If you’re like most new graduates, you’re probably not going to get your dream job right away.
In fact, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that nearly 44 percent of recent grads are overqualified for their positions. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 5.6 percent of young graduates can’t get a job at all.
If you’re ready for your next opportunity, it’s time to get cracking on the job hunt. But first, you need to know how to apply for a job in a way that will get you noticed.
Before sending out your resume, make sure you’re not sabotaging yourself with any of these four job search mistakes.
1. Ignoring your network
To learn more about how to apply for a job — and what mistakes to avoid — I spoke with a number of career experts. They all had the same thing to say: Job seekers hurt their chances when they fail to network.
Peter Yang, co-founder of ResumeGo, said not using your network is one of the biggest errors job seekers can make. “Networking is essential for any new job,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to reach out to your professional network, friends, or family to make valuable connections with a company you are interested in.”
Not only will you discover new opportunities, but you could also get a referral. “Join professional organizations and attend events to meet professionals in your industry,” said Meshanda King, digital marketing coordinator at career site JobsInSports.
“Eventually, you build professional relationships and can even earn referrals. If you’re referred, employers are more likely to hire you,” King explained.
If you’re an anonymous applicant from the internet, a hiring manager might not take much notice. But if you can make a personal connection through your network, you’ll be one step closer to your dream job.
2. Sending a generic resume or cover letter
Once you’ve put together your resume and cover letter, it’s tempting to send them to job postings far and wide. But generic materials won’t get you very far. In fact, it’d be a mistake not to tailor your resume and cover letter for every position you apply to.
“Many [job seekers] don’t realize that application materials are not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ deal,” said human resources professional and public relations expert Jennifer Lee Magas. “Your resume should reflect skills and past experience that is relevant to the job you are currently applying for.”
Magas also has this advice for how to apply for a job: Write a unique cover letter for each position.
“Every cover letter should be a comprehensive letter designed specifically for the company you’re sending it to, filled in with carefully crafted statements that show you’ve done your research on the business,” she said. “It should be addressed to someone specifically, avoid fluff, and explain why your skill set makes you a good candidate.”
By reflecting the job description in your application, you’ll show the hiring manager you’ve done your research. If you don’t, you might get passed over for a candidate who seems more enthusiastic.
3. Not cleaning up your online presence
These days, it’s easy for a potential employer to learn more about you with a quick Google search. If the search results are negative, do some preemptive damage control.
“Try doing a Google search for yourself online and see what comes up,” suggested Yang. “If there are any news articles or web pages that paint a negative picture of you, then try to get them removed by contacting the appropriate webmaster.”
Review your social media accounts and manage your privacy settings. If you have one too many photos playing beer pong in college, consider deleting them from your profiles completely.
Besides cleaning up your online presence, you might also take steps to establish a positive one. You could create a website with a portfolio of your work or flesh out your LinkedIn profile.
“If you’re not building an online presence, you’re hurting your chances of landing job opportunities,” said King. “One of the first things employers do is search your name in a search engine and review your presence. Take this opportunity and run with it.”
Your online presence could either help or hurt you. If you’re on the job hunt, consider what you want future employers to see — and what would be better kept to yourself.
4. Relying too much on huge job boards
If you’re limiting your search to job boards such as Monster and Indeed, you could be missing out. For one thing, big job boards have millions of monthly users around the world. You might not get noticed if you’re competing with hundreds of other applicants for one position.
Plus, many big job boards have outdated listings. You might get excited about a posting that’s already been filled or at a company that’s no longer hiring.
Crystal Olivarria, founder of Career Conversationalist, urges job seekers to use more specialized sites. “The biggest mistake job seekers make is thinking the only way to find a job online is through popular job listing sites like Monster, Indeed, and CareerBuilder,” she said. “There are many specialized job search sites for different industries.”
Although you might know how to apply for a job through big job boards, keep in mind that they’re not your only resources. Consider more specialized sites and recruiting agencies like Vettery. And of course, don’t forget to rely on your network of friends and colleagues.
How to apply for a job effectively
If you’re not having much luck on the job hunt, it’s easy to feel discouraged. But there are steps you can take to apply more effectively.
Call on your network to find opportunities, for instance, and craft your resume and cover letter to each and every position.
By optimizing your approach, you’ll start to see better results. Once you’ve got the hiring manager’s attention, you can move on to the next stage of the job search: preparing to ace the all-important job interview.
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