IT Employment

Avoid the seven most common pitfalls of job-hunting

There are seven common mistakes that job-hunters tend to make. From resume miscues to interviewing gaffes, find out which issues to avoid--and better approaches to adopt instead.

This article originally appeared on Builder.com’s sister site, TechRepublic.com.

By Abbi Perets

There's one problem with following stock resume and interview advice: You'll sound like you're following stock advice. Most employers can see through it in less time than it takes clients to find a bug in the latest release of your software. Want to know what not to say and do—and why? Read on to discover the seven biggest mistakes you can make when you’re job-hunting—and solutions that really work

1. Not backing up adjectives with examples
When asked for their greatest strengths, too many interviewees simply spout off a laundry list of adjectives—like loyal, hardworking, committed—and don’t offer any real substance. Instead of doing that, try giving concrete examples that demonstrate the qualities you’re highlighting, such as:

“I’m loyal and committed. When my previous company instituted a salary freeze, many developers left—or at least started looking for greener pastures. I believed in the company’s mission and its ability to deliver. Our product was still viable. I put in extra hours and picked up my coworkers’ slack while they job-hunted. When we released our product and it was successful, the company’s financial situation improved, and I was one of the first employees to be granted a substantial raise. I’m looking for a new job now because the company was sold, and I’m not interested in relocating to the new R&D center.”

2. Stating that you’re looking for growth opportunities
Saying you’re looking for growth opportunities can imply to an interviewer that you’re more concerned with what your company can do for you than the other way around. Instead, try this approach:

“I measure success by more than how quickly I climb the corporate ladder. I want my contributions to have a direct, positive impact on the company. I’m ready to make more aggressive design decisions and explore ways we can use new development tools—.NET, for example—to expand into new markets. My present company is comfortable where it is and isn’t interested in taking risks right now. Your company is more in tune with the risk/reward dynamic that sets top performers apart. I’d like to help you create the best-of-class solutions you need to propel the company forward.”

3. Telling the interviewer that you want the job for the casual environment, great benefits, or competitive salary
Okay, you’re probably not that blunt, but you should have a great reason for wanting to work at that particular company—and as before, show the interviewer what you can do for the company, not vice versa.

“You’re the fastest-growing semiconductor company in the country. I can help you solve some of the space issues you’re confronting as device sizes shrink. Your quick time-to-market means breakthrough designs can be implemented—and company revenues can increase—in a matter of months.”

4. Having a resume that indicates you’ve been a compulsive job-hopper since college
You may have perfectly legitimate reasons for leaving each of the last six jobs you held. But understand an employer’s wariness when he reviews your quick departures. Consider using a different resume format: A skills-based resume, for example, can disguise your frequent moves. You could also present yourself as a consultant, thus making your short contracts perfectly acceptable.

5. Not having a local mailing address and/or phone number
A few years ago, relocation bonuses were standard. A few years ago, people thought “interactive” and “CD-ROM” were synonyms. Unless you’re really, really special, you’re going to have to rent your own U-Haul these days, and when you apply for a job with an out-of-state address or phone number, red flags go up.

Get a cell phone number that’s local to the area you want to work in, and get yourself a Post Office box with forwarding service. You’ll notice an immediate increase in returned calls. Really.

6. Not knowing anything about the company except the buzzwords on its home page
With extensive information on every subject just a click away, there’s no excuse for showing up at an interview unprepared. At the very least, use your favorite search engine to look for recent articles about the company and its principals. If you can’t find anything about them, call the secretary and press for information. Still getting nowhere? Make sure you learn everything you can about the company’s industry, like who the major players are and what it takes to make it. You’ll be able to ask intelligent questions, and your interest will work in your favor.

7. Having a resume full of technical experience—but you’re looking to move into management
This is a subtle mistake that can cost you the chance to move up the corporate ladder. Yes, you need technical skills to be an IT manager. But you’ve got to play up team leadership skills if you want a company to take a chance on you. Go through your past jobs and highlight your leadership experience. Grit your teeth and downplay your techie side—for now. You can create a single “technical skills” section that will showcase your abilities. But be sure to clearly present the skills the employer cares about most: your ability to manage large and small groups, lead multiple teams, and solve problems on the fly.

There’s no magic formula that will guarantee you the job of your dreams. But if you make sure that these seven fatal flaws aren’t keeping you from the glory you deserve, you’ll be that much closer to success.
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