You often know when you’ve just made a big mistake in your job application. You forget to attach your resume. You send the wrong version. You address your cover letter to Mr. Chris Allen—then realize there’s a strong chance Chris is a woman. But other times you have no idea you’re making a mistake.
You may even think you’re doing everything right! In fact, there are a few common job search techniques that candidates employ over and over because they think they work well. In reality, though, these very same strategies might be standing in the way of you and that big interview.
To make sure you have the very best chances of inching closer to your dream job, here are four common blunders—and much more effective techniques to try instead.
1. Applying to as Many Jobs as You Can Possibly Find
People often think that the job search is a numbers game. The more resumes you send out, the more likely it’ll be that someone will call you back, right?
Similarly, candidates sometimes believe that applying to multiple positions at the same company ups their chances of getting called back for one of them. In reality, though this sends one of three messages: That you’re not sure what you want, that you’re desperate and you’ll take anything, or that you don’t have a solid grasp on what each job entails. In any case, not a good thing.
The Fix: Think Quality, Not Quantity
Instead of applying to every semi-relevant job within a 60-mile radius, start your search by compiling a short list of dream companies and learning everything you can about them. When they have openings that fit your skill set, take the time to carefully craft your application—adjusting your resume bullets to show exactly how your experience aligns, writing a custom cover letter, and asking your new contacts if they have advice for standing out.
Yes, this approach takes more time and energy than submitting your same ol’ resume at over and over, but your chances of scoring an interview will be much, much higher.
2. Applying ASAP
Okay, so you’ve narrowed down your list of companies, and one of themjust posted a role that’s exactly in line with your skill set. Awesome! So you crank out everything as fast as possible and hit “send”—wanting to be the first application the hiring manager sees. Not only will you show just how excited you are about the job, but maybe the team will love your application so much they won’t need to interview anyone else.
News flash: This rarely does you any favors.
The Fix: Give it a Day or So
Nine times out of 10, I have to toss the applications I receive within the first hour of posting a position because they’re incomplete. When you’re focused on speed over everything else, it’s easy to miss the details—getting names right, including additional materials, and so on. It’s better to give yourself a day or two to write, rewrite, and edit your materials, make sure you’ve included everything necessary, and have someone else look them over. (And, again, total bonus if you get advice from a current employee.) A stellar application will be better than a not-quite-there-but-prompt one, every time.
3. Sending Your Resume to People Unsolicited
Let’s go back to those people who work at your dream companies for a second. Meeting them and getting on their radar: Good. Asking for their advice on working there: Also good. Sending them your resume unsolicited with a note that says, “Here’s my resume—let me know if you know of anything I’d be a fit for!” Surprisingly, not always the best.
Sure, in some cases, you might get lucky, but typically only in the off chance that the company is hiring for a role that meets your exact qualifications. But this move can also be construed as you asking your nice new contact (who’s already been helpful in talking to you about the company) to do the hard work for you—reviewing your resume, checking to see if any open positions are a fit, and forwarding along your information.
The Fix: Apply Normally, Then Let Your Contact Know
Yes, you can (and should) ask your contact for advice before you apply. And if, in the process, he or she offers to pass your resume or a recommendation along, that’s great. But never make this assumption. Take those tips you’ve learned and then do the hard work, just like any other candidate would do. Look at a company’s jobs page, find your dream role, then submit an application with all the required pieces.
4. Sending a Great Application for a Job You’re Not Qualified For (Fingers Crossed)
Don’t get me wrong: I think everyone should apply to roles that are just a little bit of a stretch. It’s good to have reach goals—plus, you might be more qualified than you think, and with preparation and a little bit of luck, you could land an interview.
But there’s a difference between applying for a slightly-out-of-reach job and one that you’ll never get. For example: an executive-level job when you’ve got three years of experience; heading up a department team of 10 when you’ve never managed anyone; applying for a product management role because you think it sounds cool, and hey—you’ll figure it out. I’ve seen people in all of these situations think that they can make up for a lack of experience with passion and an awesome application, but the majority of the time, hiring managers think otherwise.
The Fix: Focus on the Right Reach Jobs
Again, your time is much better spent applying to roles that line up nicely with your current skills and level of experience. Spend most of your efforts on roles for which you meet a good majority of the requirements, sprinkling in a few “reach” jobs here and there.
Finally, consider career expert Kari Reston’s approach: “Instead of directly applying for the role that’s posted, send a speculative application to the company. Acknowledge that the position that caught your eye is geared toward someone more senior, but explain your interest and say that you’d be interested in joining the team in another capacity.”
I know—these job search techniques are done with the best of intentions! But make sure you put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager. But applying to too many jobs too quickly, shooting too high, or expecting others to do too much won’t have the results you’re looking for. Try these simple shifts, and you’ll be much more likely to get in the door for that interview.
Getting a job—whether it’s your first or your tenth—isn’t easy, even if you have all the right skills and experience. Luckily there are a few tools that, once you have them and use them, can boost your chances of landing not just any job, but one you’ll enjoy.
Similarly, if you want a jumpstart without typing in a ton of information, consider LinkedIn’s resume builder (update: looks like it’s dead.) It works really well, and if for some reason it doesn’t, Creddleis another service that will build a resume for you based on your LinkedIn profile—which should, we hope, be indicative of your experience and skills.
8. Company Review Sites (like Glassdoor)
Before you go blindly hunting for job titles you’d like to have, or even companies you’d like to work at, make sure to check out what current employees are saying about them over at Glassdoor. The site is invaluable for job searchers eager to get the inside scoop on what it’s like to work at a company, in a specific role, and how much you can expect to make if you get an offer. Even if you’re familiar with it in general, it’s worth looking at.
When you do apply for a new job, or you email back and forth with a hiring manager, recruiter, or HR professional, your next step is to make sure you keep the conversation going and keep talking—even if you’re not terribly sure you’re going to get the job, you never know when someone will be useful in your professional network. Pick up a contacts app that will help you remember to follow up—or encourage you to reach out to your contacts—on a regular basis.
The value of keeping a work diary goes well beyond just getting a new job, but once you’re on the hunt for one, you’ll be glad you have one. A work diary can help you keep track of your successes (and avoid your past mistakes,) keep you motivated, and also help you identify your biggest achievements so you can use them to argue for a raise—or in this context, flesh out your resume with glowing achievements and clearly explain to a hiring manager why you’re the right person for the job. Trust us, start yours today.
3. A Job Explorer or Career Finder
Don’t get stuck in thinking that because you’re always done a specific job that you always have to do a specific job, or that it’s all your qualified for. Job explorers like the oneat Glassdoor or previously mentionedMySkills My Future can help you find jobs you may have never thought would be right for you, but do make use of the skills and experience you have in the jobs you’ve worked.
Probably the best and most effective tool you can have in your arsenal to land a new or better job is a strong professional network, full of people who know your skills and capabilities, and can open doors or vouch for you. If you don’t have one, it’s time to get started building one. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be a gross, self-promoting process to build one. After all, a professional network is just a group of working adults willing to help each other out with work-related stuff when they can. Keep that in mind, anddon’t forget to network down, too.
Parenting + working at the same time is damn hard, which is why some people take time off to raise their kids.
But many of those looking to return to their careers after several years have an incredibly tough time, because of competition from millennials and others who *don’t* have gaps on their resumes.
“That really hurt,” Gefsky told BuzzFeed. “I would leave by 7:15 a.m. and wouldn’t get home until 7 p.m. From my kid’s point of view, they never saw me, and from my employer’s, that was the bare minimum.”“It was a difficult decision for me to ‘retire,’” the mom of three explained. “[But] I was so exhausted at the time, and was so happy to exhale.”
When Gefsky was ready to return to the workforce after eight years, she had a hard time getting back in, despite her credentials and experience.
“I didn’t know where to begin,” she said, “and that’s when I realized there were a lot of women like me.”
So Gefsky and co-founder Niccole Kroll started Après, a LinkedIn-type platform built specifically to help women with gaps in their resume.
Jennifer and Kroll, who was a researcher at NYU before also putting her career on pause, officially launched the site on May 4.
According to one study published by the Harvard Business Review, 37% of highly-qualified women leave their jobs for extended periods and, of those women, only 40% find full-time jobs again.
Just 23% find part-time work, 7% are self-employed, and 30% don’t return to the workforce at all.
Based on graduation rates, the of women that opt out, and the of those women that opt back in, Jennifer estimates that there could be over 3 million women with college or advanced degrees trying to find jobs.
The ultimate goal of Après is to remind employers of the value of women who are overlooked because of their resume gaps.
“We want to educate companies on the value of this demographic,” Gefsky said.
After hundreds of interviews, the cofounders have evidence that not only are these women energized about working again, they’re also more loyal than other demographics because they’re not looking to change roles every couple of years.
Gefsky also thinks that corporations can benefit in another way: “You’re sending a message to the female millennials in your workforce, that you believe in family values and gender diversity. [These experienced women] can also be role models, mentors, and show younger women that there’s a path for them.”
General membership, which includes joining the community and viewing job opportunities, is free. While hiring a coach for private consultations (coming soon to the site) and premium membership (making your profile searchable by a prospective company), is not.
Premium membership is $250 per year or $21 per month. Coaching services are TBD.
Most importantly, they’ll have access to job listings at companies that are aligned with the website’s mission.
The website isn’t perfect. You can’t filter the positions by location, job type, or experience requirement, but an Après rep said more advanced search features will be available soon.
And what about dads? Après is targeted to women, but all are welcome to join – and some men have already signed up.
Après isn’t for everyone – and there are plenty of other female-minded sites that can help you get to the next stage in your career.
Levo League is aimed at supporting millennials in the workplace.