The good news is that there are a lot of people out there who want to help you find a job. The bad news is that not all of the advice out there is good. In fact, some of it, when followed, will stand between you and the job you want and need.
There are also things that job seekers do that completely contradict the good advice that is out there. It never ceases to amaze and alarm me that job seekers spend their time engaged in activities that do absolutely nothing to help them achieve their goals when there are so many enjoyable activities that will.
Here are the top 10 things that I have personally seen done in the last 8+ years with alarming volume and the things that can be done instead to help job seekers gain and sustain momentum in their job search.
- Asking people who cannot personally vouch for your performance to help you get an interview in their company
People currently in a job that they want or need will make keeping their job a priority. They will not do anything to jeopardize their reputation or the well being of their organization. They will, however, be sure to make recommendations that have a high chance of improving their company or make them look good.
Corrective Action: Request a new contact’s time to better understand the organization’s needs. Inspire them to give you an introduction to the stakeholders so that you can recommend solutions, even if the solutions are other people.
- Inviting people you don’t know to connect on LinkedIn with no indication of why they should want to connect
Certainly, there are a lot of people out there who want to help. Even helpful people have a limit to their time and their willingness to help strangers who may abuse the network that they have invested time in nurturing. You DO have a lot more to offer than just filling an open position in a company. You have a network of your own and solutions to problems.
Corrective Action: When you identify a contact who may be able to assist you, review the contact’s profile for indications of how you or your network might be able to serve him or her, such as in the recent status updates. Then, write an invitation that requests a phone or in-person meeting to discuss how you can help each other before you join each other’s network. Then once you do connect, use the notes field of the profile to record what you identified as that person’s needs and be proactive to follow up on them.
- Using a boilerplate message to invite people to LinkedIn or importing contacts
About every article or speaker that I have ever seen on the subject of LinkedIn has advised users to replace the boilerplate LinkedIn invitation. Unfortunately, almost all of LinkedIn’s screens inform you of people you can invite, or prompt you to do so, without giving you the ability to customize your message. You actually have to visit their profile and click on the CONNECT icon to have the option to customize your message.
Corrective Action: Personalize every message and be explicit as to what assistance you are seeking while offering yourself and your network to help with their initiatives.
- Asking a company that has extended an offer to wait for you to hear from other companies
Let’s say you were on a date and it went well and you asked for a second date for next Friday, but he or she wants to wait until next Thursday to let you know. Now let’s say they told you that they wanted to wait until Thursday because they want to see if a hotter date is going to pan out or not. Now let’s say you’ve been dating for months and you proposed, but your amore wants to explore his or her feelings for someone else before giving you an answer. When you consider that a company spends weeks or months trying to find that special someone, and you usually have weeks to consider the company as a match, more time to consider an offer puts the company at risk that they might have to start the process all over again.
Corrective Action: Request 48 hours to evaluate a company’s WRITTEN offer and give them an answer in that time.
- Going above the hiring manager’s head to get ahead in the interview process
If you are already in consideration for a position, there are ways that you can improve your chances, but there are also ways to hurt your chances. Trying to engage inside advocates often just creates internal conflict. Most hiring is not done democratically. A new person can really tip morale one way or another, so everyone has a vested interest in who gets hired, but few have the authority to do the hiring. Keeping a company’s politics in check so that it does not affect productivity is already a tricky enough task. Asking someone to “pull some strings” if they are not the hiring manager is a request that can put everyone in an uncomfortable position.
Corrective Action: When you identify additional contacts in an organization, ask them to help you gain additional perspective on the organization’s problems (without jeopardizing confidentiality) and discuss potential solutions. Then you can include this insight in the WRITTEN thank you note that you send to the hiring manager and any other stakeholders who were involved in the interview process.
- Ask people to pass on leads for positions that match your job title
Chances are, even if you are “flexible,” you have more criteria to the job that you would accept than it just matching a job title. Logically, it may make sense that the more general you are when you ask people to keep alerted to positions for you, the more leads you will receive. Practically, however, your function in a company rarely cleanly matches a job title and not only will you receive job leads that you will not want to follow up on, but the people who pass them on will be discouraged and less likely to pass something on if they think you will not follow up. Also, by the time a posted position makes it to you, it is often too late in the game to be considered.
Corrective Action: Explain to people what problems you solve, for whom, and what conversations they might hear that indicate that an introduction would be beneficial to all parties. When you do receive a lead that does not fit, but includes a contact name, follow up, be forthright and offer to help them find the right candidate.
- Only seeking the help of those in your field
Back to the song from Sesame Street, “Who are the people in your neighborhood?” Think about the people who see other people all the time. People in your field may see other people in your field, but they also might be limited to seeing people in their field that only work for their company, and once they exhaust their own company as a viable employer for you, there may be past colleagues. According to a University of Virginia study, we are all connected by no more than seven degrees of separation. If you are on LinkedIn, it probably surprises you how you are connected to people. It is very visible once you put your network into a digital map. What about the rest of your network, however? What about your dentist, your mailman, your landscaper, the cashier at your favorite lunch spot? They also see other people all the time!
Corrective Action: Make inquiries of people who are outside of your professional realm to see who and what they know that might help you find out who has problems that you can solve.
- Asking other people what kind of job you should be pursuing
When you are doing a self-discovery process to determine what your next line of work will be, the input of others is sometimes helpful; it is impossible to be objective about yourself, after all. However, no one should know more about what you want than you. People generally have great intentions when they make suggestions, but most of their reasons will be in direct contrast to YOUR priorities.
Corrective Action: Give other people an idea of what you consider to be your strengths and what you suspect you would want to contribute to an organization. Ask for suggestions and make a list. Identify at least 3 people for each potential path who are willing to share with you what the challenges and rewards of that role are. Compare these with your concerns and greatest desires. Narrow the list down to one and design your campaign (or ask us for help).
- Using job market data to determine the viability of your job transition
When the Bureau of Labor and Statistics gather and disseminate information, it is comprehensive. When the media reports it, it is simplistic and usually bleak. If an area is “growing,” so is your competition in that area. What is growing today may be shrinking tomorrow. Those who survive will be the ones with the highest qualifications and passion. Also, it is not as important to know who is NOT getting a job as it is to know who IS getting a job and why.
Corrective Action: Pursue the position that is most viable for you – the one that genuinely aligns with your talents and motivations.
- Spending more than 10% of your transition time on job boards
When job boards first became commonplace, they did more good than harm. Now they are a necessary evil. Companies need to track their candidate applications and are required to keep records on what actions are taken. That does not make job boards the best way for you to be noticed or invited for an interview. You may still have to submit your information through a company’s website to comply with their human resources procedures. You do NOT have to start there.
Corrective Action: Track the time that you spend on your transition, including social engagements, as long as you leverage them. Adjust your weekly activity so that no more than 5% of your time is spent on job boards. Set up agents on the aggregating sites (Indeed, Simply Hired) and check them ONLY twice a week. Once you identify a desirable position on a job board, go straight to LinkedIn or niche recruiters to find a better way to get in front of the hiring manager. Use the online application offered by job boards as a LAST RESORT.