6 Disastrous Job Application Mistakes and How to Easily Fix Them

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Do you know what the most common job application mistakes are? Most job seekers don’t.

The majority of job seekers also don’t realize just how detrimental these blunders can be.

Many of these errors result in automatic rejections, meaning candidates don’t even get the chance to interview.

Here are 6 of the most common job application mistakes to avoid if you want to be successful in your next job search.

And don’t worry, they can all be easily fixed.

Mistake #1: Having a Resume that isn’t ATS Friendly

ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System which is a computer program that evaluates your job application materials and resume.

The computer program scans your resume, looking for designated keywords.

In other words, if the job description states a specific degree or experience in a particular job is required, ATS will be looking for that.

If your resume contains the necessary information, it gets passed to the next stage, during which time a human evaluates it.

In short, it is possible to be rejected by a computer without a person ever reading your application.

There are a few reasons you may be rejected outright by ATS:

ATS is very sensitive to unusual fonts, graphics, colors, and images. Even columns and formatting can confuse the program.

If the ATS cannot read the content, it frequently produces an automatic rejection.

Be sure your resume is ATS optimized to ensure you aren’t unnecessarily disqualified.

Common Job Application Mistake #2: Not Tailoring Resumes to Job Postings

Too often job seekers submit the same resume to every job. This is a BIG mistake.

The job description explains what the hiring manager is looking for.

It’s critical to tailor your job application to every single job posting.

And avoid getting too creative. Use words, headings, and titles, that are easily understood.

More than once, I’ve seen people list creative titles on their resumes and get excluded from consideration.

Recently, the job title Chief Happiness Officer has come into fashion.

This translates as a Human Resources Manager.

Even if your “official” title is creative, rather than risk confusing ATS or a recruiter, use a common job title that is easily understood.

Common Job Application Mistake #3: Applying to Too Many or Too Few Jobs

Some job candidates have their heart set on one company or a particular job.

Other individuals apply for every job under the sun. This is not the correct approach either.

There are lots of jobs out there. Identify roles that interest you, companies you’d like to work for, and what is realistic given your current skill set.

You may need to take a step back if you are trying to pivot to a different industry or want to get hired by a particular company.

Also, don’t put your job search on hold because you are waiting to hear back on one application.

This is almost never a good approach.

I’ve known countless individuals who’ve gotten rejection notifications months, and sometimes years later. And sometimes, companies don’t even send a rejection!

If you wait to hear back from one company before applying for the next job, your job search could take years.

Mistake #4: Keeping Your Job Search a Secret

Have you told people you are on the market?

Lots of people prefer to keep their job search private, at least until they have found a new position and know they will be leaving.

Sometimes that method is necessary.

But telling people about your job search can be beneficial.

You might tell co-workers (or not), especially if they are able to help you. Your boss can also be an advocate (or adversary if he doesn’t want you to leave).

Ultimately, networking is a great way to make connections.

And roughly 80% of job offers are made to people that have a personal or professional connection with someone at the hiring organization.

You can mention your job search to friends at social engagements and non-work functions.

Use LinkedIn to connect with people at companies that interest you.

If you are taking a class, playing on a sports team, or in the parents’ group at your kids’ school, meet people.

Who knows? You just might get an introduction to someone helpful or hear about an opening.

Common Job Application Mistake #5: Not Informing References

Even if your job search is hush-hush, you must tell the people you intend to use as references.

Pick up the phone and call (or email) your references before listing them on a job application.

Take just a few minutes to get in touch with your referee, let them know you’re on the job market, tell them some of the companies you’re applying to, and remind them who you are.

Ask them if it’s OK for you to give out their contact information and if so, is there anything special to note? If your referee is traveling and unable to be easily reached, you can select another reference, or provide instructions on how to get in touch.

Connecting with your referee is also an opportunity for you to refresh their memory as to how they know you.

From a recruiter’s perspective, there is nothing worse than contacting a referee and walking away with nothing or a negative review.

More than once, I have called references about a candidate and gotten responses like, “I don’t know that person” or “I really don’t remember him” or “How did she say she knew me?”

Another reason to contact references early is because they might have a contact at a company you are applying to or know about a position that would suit you.

Mistake #6: Not Following Up

Make sure you are following up.

Don’t be a nuisance and call every day.

But if you don’t hear anything, it is reasonable to contact HR 1-2 weeks after applying to check on the status of your application.

There are a number of reasons to do this.

First, it shows you really are interested in the position.

Also, if there is any kind of question or concern about your application you might be told about it and be able to address it.          

Yes, you need to be patient. But at the same time, follow up because applications do get lost, misplaced, or incorrectly disqualified.

If you are on the job market, pay attention to these mistakes and do what you can to avoid or fix them.

It should make a significant difference and result in more invitations to interviews and ultimately, job offers.