7 Biggest Jobhunting Mistakes of the Digital Age

Job sites, online resumes and email are valuable tools and resources for savvy job seekers. For the inexperienced or the clueless, they are black holes that suck up countless hours in digital wheelspinning. Let’s face it — to some, the PC and the internet can become avoidance tools that keep you from the hard work of deciding exactly what kind of job you want and narrowing them down to the ones for which you’re qualified, then pounding the pavement to get your best self in front of as many prospective employers as possible.

After speaking with many HR professionals, employers and experienced jobseekers, I’ve isolated the seven most common mistakes that can stall a job search in the digital age.

1. Relying on job listings for openings

For large employers, most job openings are known to management several weeks or longer before they make their way onto job listings sites. Waiting for openings to be advertised usually means having your resume join a cascade of hundreds or thousands, with little chance of getting the kind of personal attention needed to get a meaningful interview. There’s nothing wrong per se with using job listings, but you should be aware that it’s the most passive way to look for a job.

To improve your odds, be proactive in targetting prospective employers. Start by doing research not just to learn who your prospective employers are, but where they are in the business cycle. Are they expanding? Are they laying off workers following a merger or to cope with a downturn in revenues? What locations and departments are most likely to be adding the kind of job you want?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you be among the first — not the last — to get your qualifications in front of the people who can offer you the kind of job you want.

2. Sending mass mailings

The HR departments of even major employers look for signs of sincere interest in the applicants with whom they schedule interviews. Mass mailings show that an applicant is more interested in playing the numbers game than in looking for the most compatible positions and employers. These applicants will receive less consideration than applicants who send personalized cover letters and customized resumes. And the interviews they get will be less meaningful.

Break out of mass-mailing hell by making some calls to learn the name of the person who heads up the department you would like to work for, or at least the person who will be screening the resumes. That’s the person to whom your cover letter should be addressed. In that letter, mention one or two reasons for your special interest in that employer. These may be things like specialties, reputation, location or a connection with current employees or products. By showing right up front that you see each employer as human beings, you are more likely to be seen as one too.

3. Relying too much on email

Email is a wonderful convenience. In the time it takes to track down a name and a phone number and get through for a real conversation, you can send dozens of emails, maybe even hundreds if you’re clever. Emails offer the heady sense of easy access and instant communication. Unfortunately, all too often it’s merely the illusion of communication. Thanks to filters and assistants, the likelihood of an email actually being read by the addressee is inversely proportional to the ease with which you were able to send it.

Ironically, the well composed letter and the business phone conversation are more effective than ever in the digital age because they are becoming rarer as more people succumb to the ease of email. Don’t get me wrong; emails have their place. They’re great for keeping in touch with people with whom you already have working relationships or for confirming discussions held by phone. But relying on email in your job search is giving in to wishful thinking. Next

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