7 Foolish Mistakes Too Many People Make When Job Hunting

Make the process of looking for a job much smoother by staying confident, patient, and avoiding these common mistakes.
Last updated April 3, 2023 | By Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore Edited By Rachel Siegel
young male applicant got hired for the position

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Whether you are actively looking for a new job, searching for ways to make extra money on the side, or just flirting with the idea of putting your resume out there, it’s always a good idea to come to the job market from a confident stance. 

Unfortunately, with so much information out there on the web, it can be difficult to know exactly where to look for a job and how to go about beginning a search.

No matter your industry, there are some common job-hunting mistakes people make across the board. Here are seven to avoid, and a few tips on how to make the most of your search.

Lack of focus

ijeab/Adobe job interview

Job seekers should come across as focused and dedicated during interviews and on resumes. It’s important to stress why you are the right choice in every aspect of the search.

A common job-hunting mistake cited by career experts is having vague career aspirations. 

Candidates who show up for interviews should not just say they are interested in a “management” job or “working in tech,” but should be able to explain why they are the best candidate for that specific company. 

The same goes for your resume. Tailor it so that it sells the skills that will be most attractive for the specific job you are applying for.

Not preparing for interviews

insta_photos/Adobe job interview between businessman hr director and female applicant

In an age where so much information is available online, career experts also stress the importance of showing up prepared. This means doing your research about the company you’re interviewing with—and the job.

You should be able to engage in active conversation about the company and its goals in addition to explaining why you can help it achieve those goals. Experts recommend dedicating a few hours to research and interview preparation beforehand.

Typos in resume/cover letter

fizkes/Adobe female manager in glasses engaged in office paperwork

Never underestimate the power of proofreading. Job hunts can feel tedious, especially if you’ve been doing it for months. 

The temptation to type out quick cover letters, make resume tweaks, and just hit send after a quick once-over may take over at a certain point. But it’s in the job hunter’s best interest to resist that.

If you have trouble proofreading your own work (as many of us do), it may be worth it to have a friend look over your resume and cover letters before sending them out. 

Reading your own writing out loud is also a great proofreading tactic. Be sure to do this with any emails you send to potential employers as well.

Lack of confidence

Drobot Dean/Adobe uptight man worrying and biting fist during job interview in office

Once you land an interview, it’s important to show up with confidence. Making sure you adequately prepare for the interview can help with this. 

A good attitude can really go a long way during the job search, and candidates who project confidence and make it clear that they did their homework will have a leg up during the interviewing process.

No online presence

Drobot Dean/Adobe woman using laptop smiling while sitting

In this day and age, job seekers should expect that hiring managers will search for information about them online. This is another opportunity to present yourself as an ideal candidate. 

Make sure that something pops up when your name is searched. Ideally, that should be a LinkedIn page that has a record of your job history and skills.

Depending on your industry, it may also be helpful to create a website to showcase the work you’ve done so far in your career.

Not using your network

Rawpixel.com/Adobe diverse group of business people having a meetup

Another common job-hunting mistake is limiting the search to job postings only. To be a proactive job seeker, those looking for a new gig should keep an eye on online job postings and reach out to people within their network.

Just emailing resumes to online postings and hoping for the best may leave job seekers waiting months to hear something back. 

However, people you know in your industry may be privy to openings that are not online yet, so it never hurts to ask.

A defeated attitude

Antonioguillem/Adobe nervous woman during a job interview

Hiring managers are looking to hire people who show up with confidence and a sense of passion about the job they are applying for. 

It’s OK to feel a bit stressed during the job hunting process, but try to make sure that attitude doesn't come across in cover letters or interviews.

Recent research from staffing agency Randstad indicates that the average job hunt can take around five months, so those in the process (even if it’s a long one) should try to keep it positive.

Tip 1: Tailor your resume to each job

muhammad/Adobe single page resume design, cover letter templates

Instead of sending the same resume to every job posting, job seekers should tailor resumes to accentuate certain skills based on the job. 

Career experts suggest looking closely at the language used in the job posting (such as skills and traits the company is looking for) and sprinkling that language and those details throughout your resume.

Tip 2: Organize your search

Kenstocker/Adobe woman checks schedule on table in visual screen

The job search can get overwhelming quickly if you’re sending your resume to a bunch of companies. 

Experts suggest coming up with a system — even a simple spreadsheet — to keep track of where you plan to apply, where you’ve already applied (and when), and when any scheduled interviews are.

Tip 3: Set daily (or weekly) job search goals

Zamrznuti tonovi/Adobe businesswoman using a laptop and a business planner

The job search can be a daunting process, but setting goals for yourself can make it easier. These goals will naturally depend on how much time you have on your hands (if you’re already employed full-time, for example, setting weekly goals may be a better option).

Goals like “spend three hours per week researching and applying for jobs” or “apply to one job every morning” can keep you on track.

Tip 4: Prepare with stories that showcase skills

Malik E/peopleimages.com/Adobe coach during business meeting

In addition to properly researching the company you’re applying to, job seekers should also come to interviews prepared with anecdotes that showcase their skills. 

Including stories about your relevant work experiences and times you were able to overcome challenges can help make you a memorable candidate.

Tip 5: Expect that the search will take time

iana_kolesnikova/Adobe attractive young woman working in modern office using laptop

It’s not true for everyone, but many people searching for a great new gig are in for a months-long ordeal. Sure, there are people who get offered a great job after just a few weeks of searching, but those cases are few and far between.

Job seekers should expect that the search may be a long and, at times, arduous process — and try not to let the length of their job search affect their confidence.

Tip 6: Be kind to yourself

Konstantin Yuganov/Adobe woman cooking a meal

In addition to being realistic about how long a job search may take, those in the process should remember to not be too hard on themselves. 

Do whatever you need to unwind — like exercise, meditate, cook, or relax in the tub — to keep your mind sharp and your confidence up for when you do land that dream interview.

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Bottom line

djile/Adobe man in a job interview

Starting a job search can be an intimidating process, especially if you are already trying to manage money stress

However, avoiding these common mistakes — and remembering to stay organized, focused, realistic, and upbeat — can make the process so much easier.

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Author Details

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore is a seasoned freelance writer who also teaches writing courses at Rutgers University. She's based in Jersey City and enjoys travel, live music and, of course, spending quality time with her pup.