You just don't get it. You've applied to numerous jobs, been to countless interviews and made several new contacts in your network -- yet here you are -- still sitting on the unemployment list. What gives?
Well ... have you ever stopped to consider that what gives might in fact be ... you?
It's a hard concept that most job seekers have trouble wrapping their heads around, but applicants frequently -- inadvertently -- raise red flags to hiring managers that immediately scream, "Don't hire me!" But, it might not be entirely your fault.
"Most companies don't give direct feedback about areas people are weak in while they are employed. They are enabling poor performance and lack of accountability," says Tom Gimbel, president and CEO of The LaSalle Network, an executive recruiting firm in Chicago. "The same mentality exists when people interview. They feel they did 'great' on the interview and never look at themselves for if they feel that the interviewer was looking for something different."
Not sure if you're unknowingly blowing your chances at scoring your dream job? Here are 10 red flags to be wary of during your next job hunt:
Red flag No. 1: You don't have any contact information on your résumé
When you're crafting your résumé, you should focus on highlighting relevant skills and accomplishments that are in line with the position for which you are applying. But what good is an impressive résumé if hiring managers have no way to get in touch with its owner? If they can't find you, they can't hire you. Always provide a home address, phone number or e-mail address so employers can get in touch with you easily.
Red flag No. 2: You have long gaps between jobs on your résumé
Even if your long departure from the work force is valid, extended lapses of unemployment might say to an employer, "Why weren't you wanted by anyone?" Gimbel says. Anytime you have more than a three-month gap of idleness on your résumé, legitimate or otherwise, be prepared to explain yourself.
Red flag No. 3: You aren't prepared for the interview
There are many ways to be unprepared for an interview: You haven't researched the company, you don't have any questions prepared, you didn't bring a copy of your résumé, etc. Plain and simple, do your homework before an interview. Explore the company online, prepare answers to questions and have someone give you a mock interview. The more prepared you are, the more employers will take you seriously.
Red flag No. 4: You didn't provide any references
By omitting references in your application, employers could infer that you don't know anyone who has any positive things to say about you -- when in fact, you just forgot to provide them with people who can vouch for you. No references also shows employers that you aren't prepared for people to call them, Gimbel says. Always make sure the hiring manager has at least one person to contact who can speak on your behalf.
Red flag No. 5: You only have negative things to say about previous employment
We know how tempting it is to want to tell anyone who will listen how much of a (insert expletive word here) your old boss was -- but a hiring manager for a coveted job is not that person.
There are hundreds of ways to turn negative things about an old job into positives. Thought your last job was a dead end? Spin it by saying, "I felt I had gone as far as I could go in that position. I'm looking for something with more opportunity for advancement." Couldn't get along with your co-workers? "I really need to work in an environment where I feel like I'm part of a team and my last position didn't allow for that kind of atmosphere."
Red flag No. 6: You've held seven different jobs -- in the past six months
Job hopping is a new trend in the working world. Workers are no longer staying in a job for 10-20 years; they stay for a couple and move on to the next one. While such a tactic can further your career, switching jobs too often will raise a prospective employer's antenna. Too many jobs in too little time tells employers that either you can't hold a job or you have no loyalty, Gimbel says. Pick and choose the jobs you include on your résumé or prepare to explain yourself.
Red flag No. 7: You give inconsistent answers in your interview
One tactic hiring managers use during the hiring process is to ask you the same question in several different ways. This is mostly to ensure that you're genuine with your answers and not just telling an employer what he or she wants to hear. Keep your responses sincere throughout the entire process and you should be good to go.
Red flag No. 8: You lack flexibility
Most people know what they want in a job as far as benefits, compensation, time-off, etc. If you're unable to be flexible with some of your (unrealistic?) expectations, however, you're going to have a difficult time finding a job. Have a bottom line in terms of what you want before you start the hiring process and be willing to bend a bit if necessary.
Red flag No. 9: Your application was, in a word -- lazy
Only doing the bare minimum of what's asked of you won't get very far -- in life or in your job search. Applying to jobs with the same résumé and the same cover letter (or none at all) is pure laziness. And as Gimbel points out, if you won't spend extra time on yourself and your application materials, you sure as heck won't do it for a client.
Red flag No. 10: You lack objective or ambition
If you have no long-term goals, then you really have no short-term goals either, Gimbel says. "Long-term goals may change, however you need to have some concept of where you want to go." Know where you want to go and how you plan to get there. Otherwise you seem unfocused and unmotivated, which are two big no-no's for an applicant.
Rachel Zupek is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.
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