Recruiting Secrets: The 4 most common mistakes made by job seekers

After a decade in Germany, I’ve seen hundreds of CV’s and Resumes cross my desk. Here I will share with you the most common mistakes I have encountered.

Most common mistake #1: Failure to diligently proofread application materials

75% of the applications I receive are full of errors: Spelling, punctuation, spacing, grammar, and lack consistency. Over the years, I have developed a theory: I prefer to believe that people do not intentionally submit low-quality materials. From my own experience, I believe the materials might have been thoroughly reviewed at some point. Still, as they are edited over time, the author loses track of original formatting guidelines, and small errors begin to creep in.

To ensure you are presenting yourself in the best light to future employers, you might consider employing a professional to proofread your materials. Otherwise, ask friends who are native in the application language to review your materials. It is also essential that they are familiar with your field or industry and are familiar with its abbreviations and special cases.

Most common mistake #2: Overconfidence

Perhaps it has happened to you: You have submitted your materials in a mad frantic push late-at-night, and after you click “send,” you think “YES! My dream job!” And then you wait. And after a while, you realize: there will be no response. What happened? Perhaps it is time to reevaluate your approach.

Confidence, resilience, and persistence are all essential qualities to have during the job hunt. However, there is new science in the area of confidence I would like to make you aware of: Dr. Rob Yeung has written a scientific and enlightening book on confidence. One key point is that overconfidence harms many people professionally. I encourage you to look into the science of overconfidence and consider if you are honest with yourself regarding the quality of your materials and to access if your approach is appropriate.

Most common mistake #3: Not taking full advantage of your existing network

For example, #1 above, where the quality of application materials are substandard, I always ask myself, “Doesn’t this applicant have access to people who are fluent in English or are familiar with his industry? Why didn’t he ask someone for help?” Don’t be “that guy.” Take inventory of the people around you and politely ask for help.

For example, #2 above, make sure you are taking full advantage of mentoring opportunities from those around you at work. Don’t wait until things are uncomfortable and you are seeking a new job. The best time to ask for help is when you are in a positive mood, and things are going well at work, and others see you as cheerful and committed.

A coach or mentor can be beneficial in this case. Chose someone at work, one or two levels above you, who you think is kind and trustworthy. Ideally, they may have (or have had) the type of job you are seeking. Pull them aside at an appropriate moment and ask them if they would be willing to support you periodically with your professional development. It is essential to ask them if they are committed to keeping your discussions confidential and give them time to answer affirmatively.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to reveal that you are seeking a new position, you might consider hiring a professional development service to support you.

Never underestimate the value of people in the industry with more experience than you. Many people feel that their profound technical skills will compensate for their shortcomings in their approach. I don’t share this belief.

Most common mistake #4: Complete unwillingness to invest to achieve career goals

I frequently encounter overconfident applicants with low-quality materials who are unwilling to spend even 40€ for a native English speaker to proofread their documents. Often I take a screenshot of the last 1/4 of their CV and highlight DOZENS of mistakes. They won’t budge. They say, “my skills speak for themselves.”

A friend of mine is a professional photographer for 35 years. He has made portraits of celebrities and stars. In the industry, he is Crème de la crème. He recently told me the story of a young woman who was the President of the company and desired a promotion to be the CEO of another. She paid 500 Euros for one photo. She got the job. I have seen the picture, it was worth every penny. You may not have your sights on a CEO job just yet, but what can we learn from this example?

What does your future employer expect from you? Imagine that the hiring manager may review 10 to 100 applications. That results in many opportunities to compare the quality of your materials against others.

The reality is: If you are applying for jobs with low-quality materials, you will find a job, but the hiring manager will label you as an applicant who makes low-effort. They may assume you are not committed to quality. You may get an offer, but it will appropriate for your performance during the application process. Hiring managers generally have a range of salaries they can offer for a specific position. Why give them ammunition to make you a low offer? Consider your application is the only piece of work your future employer has seen from you up to this point. Others will only take you seriously if you take yourself seriously first.

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