Job seekers unwittingly make mistakes. You may not know you are making these five job search mistakes and it is my job to call them out and explain why they are so damaging to your job search.
While you are probably familiar with the little and easily-fixable reasons job seekers mess up (being rude, dressing unprofessionally, not tweaking resumes); these are the bigger and more important things to watch out for.
5 Job Search Mistakes That Are Sabotaging Your Job Search
1. Ignoring Directions
Employers provide directions on how to apply in their job descriptions, and often request information they would like you to submit. For example, when they ask for salary history, don’t ignore this request. However, you don’t have to divulge a number that would suggest you’re too expensive or under market value. Address their request for salary history in your cover letter. Either include the number, or provide a good reason why you will not be providing this information at this time, followed by a statement that you would be happy to discuss your past salary during the interview.
Employers also provide directions when they are arranging interviews and sending you follow-up messages. When you overlook or ignore their directions you are telling a potential employer that this is how you will perform on the job. You are presenting yourself as someone who feels the rules do not apply to them. Or, at the very least, you look like you don’t pay attention to detail. Either way, you’re sending the wrong message.
2. Bad-Mouthing Your Situation, Boss or Employer
Everyone knows it has been a tough few years for finding jobs and that many employees have been downsized due to no fault of their own. But these aren’t excuses you want to use. Whether you’re meeting with a former colleague, hiring manager, recruiter, or anyone else with the power to refer or hire you, you must be aware that they are evaluating you and always present yourself as someone who will tackle difficult problems. When asked why you left your last job, never blame others. Take ownership of what you can and state what you’ve done to remedy the situation in a concise, non-defensive answer.
Your response to what you have been doing during your job search also indicates how motivated you are. Your answer should reference any volunteer work you’ve done or classes you’ve taken. Anything is better than nothing. When you complain about any of these things, you don’t come across as a problem-solver, you look like a complainer—no one likes someone who complains.
3. Showing Up Unprepared
When you show up at an interview, be sure you have enough copies of your resume, that you have researched the company, and that you have prepared questions to ask. When asked why you want to work for that employer, your answer must include why you feel they would be a good company to work for and how you can help them. Interviewers are assessing this answer to see how “hungry” you are for the job. Their belief is that the candidates who really want the position have taken time to research the job and the company and know how they will fit in. And always have questions to ask. Nothing says “not interested” more than not asking questions.
4. Only Searching for Jobs Posted Online
Many times, employers have already identified a candidate they want to hire by the time they have posted the job. When you only use job postings to find jobs, you may miss out on unadvertised opportunities, enter the competition too late, and then find yourself competing with hundreds of other qualified candidates. For better job search results, work with recruiters and talk to people who work inside companies who could hire you potentially. Savvy job seekers create a list of potential employers and begin looking for people they know inside these companies so they can learn about upcoming, unadvertised openings.
5. Ignoring the Power of Social Media
You won’t use Facebook for job search. Or you think Twitter is a waste of time. Or you’re waiting for a company to hire you because you have a profile on LinkedIn. These choices portray a resistance to learning and trying new things. In case you forgot, when you start a new job, learning new things is a major component of your new role. Social recruiting is on the rise and more employers are turning to LinkedIn for faster and higher quality hires. Take time to learn how to use social media to identify company insiders, read news about target companies, and participate in discussions to keep you up to date on industry trends. It demonstrates you are committed to lifelong learning, not afraid of challenges and technology, and that you will be a valuable contributor.
Originally appeared on US News & World Report’s On Careers blog! 5 Ways You’re Ruining Your Job Search