Job hunting is hard. It's not something you ever get comfortable with, because you typically don't do it often enough to get good at it. There's also A LOT of bad advice on the internet about how to job hunt.
Because it can be difficult to figure out which resources online are helpful, and which are useless, I've created a list of my top tips and favorite resources for job hunting, resumes, and interview prepping.
Here's my top tips to help you identify the things you're doing wrong when job hunting.
You have a poor resume.
Resumes which are poorly formatted, hard to read, full of grammatical errors, or don't accurately capture your experience can really hurt your changes of getting interviews.
Most people are bad at writing them, which makes sense – after all, you probably only write them every few years. And it involves selling yourself, and your skills, something which most people struggle with.
On top of this, it's difficult to figure out how to sort through all the advice on the internet in order to figure out which is good advice (please avoid the professional resume services).
Plus people rarely think that their resume is the problem, even if they've been struggling to get interviews. They'll often say something like 'but I've had tons of people review it and they all say it's okay!'.
There are a couple of problems with this: first, you want your resume to be better than okay. In order to stand out in an extremely competitive job market, it needs to be stellar.
Second, most people don't know how to write a resume, and therefore they can't help identify the problems with yours. Also, it's often hard for reviewers to provide constructive criticism for fear of hurting someone's feelings.
Finally, you really need someone who has a lot of experience hiring or recruiting in your specific field in order to receive accurate advice.
Need more detailed resume writing tips? Read this article.
You write a generic, boring cover letter.
You should write a personalized, custom cover letter for jobs you care about. Cover letters are a way that you can stand out from your competition and show the organization why you're interested in working for them, as opposed to any other organization.
This is more important to some organizations than others (FAANG typically don't care), but a great cover letter will never hurt your chances of being hired, only help them.
It can also be a helpful exercise for you, because it gives you the chance to think about and articulate why you're interested in working for this company.
This way, when you're asked in an interview 'why this organization?' you have an answer readily available.
In addition, your cover letter should be in the body of your application email - don't send an empty email with two attachments to the hiring manager.
You fail to proofread everything.
If you struggle with grammar and spelling, or English isn't your first language, check out Grammarly. It is free and will help you identify changes you should make to your writing.
Also, if you can, ask a friend who got great grades in English to help you out. If your resume/cover letter/application is difficult to read due to spelling and grammatical mistakes, the focus won't be on your achievements.
Plus, communication is a big part of any job (no matter how technical) and your application is a place to showcase your communication skills.
Since you've had essentially unlimited time to write and review your resume/cover letter/application, it's expected that they will be free from grammatical mistakes or spelling errors.
You forget about the behavioral interview questions.
However, a common mistake is to ignore the behavioral questions entirely. These questions can set you apart from your peers, and an inability to answer them well can ruin your chances of being hired, even if your technical responses are excellent.
The best place to start is often to look at Glassdoor interview reviews for the company you're interviewing with. This will help you get an idea of what type of behavioral questions they favor, as well as the STAR technique, outlined here.
In addition, Leet Code and HackerRank also have great discussion forums to talk about behavioral questions for specific companies and how to best prepare.
You don't dress up for your interview (even if it's over video) or you show up late.
It will likely make you feel more confident to dress well for your interview. And similarly to proofreading, will ensure that the focus is on what you're saying, not what you're wearing.
What is considered appropriate workplace attire varies based on the geographic location, industry, organization, culture, and so on. So it's important to do some research in advance to figure out what you should wear.
In addition, if you're interviewing via phone or video call, ensure that you've minimized background noise (or distracting items in the background), that your camera and microphone work well, and that you have a quality internet/phone connection from your location.
Again, the focus should be on helping the interviewer focus on what you're saying, not a poor internet connection, background noise, or an odd background. You should definitely be prepared to turn on your video camera during a virtual interview.
You apply for jobs which don't relate to your job history with no explanation.
If you've previously only had jobs doing x and are now applying for jobs doing y, you need a clear and convincing explanation as to why you would be good at this new job.
Employers often receive hundreds, if not thousands of resumes for a single position. They need a fast, easy way to sort through the resumes in order to decide whom they want to give interviews.
Thus, if there's anything wrong with the resume (typos, strange formatting, experience which doesn't match the position), they're likely to simply toss it in the 'no' pile.
It's your job to convince the employer that you would be great at the job (and why!) with your application materials. This is particularly relevant if you're attempting to change careers or are coming from a self-taught or bootcamp background.
That doesn't mean you can't apply for those jobs (plenty of self-taught developers have successfully changed careers!), but it does make it a little harder.
You need to clearly show to employers why you're qualified with an excellent cover letter and a resume which highlights projects you've done and transferrable skills from previous jobs.
You don't follow instructions.
It sounds simple, but many people don't follow instructions.
If the job posting asks you to submit a resume/cover letter to a specific email address, do that. Don't print it out and mail it to the hiring manager or mail the hiring manager something other than your resume or submit a video resume when they've asked for a pdf.
They've asked for specific application materials in a specific format because it is easy for them. If you go around that process, your materials may never make it to the appropriate person, or it may annoy them that you've created more work for them (like scanning a resume into an online portal where they asked you to submit it).
Your goal should be to make it easy for hiring managers and HR to look at and review your application.
You follow up right after submitting an application.
If they're interested, they'll reach out to you. If they don't reach out, it could have been for a million reasons.
Perhaps they already had an internal candidate in mind, they've already filled the position and forgot to take the job posting down, or your application didn't stand out to them.
Don't overthink why you haven't heard back, and don't bother them. Move on to the next application.
Keep in mind that this is only the case if you haven't been contacted about an interview. If you've already had an interview, there are different rules for following up.
You think that you're the exception to the rule.
Everyone seems to have a story about a friend of a friend who got a job from doing something highly unusual like mailing the hiring manager a gift, showing up to the office, or another gimmick.
There are times when a candidate is so strong that they're hired regardless, or times when the hiring manager may appreciate an unorthodox approach (often when they are a small organization and/or don't hire frequently). But the vast majority of people will find it annoying.
Plus, you probably don't want to work for an organization where that type of tactic would work. You want to work for a place where what matters is your ability to do the job.
You don't use a professional email address.
Something like email@example.com is fine. University addresses are also fine, but after you have been out of university for a few years, it's probably a good idea to update it.
Something like 'firstname.lastname@example.org' is not.
If you've managed to nail all of these, congratulations and best of luck to you on your job search journey!