Oh boy, I have seen bad job applications in my time as a team manager. You really have no idea! I‘ve often asked myself whether some people are really trying to find a job or just sending intentionally bad applications to satisfy the unemployment agency which obliges them to apply for a certain number of jobs each month to keep the unemployment money, or whether people are just lazy and hope that nobody will notice. But we do – believe me.
If you are actually looking for a job, it’s important to keep in mind these don’ts and dos. If you make one of these mistakes, you will likely not get the job. These are mistakes I observed equally amongst men and women, so I won’t be focusing on women as I usually do.
Apply for a Few Select Jobs That Fit Your Profile
Most people seem to think you should be sending out as many applications as possible in order to raise your chances of landing a job. This doesn‘t work out in real life. Apart from the research and rewriting necessary for a great resume that is tailored for the specific company and position, you also inevitably will not take the time to find out whether this is a job or workplace you would be happy with.
If you apply for a job that you don’t really want, you’ll most likely not be happy in the long run. It also makes rejections more likely if you apply for jobs that aren’t a good fit and that will make the job search even more frustrating than it already is for many of us.
You also need to keep in mind that employers are looking for the right person for the team and the company, not only for a professional. They want you to be a good fit and they want you to stay with them for a while.
If they have the feeling you are not genuinely interested in working with them but are just looking for some job, any job, they will most likely not even consider you. That’s not what they need for their team and their business.
What you should do instead of applying for a random number of jobs is to sit down and find a few job profiles that truly interest you. Then highlight which requirements you fulfill and tailor your applications particularly to this position and these requirements, removing or deemphasizing what isn‘t relevant.
A few high-quality applications can yield much better results than many copy/paste random applications. Your prospective future employer will often notice the work you put in the application, and that can be a recommendation in itself!
I’m not saying however that you should only apply to jobs if you fulfill 100% of the requirements. Most of us want a job that allows us to develop and grow both personally and professionally. You’re not going to grow much in a position that you already fulfill 100%.
You’ll be in your comfort zone, which is nice for a while, but you’re likely to become dissatisfied or simply bored after a short while. I love the sentence “There is no growth in the comfort zone” and looking back on my life, I can only confirm this. Make sure you look for the right job rather than just some job.
Don’t Send a Standard Cover Letter
I know, it’s tedious and a lot of work to write a new cover letter for each position you’re applying for, but it’s absolutely necessary. You won’t believe how many mundane, characterless and unmotivated cover letters I‘ve received.
As a team manager, I look for an employee who will enjoy working with the company, stay in the position for a long time and do their best. If your application sounds like you’re just applying for the next best thing, you’re wasting my time. I would only consider such an application if I had no other choice.
It also happened several times that the cover letter I received was actually addressed to a different company or person and clearly targeted for a different position! Of course, you’re going to apply for several jobs if you’re actively looking for a new opportunity.
Keep things in order and make sure that you at least send the cover letter to the company you intended it for. If you make the effort and personalize the cover letter and you mix up the documents, the company will notice immediately. Needless to say, this doesn’t create a good impression.
It might not be the end of the world, however. If this happens to you and you notice your mistake, do send an email to apologize, admit your mistake, provide the correct documents and say that you hope to be considered anyway.
Admitting a mistake is an important quality in an employee because no company wants to have employees who are covering up their mistakes. This can create a lot of trouble for the company. If you’re open about your mix up, you might still be considered for the position.
Do Get a Photographer to Take Your Portrait or Just Leave It Out
This is for those of you living in countries where including a portrait photo is common: you won’t believe the number of unprofessional pictures I’ve seen in the course of my life as a hiring manager. Holiday pictures with palms and beaches, party pictures with beer bottles, cocktail nights on a penthouse terrasse, pictures with untidy bedrooms in the background…
The list goes on and on. It should be clear to everyone that this kind of picture is not appropriate for a resume or as a LinkedIn profile photo. Yes, you want to present the real you, but remember that we’re still in a professional environment.
Also, make sure that your picture includes no statements. When I was recruiting for a very international team situated in Germany a few years ago, I got a picture of a beautiful girl with Asian roots. She had added an A4 sized picture on her resume (which I really don’t recommend), so you couldn’t help but notice every detail.
And what I saw almost made me question my sanity: she was wearing a swastika! I simply couldn’t believe my eyes! Now, I know that this is originally a religious symbol and considering her background, in hindsight it’s obvious that she wore it just like others would wear a cross or a veil.
But in the western world – IN GERMANY – a swastika just means the one thing. That’s THE association that jumps to your mind. And that’s really not the impression you want to make on a future employer. You could argue that she didn’t know European history, or refused to let her religious symbol be hijacked, but those things don‘t change the fact that such a statement creates a bad impression.
If you don’t have a good photo that represents you as a motivated, open-minded and confident professional, better don’t use one at all.
It’s common practice in the English speaking world anyway not to include a photo, but it is also more and more common in European countries. It won’t decide if you get the job or not, while an unprofessional picture might lead to rejection.
Don’t Be Fake
‘Fake it til you make it’ might be good advice for you if you suffer from imposter syndrome and need to convince yourself of your competence by pushing through despite personal insecurities. I don’t think it is a good way to live your life however if applied to the way you present yourself to other people.
My advice is this: don’t make something up which isn’t true. ‘Fake it till you make it‘ is not always the best way. You might be able to fake that you’re a great communicator during the job interview but you most likely won’t be able to fake it month after month, if it isn’t within you at all.
I once interviewed a candidate who was a very good communicator in the interview and a completely different person once he started. He didn’t work well with the team and turned out to be very shy and insecure and was just a bad fit.
Keep in mind that employers are looking for the right person for the team and the company, not only for a professional. That’s why they want to get to know the real you, not some shiny polished version. If you play a role which really isn’t you, you probably won’t be able to keep it up. So better be real. Be authentic in the interview.
Do Think About Good and Relevant Examples to Underline Your Qualification
One of the most efficient ways of interviewing from an employer perspective is behavioral-based interview questions. They enable the employer to find out a lot about your experience, your mindset, and your soft skills. The recruiter will usually ask for concrete examples of your work or life experience.
Concrete examples tell them much more about you than “what would you do if …” or the classic interview questions referring to strengths, weaknesses, etc. They’ll find out if you’re able to present your skills and yourself well, how you reacted in a real situation and if you’re able to learn and change your behavior.
I observed that many candidates have absolutely no idea how to deal with such questions, especially if I tried to find out how they reacted in difficult situations with customers or coworkers. I had so many people tell me that they can’t remember a single situation in which they found collaboration difficult or that they have never been in such a situation yet.
Honestly, if you have several years of work experience, there will have been several such situations. Everyone I know had a conflict in their career or dealt with a difficult task every now and then. So don’t lie and say you never had such an experience. I understand that it’s hard to think about something on the spot. This is why you should prepare yourself for such questions.
If you can’t think about an example in a professional context because you have no work experience yet, you can also use examples of your private life. But please make sure they are relevant for the job.
A young lady, whom I asked for an unexpected situation and how she dealt with it, could only think about how their Christmas tree caught on fire when she was a little girl and that she thought about calling the firefighters.
You really need an example that is more relevant to the professional context than that. So please, prepare a couple of examples before you go to a job interview, just in case.
Make sure to keep these 5 dos and don’ts in mind when you’re applying for a job next time and you will have good chances of being invited for an interview and get the job.