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5 Common Mistakes Students Make When Applying for A Job

1. Not Doing Your Research (when applying, and prior to the interview)

Always do your research! This rule applies to the application process and preparing for an interview. It takes a good deal of time to put together an application (if you’re doing things the right way). You want to make sure it’s a company you want to work for, and that it potentially fits your skills, program, experience, etc. If the company or job doesn’t fit your skill set or program for example, you can address this in your cover letter to increase the likelihood of getting an interview.

I have lost count of how many times I’ve heard from an employer, “the student didn’t seem to know anything about the company. I’m not looking for an expert, but at least someone who knows the bare minimum”. A good practice is to save the job posting so you can review it while preparing for an interview. You can learn the basics of the company and culture with a quick review of their website for example. As the quote suggests, the potential employer doesn’t want to just learn about you, they want to gauge your interest and familiarity with the company. An easy fix, but an all-too-common mistake.

2. The Shotgun Approach

We have all been there. You are thinking, what can increase the chances of me getting a job? Applying to as many as possible of course! This makes sense to many of us, especially as a student with little to no experience, but often ends-up wasting your time and that of the employer. In short, quality over quantity is the recommended approach by any experienced career coach and approved by recruiters and employers alike.

You have probably heard that it is always ideal to tailor your resume and cover letter to the job you are applying for. This is a hard truth, and it is impossible to do as a shotgun approach, since there aren’t enough hours in the day. You must be selective and spend your time on specific job postings.


Why not tailor the key applications, and shotgun approach the rest you say? Sure, you could do that; but every hiring manager or recruiter that I have spoken with, has made it clear that they can smell those generic applications a mile away. They won’t waste more than the cursory once-over before rejecting it.

3. Means of Contact

First, have your contact details clear and up to date in all your documents.

Second, have a professional looking email. You don’t have to get a custom domain name to have an extra personalized email address, but you should have something close: for example. Having something funny and catchy will increase the chances of your email getting filtered out as spam. I had to change my super “cool” high school email of “gotsta_be_kd” to something more professional. There is a good chance I never would have received a call-back if I had stuck with that email address.

Lastly, you will ideally have a phone number on your resume, but you should also have voicemail set-up for your number with a short, professional sounding message. I understand that returning a missed call based on the call display number is all the rage these days. In a professional setting, people leave a voicemail if it is important. I have experienced countless students calling an employer back with the standard, “ugh …. I got a call from this number”. This is an awful first impression to make to a potential employer but can be fixed with a simple voicemail. Also, once you have voicemail, please check it before calling back random numbers. Luckily, most of the hiring process is done via email, so you may not encounter this pitfall, but it still regularly happens. It is also important to respond with full and complete emails.

4. Attention to Detail/Formatting

This one is partially related to not having someone look at your resume and cover letter but is such an important one on its own.

Most employers will assume young people today are better than they are with technology and common programs like Office. Having formatting/layout errors in your documents can be a big red flag in the attention to detail category. There is no universal format for resumes and cover letters, but it is essential that you are consistent throughout. Also, given hiring managers and recruiters may only spend 10 seconds or less on the initial review of a resume, formatting errors will jump out at the reader and greatly hurt your chances.

You should avoid generic statements like, “team player, problem solver, attention to detail, etc.”, in your documents unless there are examples to back it up, or there’s a specific context. Using attention to detail is especially risky because any little typo or formatting error in any of your documents will disprove this statement; so beware.

If the job posting asks for the application in PDF, don’t send it in Word. Seems simple, but these kind of mistakes happen regularly.

To a prospective employer, if they see attention to detail problems, the majority will likely assume you will take the same lack of care in the job. It is important to show you take pride and care in your own products. It is a sign that you will do the same for your employer’s.

5. Not Having Someone Else Look at Your Resume and Cover Letter

This relates to the attention to detail piece but goes further. Having a second, or third, or fourth (you get the idea) set of eyes reviewing your documents can be indispensable when catching typos, grammar and other errors. Also, they will hopefully be able to give you feedback on the readability, and how you are marketing yourself with your resume and cover letter.

You can find plenty of tips and tricks across the internet and social media, but as always, be careful, plenty of fallacies about the job search and recruitment process are out there. Plus, you won’t be getting tailored information to your situation.

If you are looking for a job search strategy and documents tailored to your needs, Hendo Career Coaching can help you with that, so reach-out and let’s have a chat!

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