Most Common Mistakes Entry-Level Job Seekers Make
When you're applying for an entry-level position, the entire job search process can feel unfamiliar. It's easy to make mistakes simply because you're encountering situations you haven't seen before. While employers may be a little more understanding of minor slip-ups with an applicant who's recently entered the workforce, some big mistakes can derail an application. Just be aware of the following potential blunders so you can watch out for them.
1. Omitting essential information
Employers expect to see certain information, such as the applicant's name, phone number, and school or work experience, on every resume. The resume should list dates of employment (including part-time or temporary employment) and the year you earned a degree, full job titles, and the official names of any previous employers or schools. Employers may discard a resume that's missing something significant.
2. Writing an uninformative cover letter
Although a cover letter doesn't need to be a lengthy document, it should consist of a few paragraphs that explain why you're a good fit for the job. Show your cover letter to a friend, and ask if it seems abrupt. You can flesh out a meager cover letter by adding two to three reasons why you'll be successful in the role and giving examples from your experience.
3. Failing to showcase qualifications
Often first-time job candidates' resumes are a little bare because these applicants haven't held a full-time job before. That isn't an excuse to submit a mostly blank page, though! Someone who's new to the job market can still highlight volunteer experience, participation in community or social organizations, school projects, and summer jobs. Including a skills section in your resume is another good way to call attention to what you can do for an employer.
4. Acting professionally only during the interview
Entry-level applicants don't always realize that employers judge them based on every interaction, not just the interview. It's important to maintain a professional tone when emailing a potential employer, scheduling an interview by phone, or talking to the receptionist in the lobby before the interview begins. Applicants should get in the habit of answering the phone with a professional greeting like, "Hello, this is Susan Smith." It's also best to avoid responding to any unknown number that called you without first figuring out if it might be an employer; don't text, "Hey, who is this?" before you listen to the message.
5. Not elaborating on answers
When interviewers ask open-ended questions, they're looking for answers that are at least a few sentences long and that give some details. For example, if you're asked how you liked your last job, don't just say, "It was good." Mention two or three things you enjoyed about your workday, and explain why they were fun for you.
6. Letting the interviewer ask all the questions
A conversation in which one person asks questions and the other answers and then stops talking can sound really awkward. Give the conversation more balance by asking a few questions about the job. This shows that you have the necessary soft skills to chat comfortably with a person you've just met. It also demonstrates interest in the job.
7. Not preparing for common interview questions ahead of time
Mid-career professionals have heard some common interview questions dozens of times, but someone who's applying for an entry-level job may be caught off guard when asked about their weaknesses or their plans for the next five years. Prepare for your interview by taking a look at the most common interview questions and thinking of answers for them in advance.
8. Forgetting to clean up social media profiles
While researching job candidates' backgrounds once meant calling references one by one, nowadays it takes only a few seconds to google a name and see tweets and Facebook posts going back years. Make sure your social media profiles can stand up to scrutiny by deleting potentially offensive or unprofessional content. Also, adjust your Facebook privacy settings so that any sensitive information you've shared isn't viewable by an employer.
9. Not following up
Send a thank-you note to your interviewer expressing your appreciation for the time they spent talking to you. And if you don't hear back about the job within a couple of weeks, call to check on your application status. Following up shows employers that you're dedicated and that you really want the job; it also shows respect for their time.