Looking for a job? Don’t make these 12 mistakes

If you have lost your job and are finding it hard to secure fresh placement, find out where you are going wrong.

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Most job seekers make the mistake of getting the follow-up timing wrong.
There are few situations in life that compare with the distress of losing a job. One of them is not being able to find another. Given the prevailing market condition, where job losses have become rampant, many people are facing this truth.

Nearly 2.3 lakh in the auto sector have lost their jobs lost, while 10 lakh jobs have been hit in the auto component manufacturing industry as of July 2019, as per the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM). The telecom, IT, tech startups, media and entertainment, manufacturing, consumer white goods and hospitality are other sectors facing dismissals. In fact, according to a report by the Azim Premji University, as many as 50 lakh jobs have been lost between 2016 and 2018, with young urban men hit the hardest.

“This disruption is expected to last for at least a year,” says Devashish Chakravarty, CEO, QuezX & HeadHonchos. The large-scale job loss also reduces the chances of getting a job quickly. Explains Chakravarty: “In a recessionary phase, the demand-supply equation reverses. There are fewer opportunities and more applicants per opportunity. Employers also become more choosy about finding the right fit, increasing the length of the selection process.” So the employees who are used to getting a 20-30% salary hike are offered smaller hikes and they refuse. Then they don’t find a job easily.


Another big reason for not finding a job is the mistakes made during the entire process of job selection, starting right from the time of preparing a resume and lasting till after the interview. “The first and foremost reason is that the job seeker may not be looking at the job that matches his skills, knowledge and behaviour. Many other factors like cultural fit, experience and skill mismatch affect the selection,” says Neeti Sharma, Senior Vice-President, TeamLease Services.

Job losses are on the rise
  • 2.3 lakh number of auto sector jobs lost, with 10 lakh jobs hit in the auto component manufacturing industry as of July 2019, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM).
  • 47% Indians who believe job scenario has become worse in the past five years, with only 21% saying job opportunities have grown, as per a survey conducted among 2,521 respondents in India, in 2018, by Washington-based Pew Research Centre.
  • 76% adults in India who see lack of employment opportunities as a very big problem for the nation, as per Pew Research Centre. In 2018, 18.6 million Indians were jobless.
  • 50 lakh Indians who lost their jobs between 2016 and 2018, with young urban men hit the hardest, according to a report by the Azim Premji University.
  • 4.24 lakh Downward revision of jobs between September 2017 and January 2019, as per the EPFO data.
  • 26% Fall in average monthly job creation since October 2018, as per the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) data. From October 2018 to April 2019, every release of EPFO shows a dip in average monthly job creation.

If you are a job seeker, go through the following pages to consider the mistakes you may be making. Since these could be keeping you from being re-employed, find out what you can do to avoid the potential minefields.

A. BEFORE APPLYING FOR A JOB
1. Not using the right search channels or tools

Where and how you conduct your job search is critical. If you are sending out unsolicited mails to companies, blindly pushing resumes to head hunters, or randomly checking the Internet for vacancies in organisations, you are unlikely to get a job anytime soon.

Networking is the best way to sniff out a job opportunity, and this should not begin when you lose your job, but should be an ongoing process. Employees of several companies also offer referral benefits. So, the more you keep in touch with friends and former colleagues, the more likely you are to be on their minds when a job opening comes up.

Another option is to get in touch with recruiters or hiring managers. These people are paid by companies to fill up positions as and when they open up, and can be the direct link between you and the company. Professional social media sites like Linkedin, and often Twitter, should be your next channel of choice because “data shows that about 15% of jobs are landed through social media”, says Sharma. Agrees Anjali Raghuvanshi, Chief People Officer, Randstad India: “Most recruiters hunt candidates from communites and groups on these sites. So, job seekers should join relevant groups, actively participate in industry conversations and repost relevant content.”

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You could also check the companies’ websites directly for any openings that they have advertised, and apply there.

2. Mismatch in skills and job requirement
In desperation to get a job, most candidates latch on to the first option that comes close to their skills or qualification. They make the mistake of being open-ended and confused about what they want. So before you start looking, be clear not only about the type of organisation you are seeking, but more importantly, about your profile and role in the company.
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Most recruiters are hired to find a candidate with specific expertise, experience and skill set. So if your resume clearly defines what your specialisation is and what you are interested in, there is a high chance of your being picked out for the role. Focusing on a near perfect match between your qualification and job requirement will not only hasten your job search, but also lead to greater satisfaction later on.

“It is also important for the job seeker to know about the company. Understand whether your vision is in alignment with the company’s vision,” says Sharma. “Inadequate research on industry and employer is a big mistake. This is the reason you should network with people at your prospective employer’s organisation,” says Chakravarty. You will not only understand the work circumstances but also the precise profile of the candidate.

3. Not reviewing social media sites
This is among the first steps you should take even before you start the search process. Since most companies prefer to scour social media sites not only to recruit, but also for cross-checking a candidate before hiring, it is a good idea to be aware of your complete social media footprint and keep it in shape.

“Offensive messages and photographs are a big deterrent for recruiters,” says Sharma. The other things to clear from your sites are extreme views on gender, politics and religion, bad-mouthing excolleagues, bosses or friends, and trolling or quarrels on social media.

“It also depends which stage of career you are in. If you are at a junior level, you need to be careful about what you post on Facebook and Instagram. At a more senior level, be more thoughtful on your Linkedin and Twitter accounts,” says Raghuvanshi. A working Linkedin account and enough number of connections in the industry also indicate a genuine profile. Also, make sure you have a high-resolution, professional picture where your face shows clearly on Linkedin or Twitter. “Nobody likes a profile without a picture or one from your holiday in Goa,” says Raghuvanshi.

Another important thing is that there should never be any mismatch in your resume content and Linkedin profile. Keep it updated at all times with no discrepancy in the years of experience, mailing address, spellings or other information. The confusion can be a big put-off for recruiters.

Also read: Social media do's and don'ts for job seekers

B. WHILE APPLYING FOR THE JOB
4. Forwarding a resume riddled with flaws

Given that most recruiters spend barely 30 seconds—a study claims this time is as less as 7 seconds—on a resume, you need to make it as attractive and convincing a case for yourself as you can. More importantly, make sure it is free of flaws since it is a big reason for rejections.

A strict no-no is typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical goof-ups. Such errors are a big put-off for recruiters, who see the candidate as a person who does not pay attention to details.

Another unforgivable mistake is lying about your skills, experience or falsifying other details on the resume. Remember, if you are shortlisted, companies will inevitably run a verification check and if you are found wanting, your reputation will be shred to bits. And, of course, you are unlikely to land a job soon.

Any mismatch between the details on your resume and social media profile is also undesirable. So keep your resume updated with an eye on dates and work experience. Many job seekers also see the resume as an application that needs to be packed with as much information as possible. Instead, it should be seen as a marketing tool intended to sell yourself at a glance. “Your resume should not be longer than four or five pages as nobody will read more than that,” says Raghuvanshi. So try to keep it short and crisp, with bulleted points, that can be taken up for detailed conversation at an in-person interview later.

Finally, pack your resume with keywords that are likely to show up on the databases of head hunters and companies. If you have the requisite skills and qualification for the job and are not noticed by the recruiter, it will be a waste of your tine and effort.

5. Sending a generic cover letter & resume to everyone
In their rush to get on with the search after losing a job, most candidates make an easily avoidable mistake: send out the same copy of a cover letter and resume to all potential employers. If your resume reads like a template picked off an online CV builder, with no effort and minimal changes to make it presentable, no employer is going to touch you.

“Prepare your resume in such a way that it seems relevant to the role, company and industry that you are applying to. You don’t want to end up seeking a financial analyst role without your resume speaking of any knowledge or experience in the financial sector,” says Sharma of Teamlease.

Your cover letter should speak to the person, not a faceless entity, and tryto convince him why your qualifications make you the perfect fit for the role. This argument should be played out and reflected in the resume, listing your strengths and vision, and how these align with the role and company’s vision. “If your resume looks like a copy-paste version, it will be boring and no recruiter will read it. You have to make it unique by highlighting your strength, skills and professional competence,” says Raghuvanshi.

Also make sure you pick the CV format suited to the curent stage and experience in your career. For instance, do not pick a resume that starts with work experience even though you are just in your second job, or one that simply lists out all the companies you’ve ever worked for without explaining what exactly you did there.

6. Not following up or following up too aggressively with recruiter or company
What should you do after sending in the resume? How long should you wait before contacting the recruiter or employer? Most job seekers make the mistake of getting the follow-up timing wrong.

“Remember that no recruiter is going to respond the very next day. If you have applied for a position at a senior level, wait for at least a week before contacting the head hunter,” says Raghuvanshi.

Even so, it is a good idea to send a message on Linkedin or e-mail instead of calling up as it might be considered intrusive in the initial stages of the selection process. It may be more appropriate to call if you have been shorlisted for an interview.

At the junior level, the recruiter might take even longer to get back, say, 15 days. So do not send a mail before two weeks or you might be considered too desperate for a job and are likely to weaken your bargaining position.

Sometimes, head hunters may like your resume and keep the profile in their databases for as long as 1-3 months before getting back. This is because they may not have the right opening at the moment and respond only when an appropriate position opens up.

When you do send a follow-up mail, make sure it is short, crisp and lucid. The subject line should be clearly mentioned and the mail should be politely worded. Briefly reaffirm your interest in the job and why you are a good fit. Remind them of your resume and ask for a response. If you still don’t get a mail, you are clearly not the frontrunner for the job.

C. DURING THE INTERVIEW
7. Getting the phone interview wrong

Many job selection processes begin with a phone call. If it is a scheduled call, prepare for it. If it is unscheduled, don’t hesitate to ask for a new date citing unavoidable preoccupation.

Also read: How job applicants should prepare for phone interviews

During the phone interview, make sure you follow a protocol that doesn’t get you rejected. Never put the interviewer on hold, especially to take another call. Also, never multitask while you’re on the phone as you will come across as distracted. The interviewer will interpret this as lack of interest or seriousness in the job. So focus on the call and handle it as top priority.

While your tone should be relaxed and conversational, don’t make it too personal or informal since it’s the first point of personal contact with the employer. Do not discuss issues that do not pertain to the job at hand.

While you answer the interviewer’s questions, keep a notepad handy with a list of your own queries about the employer and your role in the organisation. However, make sure you do not broach the issue of salary expectation or compensation package. It’s probably your first call with the recruiter and an inappropriate time to discuss money. If you are the right candidate, the subject will be dealt with later.

8. Responding wrongly during interaction
Under-preparation for the in-person interview may be the biggest mistake you make during the job selection process. “Be prepared both about yourself and the company you have applied to. Be humble, polite and don’t be nervous because you will make mistakes in responding to the interviewer,” says Sharma.

“One of the main causes of rejection of candidates is that they don’t do their homework or run a basic hygiene check on the company,” says Raghuvanshi. Researching about the company structure, your role in the organisation and cultural values of the company can drastically increase your chances of being accepted. “If interviewers have to choose between a candidate with higher professional competence and one with better personal values that fit in with that of the company, they will choose the latter,” says Raghuvanshi.

You should also ask the right questions regarding your role, salary expectations and company hierarchy without seeming to dominate the conversation. “Another important point is that your words should match the content in the resume. If you have a bloated resume but cannot back it up, you will be seen as flaky and unreliable,” says Sharma.

“You can do this best by conducting repeated mock interviews with a friend and reahearsing answers to the questions related to your suitability to the role,” says Chakravarty.

9. Improper behaviour, poor body language at the interview
Personal interview is your last and best chance to make a good impression, but it also exposes you to a much deeper introspection. “Non-verbal communication and body language leave a huge impact on the interviewers and first impressions can be lasting,” says Raghuvanshi.

So, apart from preparing about what you say, focus on how you say it. One of the biggest mistakes candidates make is in the way they present and conduct themselves. “Make sure you are not late for the interview or reschedule it,” says Chakravarty. Don’t dress shabbily or flamboyantly and don’t have unkempt hair. If you are dressed neatly and smartly, it conveys your intent and seriousness about the job.

During the interview, do not be laid back or low on energy. “People have been rejected for not being attentive and having low energy levels or not being able to connect with the panel,” says Raghuvanshi. So be alert, do not sit in a relaxed manner, make eye contact with all the interviewers, and respond appropriately to what they say with a smile and nod, when required. If your reactions do not go down well with the panel, it may be interpreted as poor communication or people skills, and you may be rejected.

D. AFTER THE INTERVIEW
10. Changing personal expectations after the interview

A big mistake that can scuttle your chances of getting the job is to express unrealistic expectations or demands during the post-interview negotiations. “These could include your inflexibility related to geography or job content during the negotiation,” says Chakravarty.

So think before applying for the job whether you are willing to shift to a different location or travel if the company demands it. Similarly, it’s important to network with the employees to find out about the work hours or shifts that the job will entail long before you send in your resume to the company.

If you come up with too many personal constraints about the job even before you have joined the organisation, it’s a sure way to hasten your rejection because you will be seen as unreliable.

Another big put-off for head hunters or recruiters is if the candidate alters his salary expectations after the interview, which is the last stage of a long and tedious job selection process. Since it reflects badly on the recruiter, who is paid to shortlist candidates for the company and is seen as wasting its precious time and resources, you are likely to be blacklisted for future job opportunities.

So before you express your salary expectations during the interview, conduct proper market research on the prevailing rates for your level of competence and experience in the geographical location you are likely to be in.

Also read: How job seekers should prepare for video interview

11. Forgetting to thank or follow up
As with the follow-up etiquette after submitting your resume, you need to stick to a protocol after attending the final personal interview. “Not following up or conveying interest to the recruiters or hiring managers can be a big mistake, interpreted as lack of seriousness about the job,” says Chakravarty.

“Follow up with a thank-you mail to the relevant person within 24 hours and wait for their response,” says Sharma. If they don’t respond within the next few days, follow up with another mail or a call to the human resources personnel to find out about the selection. If there is still no response, start looking for another job.

At a higher seniority level, a mail of thanks is almost seen as mandatory. The mail should thank the interviewer for the time and opportunity to interact even though you may not get the job. You will be seen as having good communication and inter-personal skills and might be considered the next time there is an opening.

You can follow up with a mail, message or even a phone call depending on your level of comfort and formality with the recruiter. It will also give you a chance to add something that you missed saying during the interview.

Even if you are not selected, it is a good idea to add the recruiter or employer to your Linkedin or Twitter contact list and keep the interaction going with reposts, professional conversations and an exposure to your work.

Also read: Should you change your job? Here are 5 pointers

12. Not having ready references
This is one easily avoidable post-interview mistake that can nullify all your efforts involved in preparation for job selection. You should not be left struggling to line up your references if the employer requests these after the interview. While you don’t need to append your list of references with the resume, you should be in a position to send a separate mail, attachment or present a hard copy to the recruiter or employer if he asks you to do so during or immediately after the interview.

To be able to do so, make sure you have talked to your former employers or colleages well in advance and sought their approval for the same. While the employer typically asks for three to five references, if it is not specified, talk to at least three professionals who can provide flattering references to your work.

Your reference list should clearly mention the complete names and updated contact details, including correct mobile numbers and e-mail addresses, where they can be accessed easily. It should also list their current organisations’ names, addresses and designations. Since it’s a separate document that you will be sending the recruiter, you also need to append your name and contact details.

Lastly, don’t forget to thank the references for their help and cooperation.
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