Common Job Search Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

woman frustrated at computer from making common job search mistakes

So you’ve spent weeks— or even months— applying to jobs and, so far, no luck. Maybe you’ve had a few interviews, but companies always seem to choose other candidates over you. Your job search is proving to be unsuccessful, and you’re wondering what on earth you’re doing wrong.

It could just be the job market— or it could be that you’re unknowingly making common mistakes that leave companies with a less-than-stellar impression.

To get a better idea of what sort of problems recruiters and hiring managers are seeing, JobSage spoke to hiring teams at five different companies. Here’s what they had to say about common job search mistakes people make when applying and interviewing for jobs at their company.

Mistake #1: You misspell the company name in your cover letter or application.

You would think that spelling the company’s name right would be a no-brainer, but this mistake happens more often than you think— so much so that Michele Freeman, Director of People Operations at Notley, described it as one of the most common mistakes she sees with people applying at her company. 

“I know that mistakes happen, but this is your first impression with an organization,” Freeman says. “You want to make sure that you’re spelling the organizational name correctly.”

How to avoid this job search mistake

Before submitting your application, cover letter, and resume, always double-check that you’ve spelled the name of the company correctly. Use a grammar checker or have a friend look over your application to catch any other grammatical errors or typos.

Mistake #2: You don’t submit a cover letter if a cover letter is requested.

Freeman shared another common mistake that she sees when people apply to Notley. 

“My second thing is when people don’t submit a cover letter if a cover letter is requested,” Freeman says. “I can go both ways on cover letters, but a lot of times, having a cover letter helps me see why somebody’s interested in a particular position.”

She goes on to explain that if a candidate doesn’t do the very first thing that they are asked to do, it tells the hiring team that they may have issues following basic instruction if they get the job.  

How to avoid this job search mistake

Always thoroughly read the job description and application before submitting, ensuring that you’ve included everything that they’ve asked for. Sometimes companies will hide things in the fine print, testing candidates’ attention to detail. 

Mistake #3: You don’t double-check your resume.

If you’re on the job hunt, you’re probably applying to more than one job at once. While it’s good practice to cater your resume to each job that you apply to, this can lead to mistakes if you’re not careful.

“The biggest error I see— and I understand why it exists— is not double-checking your resume before you send it over,” says Sacha Lyson, Director of People at Spot Insurance

“I know from the past when I’ve been on the job search, you tweak your resume to match the roles that you’re applying for. But, I see it all too often where a candidate will forget to tweak it or send the wrong resume over. Unfortunately, your resume can reflect as though you’re applying to something that you, in fact, are not applying to.”

How to avoid this job search mistake

You may have dozens of versions of your resume downloaded on your computer. Always verify that you’re sending the right one by checking it against the job description.

Mistake #4: You haven’t done any research on the company.

A big faux pas noted by many of the companies that we talked to is simply not knowing anything about the company or the role.

“One mistake candidates make is not doing a little bit of research on who we are,” says CareerPlug’s Senior Director of People, Natalie Morgan. “If we get on a phone screen and you don’t know who CareerPlug is or don’t remember what the job is itself, that will definitely stand out to us.”

Morgan notes that a little bit of prep and research can go a long way in making a good first impression with your interviewer.

How to avoid this job search mistake

Carefully read the job description and the company’s “about” page before going into an interview. Have a clear understanding of what the job entails, what the company does, and their main mission. To really stand out, research who you will be talking to in your interview and what they do at the company.

Mistake #5: You don’t care about the job.

Companies want employees who are passionate about the work they do and the mission of the organization. Coming off as disinterested or not enthusiastic about the role will prevent you from moving forward in the interview process. 

“It’s about it mattering. We want to identify candidates who really care about their career, their growth, and what kind of company, culture, and environment they are a part of,” explains Lisa Novak, Vice President of Employee Experience at “Not caring much tends to turn us off.”

How to avoid this job search mistake

In every job you apply for, look for aspects of the job that you are excited about! Even if you aren’t necessarily passionate about the mission of the company, you may be excited about their company culture or some aspect of the role that you hope to fill. Make sure to convey this excitement to the recruiters or hiring managers.

Mistake #6: You didn’t ask any questions.

Curiosity is a trait that hiring managers typically look for in an employee, no matter the position. One of the best ways to gauge this is to see whether or not a candidate asks questions. Asking insightful questions is a great way to show your interviewer that you’re interested and engaged with the company.

“A big mistake is not asking any questions,” says Suzanne Salzberg, Vice President of Talent at TextNow. “Even if you’re interviewing with four people, you need to ask every person questions at the end [of your interview.]” 

How to avoid this job search mistake

This all comes back to researching the company before you apply or go into an interview. Write down questions that come to mind, whether it be about a new product, their processes, or what it’s like to work there. 

Salzburg reminds candidates to ask questions that make sense. “If you’re interviewing someone in HR, ask them about HR, benefits, culture, things like that. If you’re interviewing with someone from finance, ask them questions related to their role.”

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