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Job-Search Slip-Ups

If you’re in a job hunt, you may find that you are unwittingly shooting yourself in the foot at times.

June 17, 2010
from Accountemps

Persistence and perseverance are key qualities for any job candidate today. But while the employment market is undoubtedly tough, many applicants remain their own worst enemy by committing job-search faux pas. Here are some common ways applicants inadvertently sabotage their efforts, along with suggestions for avoiding them:

Submitting the Same Version of Your Résumé to Every Employer

Generic. Cookie-cutter. One-size-fits-all. Unfocused. These are not words you want a hiring manager to use when viewing your résumé. You’re missing an opportunity to distinguish yourself if you send the same document to every firm and for every position.

Different companies have different needs, objectives, values and corporate cultures. Rather than using an ineffective “shotgun approach,” blasting résumé after résumé and just crossing your fingers, slow down and research each company. Carefully read every job ad for keywords and thoroughly review the firm’s website, recent annual reports and marketing materials. Tap members of your professional network for any insights on the company they may have.

Once you have a good sense of what each position and company are like, you can customize your résumés accordingly. Emphasize the skills, attributes and aspects of your professional background that are most germane to each opportunity. Remember: The more closely your résumé matches the prospective employer’s qualifications (truthfully, of course), the better your odds of landing an interview.

When writing a cover letter or introductory e-mail, consider calling the company and asking for the name of the hiring manager so you can personalize your message. When you’re up against a crowded field of competitors, showcasing your beyond-the-basics knowledge goes a long way.

Displaying the Wrong Attitude

The Great Recession put many talented and experienced professionals back in the job market. As a result, boldly bragging that you’re “the best accountant ever” with little evidence to support this vague claim will likely rub prospective employers the wrong way.

Instead, get specific and show you understand the importance of the bottom line. Whenever possible, cite accomplishments you can back up with numbers. Consider including information related to cost savings or revenue generated. (Example: “I identified an operational inefficiency and then proposed a solution that saved my department $27,000 annually.”)

Coming across as demanding or entitled is another way candidates work against themselves. Use your application materials to succinctly show busy hiring managers what you can do for them — not what they need to do for you. Consider this off-putting objective statement from a real-life candidate: “I want a job that’s fun! I need a flexible schedule, a low-stress environment, friendly coworkers and rewards.”

Moreover, don’t get ahead of yourself by noting your salary or benefits expectations. Unless it’s specifically requested in the job ad, hold off on providing this information until you’ve secured an interview and the employer has shown serious interest in hiring you.

And while employment-search fatigue can understandably test your pride and patience, don’t let any inkling of frustration seep into your résumé or cover letter. Venting about your job-hunt challenges might be cathartic, but it’s not going to help you get hired. In short, stay positive and highly focused.

Failing to Manage Your Digital Footprint

Just as the Web enables you to do your homework about a prospective employer, it also helps them do detective work, too. Many hiring managers Google the names of applicants routinely. Therefore, it’s wise to get into the habit of regularly monitoring your digital footprint.

Start by doing a self-search to find out what, if anything, you’re up against. You won’t be alone in checking yourself out: 69 percent of workers in a recent Robert Half survey said they have entered their name in a search engine to see what results were displayed.

If you uncover something embarrassing — such as a regrettable message board rant or spring break photos from your college days — do your best to clean it up by contacting the site’s owner or the person who uploaded the content and requesting that it be removed. Be mindful, however, that despite your best efforts, some digital debris may be impossible to scrub.

To counter negative information online, some job seekers use personal blogs or Facebook and Twitter accounts to highlight their industry knowledge, post helpful links, and share their thoughts on accounting-related developments. Less prudent candidates, on the other hand, damage their credibility by posting questionable content.

Use both privacy settings and common sense to protect your reputation. Before clicking away, take a step back and think about how the words or images you’re about to publish could be perceived by a prospective employer.

Letting your skills grow stale. If you land an interview, employers will want to know what you’ve been doing besides looking for a job. Keep current by reading industry publications, enrolling in professional-development courses and attending seminars.

You also might think about seeking temporary accounting assignments through a specialized staffing firm. This can not only supply you with an income but also offers the opportunity to learn how financial skills are utilized in a variety of work environments. Applying your abilities through volunteer work with a nonprofit organization is another excellent way to remain sharp, engaged and — most important — productive.

If you’ve been on the job hunt for an extended period, take some time to re-examine your tactics. Perhaps, like many other candidates, you’ll find that you unwittingly shot yourself in the foot at times. By taking the right approach, you can sidestep some common pitfalls and attract a hiring manager’s attention.

Accountemps is one of the world’s first and largest temporary staffing service specializing in the placement of accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. The company has more than 360 offices throughout North America, South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region and offers online job search services at www.accountemps.com.