Job Application Mistakes

Common Job Application Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Applying for jobs can simultaneously be both tedious and stressful. So, whether you’re just starting out in your first career, or you’re looking for a new job and have already sent numerous applications throughout the years, errors are bound to happen. How can you avoid them? Here are seven common job application mistakes and what you can do to sidestep them.

Submitting the same resume and cover letter for every job

Having the same documents for all of your applications can have multiple negative impacts. First, you risk looking generic and giving the impression that you’re not passionate about this job in particular. Second, you might miss crucial keywords that each company’s applicant tracking system (ATS) is looking for. So, use your resume and cover letter to show how you’re a good fit for this specific position:

  • Use language that’s in the job description
  • Add details specific to the company that show your application is for this role, not just any role

Spelling and grammar errors

As with the case above, there are two potential consequences here. You might come across as not having an attention to detail, which could be a red flag to hiring managers. And once again, an ATS is looking for specific words and phrases. If your typo (either in your resume or the application itself) happens to be one of those keywords, the system will skip over it and may overlook your application entirely:

  • Re-read everything in your application before submitting
  • If possible, have someone else take a look to give it a second pair of eyes

Leaving items blank

An incomplete application is yet another red flag which might show hiring managers that you lack attention to detail. And, you’d miss what could be a prime opportunity to input something that showcases your fit for the role. Before submitting:

  • Check the page and make sure no fields are left empty — even if only to say that you don’t have an answer for it

Listing responsibilities rather than describing achievements

Chances are, the person hiring knows what the basic roles of similar positions are. For example, you don’t need to tell them that as a copywriter, you wrote copy. Instead of focusing on what every other person in your role is also doing on the job, discuss specific accomplishments you had, such as metrics you improved, projects or teams you oversaw, or extra work like assignments or mentorships you took on:

  • Try to use action words wherever possible such as “led,” “increased,” or “launched”
  • Highlight accomplishments like “implemented a pop-up on the company’s homepage and increased subscriptions by 60%”
  • Use specific numbers such as “75%” or “15X”

Using your cover letter to restate your resume

While you do want things to be consistent, you don’t want to simply restate what’s already been written. Your cover letter is a chance to place your resume into context and explain more about how the experiences and skills listed will be a benefit in this role:

  • Double check both pages side-by-side to make sure they don’t say the same thing
  • If there are too many similarities, reframe points to showcase how past accomplishments at previous companies will help at the prospective company

Overusing buzzwords

As much as you want to add action words and phrases from the job description, you also want to avoid certain others. Broad clichés won’t tell the person looking at your application anything they actually want to know, and might even end up being a turnoff for them. When crafting the language in your application:

  • Search online for overused words you don’t want to include
  • If you have any, replace them with phrases that are specific to your industry and/or your accomplishments — such as talking about a conference you were invited to speak at rather than calling yourself a “thought leader”

Not following directions

Different companies will have different requirements for their applications. And not following all their directions will be a poor indicator of your ability to do quality work going forward. Do they want attachments to be a certain file type? Is there additional work they want you to submit in addition to the application? Before you hit submit:

  • Re-read the entire page again to make sure there are no details or specifications you overlooked

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