Three common job-search mistakes

Recent government figures indicate a more positive outlook for job growth, with the U.S. economy adding 165,000 jobs in April, 25,000 more than economists expected. Yet for some job seekers – particularly those returning to the workforce after an extended break – finding a position remains a challenge.

Research shows that employers are often unwilling to consider applicants who have been out of the workforce for longer than six months. A recent Northeastern University study found that candidates out of work longer than six months got called back for jobs far less than their counterparts who were unemployed for shorter periods of time – even when they had similar industry experience. 

We hear from highly qualified women every day who are struggling to re-establish themselves in the workforce after taking time off to raise children, care for elderly parents or support a military spouse’s career. Many of these job seekers are extremely experienced, well-educated, and highly-skilled and would add tremendous value to an organization’s bottom line.

But getting potential employers to look past their time off can be difficult.  When the Wharton School surveyed women re-entering the workforce in 2005, 50 percent of respondents described their job hunt as frustrating, while another 18 percent said the experience was “depressing.”

As career transition specialists, we tend to see a few common mistakes that can stall a job search. Here are few pitfalls to avoid:

• Waiting to start a job search until your resume is perfect.
You can spend weeks or even months on a resume and it doesn’t get you anywhere. You can’t use your resume as an excuse to avoid applying for jobs. Instead of starting a job search with your resume, start by articulating your goals and figuring out who to talk to and who can help advance your search.
• Relying on one universal resume.
While your resume doesn’t have to be perfect, it should be customized to fit the specifications of the position you’re applying for. An initial gatekeeper may spend 30 seconds looking at your resume to decide whether to call you, so make sure your resume includes a few keywords that will grab his or her attention and convince that individual that you’re qualified for the job. Thanks to technology, it’s easy to find job descriptions and tailor your resume to meet the qualifications an employer is looking for.  Make it easy for the employer, by aligning your resume with the open position.
• Applying for jobs from home behind your computer.
With the amount of screening that goes on today, job seekers can’t afford to work in isolation. We really advocate talking to everyone you know about your job search and your career goals. You might learn about different roles you never considered or discover a new company that wasn’t previously on your radar.