5 mistakes to avoid during your job-hunt – and what to do instead

By Mhairi Gordon-Preston MSc on 10 Jun 2016 - 13:11

Like to land a great job sooner rather than later? Here are 5 no-no’s plus their solutions, to help you get work you’re happy with.

By Mhairi Gordon-Preston. Mhairi is one of the Elevator career coaches, and her first career-change was from graphic designer to fish scientist. Mhairi loves to help people who know they are in the wrong job but aren’t sure what to do about it, and has been helping folks with their careers for five years.

1 Purely using job adverts

Research indicates that 40-60% of jobs are never advertised, and that job adverts are seen by 100s or 1000s of people (The Guardian, Forbes.com) which means competition is fierce. Put those two together and we can see that someone who only uses job adverts is missing out on opportunities.

Research has also shown that only using online job ads is just 4% effective (What Color is Your Parachute, 2016). So make sure you use a couple more methods, like reaching out to employers directly. The method I use with career-coaching clients is 86% effective (according to a Crystal Management Services study), because it helps them talk about their specific skills, find working environments they’ll be happy in, and connect with ideal employers in ways most other job-hunters don’t even think of!

2 Talking about your skills imprecisely

It’s the easiest thing to do and virtually everyone does it, so don’t worry if this sounds like applications you have made or speculative letters you have written: “created several websites”, “good with people”, “been an accountant for five years”.

The popularity of films and books shows how much we humans love stories: so put in some details, talk about results you got and the people or industries you are good with: “5 local plumbers all got 40% more enquiries after the websites I created for them got on the first page of Google”, “assisted a conscientious teacher reduce sick leave by teaching her 3 ways to reduce her stress”, “helped a large bakery reduce its costs by highlighting the biggest outgoings and suggesting alternatives”.

3 Mentioning every skill you’ve got

It is tempting to chuck-in each ability and bit of expertise you have, but you will create a much more professional and knowledgeable impression if you focus what you say to an employer based purely on the opportunity you’re after (when you call them, send a CV/application, or meet with them).

4 Going it alone

Your confidence will probably go up and down as you look for your ideal career, so make sure you have supportive people around to help you remember your talents, to lift you up if you’re dejected, and to spot more opportunities.

An upbeat friend who enjoys their work can be good, or a career coach who will have the time to give you regular encouragement, provide unbiased feedback... and if you tend to put off things, can give you a gentle kick up the pants!

5 Negotiating a salary before you’ve got a firm job offer

Sometimes it feels like the employer has all the power. One way to even-up the dynamic is waiting until you know the employer wants YOU: when they make you a definite offer. When they ask, you can give a salary range you like (based on pay research you did before the interview).

What should you do if a potential employer asks about pay before making an offer? Politely bring the conversation back to demonstrating why you are right for the job.

Here’s 3 ways to turn these tips into job-landing action

1. Find someone who can be there for you regularly during your job-hunt – upbeat friend or career coach
2. Spend 1-6 hours researching employers you think are interesting, and 1 hour researching pay ranges for jobs that sound appealing
3. Turn your skills and achievements into exciting, focused, and factual bullet points