If you’re being honest, you can probably name a bad habit or two that impacts your personal life. But what about those not-so-great behaviors related to your job search?
We’ve identified four habits you might need to kick to put yourself at the front of the hiring line, and provide tips for overcoming these potential stumbling blocks. Read on to see if any of these following bad habits ring true:
Giving in to negativity
It’s a cliché, but attitude really is everything. Pay attention to your internal thought patterns as you job-hunt. If you’ve been looking for months, it’s easy to start thinking “I know this company won’t hire me” or “This networking event is going to be a waste of time.”
Your attitude can come across in subtle ways you may not even realize. It might be a less-enthusiastic cover letter or low energy when you interact with people at networking events. And since hiring managers want to work with positive employees, your negativity can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So how can you stay upbeat? For starters, shift the tone of your internal dialogue by adding a positive spin: “I know this company won’t hire me … unless I prepare a targeted resume and cover letter.” “This networking event is going to be a waste of time … unless I set aside time to do follow-ups a day or two afterward.”
Then seek out support in the real world. Check Meetup.com to find groups of local job seekers who can help you keep your spirits up. Or you can simply reach out to a close friend or mentor and ask for help brainstorming fresh job-hunting ideas.
Winging the interview
You’re a natural people person. It’s no big deal to strike up a conversation with a stranger and make an immediate connection. But those killer soft skills aren’t a substitute for preparing before every job interview.
An experienced interviewer knows when you haven’t bothered to look beyond the home page of the company’s website or when you’re struggling to give examples about past work accomplishments. Neither bodes well for how you’d perform on the job.
Prepare for every interview with a strategic eye. What do you want the interviewer to remember about you? Identify the three most important things you’d like to communicate about yourself. Do you want to come across as creative? As a leader who can motivate others? As a sales superstar?
Next, find out everything you can about what the company does and where it’s going. Then, use this knowledge, coupled with what you want to communicate about yourself, to guide you in preparing answers to common interview questions. Practice your responses out loud, as you might before a big presentation.
Being too informal (or downright unprofessional)
One area where people get into trouble? Flip communication. When you’re emailing a potential employer, your tone shouldn’t come off as casual as a quick text or instant message. Include a greeting and salutation (as with an old-fashioned letter) and avoid slang, text abbreviations and spelling and grammar errors. Good phone manners count, too.
When your killer communication skills land you the interview, take care to put forward a professional appearance from head to toe. This isn’t the time to show off your personal style. Choose classic (even slightly conservative) business wear that fits well. Many employers still expect candidates to show up in a suit.
It’s also crucial to pay attention to shoes, socks and accessories. And whatever you do, don’t forget to switch off your smartphone and other digital devices before you head into the meeting.
Coming across as arrogant
You’re so focused on projecting confidence — and communicating past successes — that you come across as arrogant. You know, the slightly obnoxious guy or gal no one wants on the team?
The first sign that you might be crossing the line: You take all the credit in every work story. Make sure to focus on teamwork and collaboration, not just how you saved the day, when you discuss your professional accomplishments. Strike a balance between team projects and personal triumphs.
It’s also crucial not to do all the talking when your meet with potential employers. This is your chance to learn more about the company and position. Make a point to listen carefully and ask relevant questions.
If you’re a new college grad, be especially careful to avoid arrogance. You’re new to the working world, so it’s important to come across as someone who’s looking forward to new opportunities and learning from co-workers.
While facing up to bad habits is rarely fun, doing so could mean the difference between a job offer and a few more months of hunting for leads and contacts. Take an honest look at what you’re doing, then make a few job-search resolutions to change your habits for the better.
Robert Half International is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 400 staffing and consulting locations worldwide. For more information about our professional services, visit www.roberthalf.com. For additional career advice, view our career bloopers video series at www.roberthalf.com/bloopers or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/roberthalf.