Whether you are looking for a part-time job on campus or over the summer or are graduating and need a job after you graduate, looking for a job can be overwhelming, especially the first time. One of the most nerve-wracking things is making sure your application is done well enough to give you the best chance to get the job. Keep an eye out for these common mistakes and fix them as soon as you spot them.
Submitting the same resume and/or cover letter for each job you apply for
When you are searching for a job, you are likely to apply for multiple jobs until you find one. A common mistake that job hunters make is using the same resume and cover letter for each job they apply for. Not only does this send a generic application to the hiring managers, it may cost you the job. In your cover letter especially, you want to highlight how previous experiences can help you be successful in the role you are applying for. Be as specific as possible and try to match up specific experiences and examples for each bullet point in the posting.
Also, some job application sites have a filter that searches resumes and cover letters to look for keywords and phrases that appear in the job posting. If you do not customize your resume and cover letter for the position, the system automatically tosses your application out. Therefore, it is crucial that you customize each resume and cover letter to include words and phrases that are in the job posting so that you can be sure your application is seen by the hiring manager.
How to fix this mistake: Make sure you customize your resume and cover letter for each job, highlighting the things that are covered in the job posting. Use phrases and words that appear in the job posting to make sure your application does not get tossed out.
Making costly resume errors
Hiring managers see a ton of resumes every day, and the search for a candidate to fill an open position is as tedious as the job-hunting process is. Therefore, it is crucial that you keep your resume to one page to help the hiring managers read your resume quickly. Some job application systems will toss out your application if your resume is more than one page.
Another common mistake is that applicants make their resume too creative, thinking that it will help them stand out. However, this can make their application look unprofessional. Unless you are applying for a creative job such as a graphic designer, keep your resume simple. While it is okay to toss in a little color, keep it to a minimum.
How to fix the mistake: Keep your resume to one page. Use the most recent positions that are relevant to the job you are applying for. Avoid including things you did in high school as you should have done enough in college to have relevant experience. Resist the urge to make your resume over-the-top creative in order to stand out.
Grammatical errors on your application
No matter what field you are in, communication is key. One of the most important aspects of communication is proper grammar. Any grammatical errors on your resume or cover letter make you look unprofessional. Your application is meant to communicate your strengths and how they can help you be successful in the position, but if your job application has grammar mistakes, your successes mean nothing since the hiring manager will not want to hire you.
Also, it is crucial that you use consistent grammar throughout your application. For example, if you use the Oxford comma, commit to using it through your resume and cover letter instead of using it in one place and not another. Another consistency mistake is using contractions such as “it’s” and “I’m” but writing out “it is” and “I am” somewhere else. Being consistent is crucial in writing and communication, so it is important that your application shows that you can keep written communication clear and consistent.
How to fix this mistake: Before submitting your application, step away for a bit so that you can look at it with fresh eyes. Better yet, have someone else look at it so they can look for grammar issues. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for consistency errors.
Listing responsibilities of a job
When you are applying for a job, you should be showing how previous job experiences have helped make you qualified for the job you are applying for. Simply listing a previous job or experience without explaining what you did on a daily basis does not show hiring managers how the experience or position will help you be successful in the position you are applying for. When listing responsibilities, make sure you use specific achievements and quantifications of your duties. Using numbers to showcase your duties and experience can help prove that you have been successful.
How to fix this mistake: Make sure you list your daily responsibilities as well as any accomplishments that you had at a previous experience or position.
Using high school experience in an entry-level position application
When applying for college, you likely used the experiences you had in high school to help bolster your application. However, when applying for a professional job, it is important that you focus on what you accomplished during college, including student organizations and internships. Even if you were involved with relevant organizations in high school, hiring managers expect applicants to have experience from their college years that can translate into the job you’re applying for.
How to fix this mistake: Go through your resume and remove anything that you did in high school. Think of experiences that you had while in college and beyond to help bolster your resume with these things.
Going on a tangent in your cover letter
Like your resume, it is important to keep your cover letter short and sweet, ideally to one page. While you should give specific examples of how you would be great for the job, it is important to keep your letter concise and to the point of what is in the job posting. You should also have a good opener and conclusion, but, again, keep these as short and clear as possible.
How to fix this mistake: After writing your cover letter, go through and make sure it is one page or less. If it is longer, see what details you may have included that are not directly related to the job posting. Also, if you have gone on a tangent, even if it is related to a job posting, cut it down a bit.
Rushing through your application
As a college student, you are busy with classes, organizations, and possibly part-time jobs. However, it is important that you take your time when you are writing your application. Hiring managers can tell if something was rushed through, and this sends the message that you do not want the job. Also, rushing through your application gives you a higher chance of grammatical errors.
How to fix this mistake: Set aside time each week to apply for jobs. That way, you have a designated time to work on applications, and you can avoid rushing through. This also gives you a chance to proofread your application and have someone else look over it once you edit it.
Simply repeating information from your resume in your cover letter
While your resume and cover letter should be consistent with much of the same information, avoid stating information from your resume in your cover letter word for word. Your cover letter is the place for you to give examples of how your experiences and positions will help you in the position you are applying for.
How to fix this mistake: Look at your resume and cover letter simultaneously. If you just rehashed the bullet points from your resume in your cover letter, shift your focus to how your previous experiences and positions will help you in the role you are applying for. Give specific examples of projects you worked on that relate to the job posting.
Making formatting errors in your resume and cover letter
When you are writing your cover letter, it is easy to be confused about how to write a professional cover letter, especially if it is your first time. Luckily, there are online resources that can help you out. Also, going to your school’s career center to get advice can be useful. Likewise, making your first resume can seem daunting, especially since there are so many examples online for a variety of careers.
How to fix this mistake: Write your cover letter in the standard business letter format. If you look online, you can find examples of how to write in this way. For resumes, many word processing programs have templates that include resume formats. You may also be able to find an online template to download and use. Saving the template allows you to use it for future applications as well.
Lying, intentionally or unintentionally
Even if you make it through the application and interview process and end up with a job offer, lying on your resume will eventually bite you in the butt. When you are actually unable to do something you said or could or worked at a place you never have, the company you are applying with will find out and if you were offered the position, you will likely be fired. If the lie is unintentional and you catch it before the interview, be honest in the interview and tell the interviewer that you are sorry for making the mistake.
How to fix the mistake: Be honest about your abilities upfront. It will be much more gratifying to get a job for what you can actually do than for what you lied about. If you make an unintentional mistake about a date or other detail, be honest up front. The hiring managers will be grateful for your honesty, and if not, it is not worth working there. To avoid unintentional mistakes altogether, give yourself plenty of time to apply. Proofread before submitting, and have someone you know and trust look over it as well.
Other general fixes for your job application errors
Most colleges and universities have career centers that help students with their resumes and cover letters for their applications. Individual majors or sections of your university might have career counselors for your specific major or career type, which will give you advice specific to your field. Make an appointment to have your documents checked out. Bring drafts of your document as well as the specific job posting so that the career counselor can look to make sure your application fits in with what the job posting is looking for.
Job applications can be intimidating, especially when you are applying for your first major job. Knowing how to avoid common mistakes can help you stand out and boost your confidence in yourself and your application.