you’ll know that you should have at least a couple of questions of your own to ask the hiring manager. If you’re really interested in the position, they shouldn’t be generic but rather questions that relate directly to the company and the position.

27. Lacking confidence

It can be a little hard to show confidence in a job interview when you know you’re being judged for just about everything. But hang in there – remember: you got far because the hiring manager saw something in you that they liked. So try to remain positive and put on a strong front for the next 30 minutes!

28. Not linking your skills to the job

Most, if not all, job ads list the skills that are needed in order to be a viable candidate. This means that you’ll need to find ways to show the hiring manager how your skills match the position. For example, if you’re applying for a sales position, you can explain how you managed to exceed targets in your previous job by providing an exact percentage.

29. Dressing inappropriately

It’s important to research the company’s dress code and spend time on your appearance before an interview. Underdressing, after all, can be just as bad as overdressing for an interview, so make sure you spend some time perfecting your look before the big day.

30. Forgetting to follow up

Many jobseekers think their work is done once the interview is over, failing to follow up. However, this small gesture can set you apart from the competition, so be sure to send a quick ’thank you’ note, reiterating any points that can help influence the hiring manager’s decision.

It’s incredibly easy to make some of these common job search mistakes, but by learning how to steer clear of them, your hunt for the perfect job will be much more productive and successful!

Are you guilty of making any of these mistakes? Join in on the conversation below and let us know!