Job Search Mistakes

Job searching can feel like a full-time job and sometimes it is a drawn out and frustrating process for the job seeker. Make sure you aren’t extending your search by making some of these common mistakes.

Mistake # 1 – Only Applying for Jobs that are a 100% Match
Job ads are often written for that elusive unicorn of a candidate. They very contain every qualification and skill that the employer could dream of wanting. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t apply if you can’t check off every bullet. As long as you are about a 70-80% match and feel confident about the main priorities, then you should go ahead and try for it. You should let the employer rule you out, not the other way around. Too often we see trainees experience imposter phenomenon and undervalue the wide array of skills that they could bring to a position. 

Mistake # 2 – Only Networking with People in Power
Recently a trainee told us about an informational interview he went on with a senior executive at a company of interest. He had been so excited for this meeting and really felt that this exec was in a position to make a hiring decision. All true, but this person had last job searched 20 years ago and didn’t realize what job searching was like today. The program he had been hired through didn’t exist anymore at the company. He had very few tips or ideas to pass along. Overall this exec’s career path and job search make our trainee feel like this career was even more elusive. Yes, sometimes a referral from a person in power can go a long way; however, remember that some of the best job searching information/tips/leads often comes from peers. Don’t underestimate the power in networking with the people around you – your friends, lab mates, former classmates, and son on.

Mistake # 3 – Not Tailoring Your Documents for Computer Filters
A postdoc recently lamented that she had stayed up all night trying to complete an online job application only to receive an email rejection at 5AM. Was somebody in the office at 5AM? No! Her application was probably never viewed by human eyes. You need to revise how you write your CV, resume, and cover letter to get through these computer filters. Remember not to lie or overly exaggerate your qualifications – you will eventually be asked to support all of this supplied data in an interview. However, too often well qualified applicants are rejected by computer scanning systems simply because the applicant didn’t take the time (or didn’t know) the importance of tailoring. Many websites* will scan your resume and the job ad to tell you how well you are matching.  

* Disclaimer: The online resource noted in this post is merely informative and does not constitute an endorsement by NIH OITE.