6 Common Job Hunting Mistakes Explained

Along with solutions.

Photo by Magnet.me on Unsplash

Every day when I go through my LinkedIn feed, I see at least 10 –15 posts from people looking for new roles. These are just folks who are actively seeking help on LinkedIn. I am sure that the number of passive job seekers is way more.

COVID hit the job market badly, and millions of people went out of jobs overnight. While the worst may be behind us, we aren’t out of the woods yet. So when I was asked to hire people in my team, I was excited to be helping alleviate some of that problem and started looking for people immediately. It has been 6 months since I started this exercise, and thankfully, I have managed to grow my team substantially.

I’ve interviewed around 70 to 80 candidates in these 6 months. However, the experience has been underwhelming, to say the least. Not because I couldn’t find good talent — I found some phenomenal folks who are now a part of my team — but because with each passing interview, I’ve come to realize how broken our job search process is. And it is frustrating because this is what we’ve been taught all along.

After having spent these 6 months interviewing left, right and center, I’ve realized that there are some really low-hanging fruits out there which, if worked upon, can differentiate you the heck out of the crowd.

This article highlights those, sees the common mistakes that job seekers make, and provides possible solutions to those problems.

#1 Not moving beyond the job portals

I’ve uploaded my resume on Indeed, Monster, and 300 other portals. I should now just sit back and wait for all the interviews to drop in. Right?

It is like saying that you could attend a class, take notes, and ace all your exams without studying at all. Just doesn’t work.

Sure, you can get average grades and a few interviews with that approach, but if you’re here reading this article, I don’t think that’s what you’re looking for.

Go beyond the job boards and reach out to the people in charge of making these decisions. Recruiter, yes, but more importantly, the people in charge of hiring.

How do you know who the decision-maker is? Just ask. Make the best guess and reach out. Ask them to redirect you to the right person if they aren’t one. For example, reach out to the head or VP of Marketing for a Marketing Manager’s role.

This one move will differentiate you from hundreds of other candidates out there. As a hiring manager, I can tell you how rare this is. Sure, I am from a not-so-well-known brand. However, I have my close friends in some of the best brands out there, and they’ve had more or less the same experience.

Do yourself a favor and go beyond the job board.

#2 Failure to explore your network

Some studies estimate that almost 85% of all job openings are filled via networking.

While that number may seem a bit high, Be rest assured that more than half of jobs go out through referrals. Referrals reduce the time to hire, the cost of hire, and improve the quality of hire. Not only that, referred employees are more likely to accept a job offer and stay in the job longer.

That’s why companies spend a ton of money on creating great referral programs.

By not exploring your network, you’re missing out on this opportunity. I personally interview almost all candidates that come to me through referrals.

Even when it comes to asking for referrals, we make some rookie mistakes. When you reach out to your network and ask them to refer you to a job opening in their company, provide enough supporting evidence showing that you’re a right fit for the company and the role.

Ensure that they feel comfortable sharing your candidature further. The best way to do that would be to get on a call, understand the role (if they know about it) and share your experience. If that’s not possible, send out an email explaining why you’d be the best fit for the role. Make it easy for them to help you.

Despite what you may think, humans like to help. However, it isn't easy to get that help if you a) don’t ask for it or b) don’t make it easy for them to help you.

#3 Not creating & highlighting your narrative

No matter what you do and where you work, you are there to either help the company grow or to help it reduce costs and become more efficient. Period.

Everything you do can be traced back (or extrapolated, depending on the way you look at it) to these two overarching objectives.

When you prepare for an interview or even write a cover letter, keep that in mind and position yourself accordingly. What are the obstacles they might be facing in achieving those goals? How can you help them with that?

You may not have all the answers and may not know the challenges they face. However, you can use resources to help you with that. If it is a public company, go through its investor presentations. If not, go through their press releases and figure out what they talk about and what the senior leaders at the company talk about. Another great way to get this information is to reach out to people in the company and ask them about the role and the expectations. People are more willing than you think.

#4 Not doing your research

One of the most frustrating things to see is candidates come into the interview without doing even their basic homework. Many of them have absolutely no clue about you or your company. It’s like getting on a call with your prospect without doing any research and prep whatsoever.

Do yourself a favor and read about the company. Understand what they do, the products/services they sell, and the problems that they try to solve. Figure out their road to revenue and look at their past press releases and investor presentations (if available).

Look up your interviewer on LinkedIn. Understand their roles and responsibilities and also see if you could find out their passion and hobbies. This will give you a holistic idea of what they do and help you better connect with them.

While this may look time-consuming, it won’t take you more than a couple of hours of your time and is completely worth it. The insights you’d gain from this exercise can be compelling. They’ll go a long way in improving your chances of success.

#5 Not Asking Questions

Almost 60–70% of candidates that I interview do not ask me any questions or ask just a couple of them for the sake of it. Forget about the right or wrong questions. They just don’t ask questions.

A job interview is a two-way process. The company is selecting you, yes. But you‘re selecting them as well. Wouldn’t you want to know more about the place and the role where you’d possibly be spending a good part of your next few years?

Ask questions and ask as many as you’d want to so that you get clarity for yourself. I could do a separate article on just the questions you could ask at a job interview, but here are some basic ones.

Regarding the role

  • What are the key results you want this person to achieve?
  • What are the traits of folks who have been successful in this role and also (and more importantly) those who’ve failed in this role in the past?
  • How does this role fit into your (reporting manager’s) overall structure?

Regarding the company

  • What kind of people do the best in this company and thrive in this culture?
  • What are some of the key goals the company is trying to solve in the next year and 5 years (you should definitely have a clue about this beforehand, especially for a public company)?
  • How does this role fit within the company’s overall structure?
  • What are some of the key challenges or obstacles that the company faces (again, you should have a good idea about this through your research)?

Regarding the interviewer: Please look up the LinkedIn and Twitter profile of your interviewer beforehand

  • What are your key goals (metrics), and what challenges do you see in getting there?
  • What have your most successful hires had in common?
  • How has your journey been in this company?

These are just some examples. Feel free to create your own questions. Asking good questions is important. It does two things.

  1. It helps you get an excellent understanding of the role and its different shades.
  2. It helps the interviewer know that you’ve done your homework and you’re dead serious about the role.

#6 Not sending a thank-you note (for god’s sake!)

So you managed to secure a great interview, and the interview went really well. It looks like you checked all the boxes. Not really.

Sending a thank-you note after an interview is another important step in firming up your candidature. It may sound trivial, but as per some surveys, almost 22% of Hiring Managers revealed that they are less likely to hire a candidate if they did not send a thank you post-interview and a whopping 86% felt that it showed a lack of follow-through. Not exactly the impression you’d want them to have about you.

A thank you note is not just common courtesy. It can be a useful tool to help you create a good last impression, stay on top of the interviewer’s mind, and, more importantly, allow you to present any information that you may have missed communicating in your interview.

Yes, there are some best practices on how to write a thank you letter and what to write in there. The first step, however, is to write it!

Tools for Sucess

Here are some tools that will help you improve your job hunt journey

  1. LinkedIn: By far the best tool out there to do people research. You can also follow the company’s feed to understand what they talk about. The free version works just fine. However, if you can, do buy the premium subscription for job seekers. It is worth the money.
  2. Investor Section: Public companies provide a ton of information about their goals, plans, strategies, and tactics to their shareholders. The kind of insights that you can get from there is unbelievable. Focus on the forward-looking statements and the risk factors.
  3. Hunter.io: To help you get the email IDs of folks you’d want to reach out to

Musings About Sales, Productivity & Behavioral Science