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The Biggest Mistake That Job Seekers Make

09/18/2014 05:22 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 00:58 EDT

When you start of on a journey, if you're haphazard about it and head in the exact opposite direction of your destination, it almost doesn't matter what turns you make later on. Unless you head back and start over, pointing the right way, you aren't going to get where you were trying to go.

The same holds true when you're looking for a new job. And that's why I call this the biggest mistake of the job search, because it can be the one that leads to all the others. The biggest mistake that people often make is simply applying to too many jobs.

Here's the thing. When you're looking for work, of course you should seek out as many opportunities as are available to you - and you should apply to all of those jobs that you would really like to have and that you're qualified for.

But if you are qualified for a job, and you'd really like to have it, then you should also put the time and effort into preparing an application that really gives you the best shot at actually landing the job. That is starting off a job search headed in the right direction. Unfortunately the most common mistake that we at Workopolis see too many job seekers make is mass applying to a myriad of jobs using one generic resume.

The internet has made it very easy for people to search out and apply to many job opportunities. But sending out more applications doesn't increase your chances of getting hired. Sending out better applications does. Employers have told us that sometimes as many as 75% of applicants for a given role aren't actually qualified to do it.

And being one of those people is just a waste of your time, and the employer's time as well.

Now, this doesn't mean that you have to meet every single bullet pointed requirement listed in the job posting. There is such a thing as 'credential creep' where employers flood a job ad with a wish list of qualifications that any one candidate is unlikely to possess. Read the job posting carefully. Make sure that you understand the actual duties and challenges of the job, and if you can make a significant contribution in the role, then go ahead and apply.

But don't apply haphazardly. Apply well. You can't do that using a generic resumes. You need to tailor every application to the job at hand. Explain how you can stand out on the job. Employers want to hire someone who will make their lives easier. So your resume should demonstrate what your past successes can accomplish for them. Avoid listing just your work duties and tasks, but instead focus on your achievements. Make sure the employer knows the added value that you specifically brought to your role. Bear in mind that these should be described in such a way as to highlight their relevance to the challenges of the job you're applying to.

A tailored, relevant resume is far more likely to catch an employer's attention and land you an interview than a generic application. And the key to succeeding at the interview is to keep up the approach of being focused and relevant to the job at hand.

In a recent survey of over 2,000 employers, nearly half (47%) said that the most common mistake that candidates make in a job interview is having little or no knowledge about the company. In the internet era, there isn't an excuse for this. The best way to win over an employer is to demonstrate what you can do for them specifically.

The only way to effectively do this is to know as much as possible about the job, the company, and the industry in advance. This way you can practice tailoring how you describe your past work experience and accomplishments in a way that is relevant to the employer. "Here's what I have achieved in the past, therefore here is what I can do for you..."

Look the employer up online. Read their website. See if they are mentioned in articles on other sites or in news stories. Talk to people in your network who may have company or industry knowledge. Think about what the future of the industry is and what the challenges of the job might be. Be prepared to explain how you can help with those challenges and to demonstrate how your qualifications make you uniquely suited for the job.

Employers are always more impressed with candidates who are knowledgeable about their company and who can show why they want to work for them specifically. (Rather than a candidate who is just looking to land a job, any job will do.)

It may sound like a lot of work to be so thorough with every job you apply to -- and that's why you should apply to fewer. Spending a few days researching companies and crafting customized applications will get you to your destination a lot faster than sending out a stock resume to 1,000 open positions.

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