Bad Job Search Habits That Are Making You Fail

WorkCoachCafeBad job search habits may be making your job search tougher than it should be. Too often, we do our job hunting based on how we found a job the last time we looked, without considering whether or not those routines are still effective.

Habits are the routines we do without much thought, based on how we have done things in the past. These 5 job search habits are bad habits — habits that are sabotaging your job search.

For Success, Break These 5 Bad Job Search Habits

Today, recruiting technology has changed sufficiently that you need to adjust your job search habits to meet the needs of the current hiring process, regardless of what worked in past job searches.

1. Break the Bad Habit of Being “Generic”

This bad job search habit seems to be instinctive. Too often, job seekers slip into the habit of avoiding being clear about the job they want. Being specific about that next job feels like it will “limit options” and eliminate opportunities.

So, when asked what they are looking for (great opportunity!), they say, “Oh, something in marketing or banking, maybe in Boston or New York.” Ever seen a job posted for “something in marketing”? Would you apply for it if you found it? No! Too vague to be useful for anyone…

Today the use of technology by recruiters means that being vague actually eliminates opportunities.

Vague goals lack the keywords essential to be found in a search. Recruiters don’t search Google or LinkedIn for a “marketing professional” if they want someone for a social media marketing job. The search results would be useless. Instead, they search for someone with the social media skills (keywords) required for the job.

Read To Be Hired: Be Focused and Clear About the Job You Want for details.

2. Break the Bad Habit of Focusing on Jobs — Focus on Employers Instead

This bad job search habit seems to be instinctive, too — endlessly, uselessly chasing jobs on job boards.

U.S. Department of Labor data has shown, for years, that the vast majority of hiring is done by small to medium sized businesses rather than the large well-known names. And, most of those employers don’t post all of their job openings online.

The best way to reach those jobs is to focus on target employers.

Check with family and friends, former colleagues, and former classmates about where they work, where their family and friends work to find your target employers.

Research to collect information:

  • Which employers seem to be the best? Which are growing?
  • Where are the new jobs for those employers —  by location, department, and/or function?
  • How does each employer hire — employee referral program, on-site application, or jobs postings?
  • Research each employer — what do they do, do you know anyone who works there?
  • Which employers have referral program that will reward employees who refer people who are hired? How does it work? [Read How to Make Employee Referral Programs Work For You.]

If you can, stop by and check the place out. Does it look like a place you’d like to work?

Then, check with sites like Glassdoor.com to see if those employers are included and what the recent comments indicate (good or bad).

3. Break the Bad Job Board Apply-Apply-Apply Habit

This bad job search habit is very widespread. Many job seekers spend all their time cruising job boards, applying for every job they find. Applying for jobs on job boards feels very productive, but fewer than 12% of jobs are filled that way.

Breaking this bad habit fits with changing the focus to employers rather than jobs. Combined, these new strategies will be much more effective.

Focusing all your efforts on job boards, and applying for every job you can find that is remotely interesting to you doesn’t work. Clicking the “Apply” button over and over is a very destructive habit.

Apply too often to employers, particularly when you are not obviously qualified (keywords!) for the job you want, and you will be categorized as a “resume spammer.” Resume spammers are ignored — even if qualified for the job.

Spend 15% (or less) of your time checking job boards, and when you do use a job board, use it smartly. Demonstrate your intelligence, communications skills, and understanding of the recruiting process by applying only for jobs you are qualified for (on average, fewer than 50% of the applications received are actually from people qualified for the job they have applied for).

Read Before You Apply: Answer 4 Important Questions and 3 Assumptions You Shouldn’t Make About Job Postings for more information.

4. Break the Bad Habit of Ignoring LinkedIn

Ignoring, or having a static LinkedIn Profile with no active LinkedIn participation is a very bad job search habit.

If your LinkedIn Profile is just a copy of your resume, you are wasting a very big opportunity. Unless you are visiting LinkedIn every day and being active on it (Updates, comments, discussions), you are effectively ignoring it.

Particularly if you are unemployed, spend as much time (or more) on LinkedIn as you spend on all the job boards you usually visit every day, combined. If you aren’t visible on LinkedIn, recruiters usually assume that you are either out-of-date (and don’t understand how important LinkedIn is for your career) or that you have something to hide.

LinkedIn is important for many reasons including:

  • LinkedIn is recruiters’ preferred source for qualified job candidates.
    Most recruiters have discovered that searching for qualified job applicants on LinkedIn is more effective than combing through the avalanche of applications that result from job postings, most of whom are not qualified for the jobs they apply for.
  • LinkedIn offers “social proof” of “facts” on an applicant’s resume or application.
    Employers compare your job applications to your LinkedIn Profiles to be sure that your application is accurate — the LinkedIn Profile you make public for friends and family to see is assumed to reflect reality more often than your resume or job application.

LinkedIn offers countless opportunities to demonstrate your intelligence and the quality of your work. So, rather than searching for new job postings on your favorite job board when you begin your daily (or weekly) job search activities, try these options:

  • Use the keywords in your Profile’s Professional Headline, Summary, and Work Experience sections that are appropriate for the job you want next (or your current job, if employed).
  • Check out the current updates LinkedIn makes visible on your LinkedIn homepage. Just scan down the page to see what is happening with members of your LinkedIn network. Read, then like, share, and/or comment on discussions. Make a post on Pulse. Join and comment in Groups. Be visible.
  • Follow the Company Profile of companies (nonprofits and other organizations) that interest you.
  • Be sure you have made it easy for recruiters to contact you by including your non-work email address and phone number in your LinkedIn Profile.

Try to create 2 to 5 updates each day to keep you current and to keep your Profile/name “live” in the minds of your network. An update can be something as simple as clicking “Like” on a discussion or comment.

Read Why Isn’t LinkedIn Helping My Job Search for more details.

5. Break the Bad Habit of Using a Single Version of Your Resume

This bad job search habit is an old tradition that seems hard to escape. Many of us have a long history of polishing our resume to perfection, and then submitting that version of our resume for every job we want.

That strategy doesn’t work well today. In these days of resume databases, applicant tracking systems, and recruiter keyword searches, only one resume is no longer a useful approach.

Today, the best strategy is to have what resume expert and author Susan Ireland calls a “kitchen sink resume” — a multi-page version of your resume which contains all of your accomplishments and work experience (close to the content of your LinkedIn Profile). That resume is used as the foundation for short customized resumes submitted for each opportunity, paying close attention to the keywords included.

Read Why Submitting a Resume Isn’t Enough and What to Do Instead and also Resume Keyword Success Secrets and The 25 Best Keywords for You (on Job-Hunt.org) for more details.

More About Being Hired Today

To Be Hired: Be Found Where Recruiters Look

To Be Hired: Be Focused and Clear About the Job You Want

To Be Hired: Be Found — Your Best Keywords 

How to Make Employee Referral Programs Work For You

Before You Apply: Answer 4 Important Question

Why Submitting a Resume Isn’t Enough and What to Do Instead

Resume Keyword Success Secrets 

The 25 Best Keywords for You

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About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 2011, Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoachCafe.  A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org and is a columnist on HuffingtonPost and LinkedIn.  Follow Susan on Twitter (@jobhuntorg) and on Google+.

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