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Five Stupid Job Search Mistakes That Smart People Make

Five Stupid Job Search Mistakes That Smart People Make

You’ve seen job search advice articles about embarrassing resume bloopers, like misspelling the word "running" to comic effect (“Instrumental in ruining entire office"). You’ve read about cringe-inducing interview mistakes, like asking the interviewer to "hold on" while you respond to a text message. And you’ve said to yourself, “I’m too smart to make a stupid mistake like that.”

But you still need to be careful -- because being smart is no guarantee against typos, and smart people may be even more prone to certain job search errors. Here are some of the stupid mistakes you should watch out for when looking for a job:

1. Resting on Your Impressive Past Achievements

A company won't hire you just because you've done impressive things in the past. It will hire you when you've convinced decision makers that you will do impressive things for them in the future — and this is an important distinction.

So take the time to understand the potential employer’s requirements. Instead of resting on the fact that you went to an Ivy League school or that your last employer promoted you three times in five years, relate your experience to goals your target employer wants to achieve. For instance, if you know the company is looking to expand in Asia, highlight the fact that you completed a semester of study in Japan or that you brokered a successful deal with a company in Singapore in your last job.

2. Going Overboard with Information

You're a smart person, and you've led an interesting life. But don't make the mistake of thinking that every detail has to go on your resume. Remember: Recruiters and hiring managers are interested in how you can help their companies, so make your resume pop with relevant information.

For instance, if you're a statistician applying for a high-level data analyst job, the fact that you completed a six-week culinary course at a French cooking school might need to come off your resume to make room for more relevant information (unless, of course, you find out that the recruiter is also a fan of French cooking).

Review each piece of information on your resume, and ask yourself, "Does this prove that I'm the right person for this particular job?"

3. Trying to Outsmart the Recruiter or Interviewer

Many people think of their job search as a battle — them against the recruiters. And when you're in battle, you want to outsmart your enemy. The problem is that recruiters are not your enemy.

As with the rest of humanity, there are some bad apples in the bunch, but most recruiters are in the business of getting the right people hired. (And rarely does a candidate who comes across as combative seem like the right person.) Think of recruiters as your job search partners. Ask yourself how you can make it easy for them to see that you’re the right person for the job, not how you can trick them into thinking that you’re the right person for the job.

4. Thinking You’re Too Impressive to Need a Digital Profile

Recruiters have always based hiring decisions on candidates' reputations. And nowadays, a very important way to gauge a person's reputation is by seeing what the Internet has to say about him. Keep in mind that the recruiter charged with sourcing candidates may not be an industry insider and may not be familiar with your reputation.

Conduct some Web searches on yourself to make sure that relevant professional information about you is easy to find. If you haven’t already done so, create profiles on appropriate professional platforms. The time to develop a solid professional profile is before you need it — don’t wait until you’re unexpectedly back in the job market.

5. Not Asking Your Network for Help

Looking for work will often mean asking friends for help. But don't think that getting your contacts involved in your job search means just asking about job leads. Be smart about how you network, and present a positive, professional face to your contacts. When you make strides in your job search or do something to make yourself a more attractive candidate, tell people about it. Ask contacts you trust for a five-minute resume critique. Or schedule coffee meetings or informational interviews with friends and/or former colleagues who work at companies that interest you. Ask questions, and listen to what they have to say. When it comes to finding a new job, a smart person knows that an open mind is key.

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