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Self-Sabotage: Are you hurting your own job search?

March 30, 2012

We all make mistakes.  We make money management mistakes.  We goof up at work.  We accidentally hurt our friends’ feelings.  And most, when in a job search, will make some tactical errors that can impact the outcome.  Here are some common errors that can set job seekers back, and how to correct them.

MISTAKE #1 – Self-Sabotage

I see this happen often, usually when the job seeker applies for a job they don’t really want.  They need a job, and they submit applications so they can say “See, I’m trying!”  But the truth is they either don’t want to work at all, or they just don’t want that particular position – so they unconsciously sabotage their chances.  This can happen several ways – completing an online application and not taking care with spelling and grammar – forgetting to attach the resume to an email – or neglecting to follow up with a Thank You message after an interview.

MISTAKE #2 – Bad Relationships

We all have them – that one person from our past who was our nemesis.  A co-worker you never really got along with.  A boss you couldn’t stand.  A client you could never please.   However, letting your personal feelings get in the way of professional relationships or common courtesy is a dangerous mistake.  Anyone from your career can resurface years later – as a hiring manager, client, employment reference, vendor or other authority.  When this happens, it can be tough to make up for past actions.

MISTAKE #3 – Over Sharing

Since 80% of jobs are found through networking, sometimes the hiring manager or someone else on the hiring committee may be a personal friend. It may be tempting to share information that you would typically share with that friend – like your husband’s unemployment as your true motivation for applying.  However, during the hiring process, expect to answer tough questions, especially if you have over-shared personal details that other employers wouldn’t have the advantage of knowing.  For example, “Why did you leave your last job?”  If you were fired, quit because of a disagreement with management, or because you wanted more money -you need to proceed with caution.  Another tricky question is “Why are you interested in this job?” If  you are returning to work after some time home to raise children (and you’re returning to work because you NEED to, not because you WANT to), or you really don’t want that job, but are hoping to move up the ladder quickly – complete honesty may not be the best policy.  The employer wants to know that you are 100% committed to working – and that you care about the job for which you are applying.

Unfortunately, any of these common mistakes can get in the way of a job offer.  If you’ve made any of these tactical errors, here are the lessons to learn:

  1. Take every step of the application process seriously.  Even when you think you are a shoe-in because you found the opportunity through networking, you just never know who will be influencers in the hiring process.  Even at the mom-and-pop shop down the street, treat your application, resume, and interview with as much care as if you are applying at a Fortune 500 company.
  2. Relationships matter. I once worked for a Vice President of Sales who commented that he made a point of treating every job candidate like a customer – because chances were, someday they would be. While you don’t have to be everyone’s best friend, making an extra effort to keep the peace and have cordial professional relationships can make a difference you may not even see for years to come.
  3. Tell nothing but the truth, but not the whole truth.   It’s important to keep in touch with our professional connections even when you don’t need a job. Often these professional contacts can evolve into personal friendships.  But when that friendship shifts to job-networking, always consider how the information you share will be perceived by the employer.

What about you?  Have you ever unconsciously sabotaged your own job search because you didn’t really want to work?  Have you ever make a crucial tactical error that you realized later?

7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2012 4:20 PM

    Great tips, I like the #3 especially. Most people also underestimate the power of words they posted without thinking on Facebook for example. As you never know, better play it safe on sharing personal information on the web.

  2. freemanfaiz permalink
    April 1, 2012 4:42 AM

    Good post, personally impressed by point 1! A lot of graduates often go ‘I am trying’, but I guess I should ask them, if they are applying to jobs they really have skills for or just random applications.

  3. April 2, 2012 8:35 AM

    Love this post! People need to remember the digital footprint we’re creating….we are always being judged, even though people may not admit it. Thanks Karleen!

  4. April 2, 2012 9:12 PM

    Great advice not to burn your bridges. You never know in what circumstances you will meet people again. Also, the self sabotaging of the application process sounds scary, and the prospects of going back to employment because you have to. But it is reality!

  5. April 5, 2012 8:17 AM


    Nice post with some helpful reminders we all need to hear once in awhile to stay on track.

    Great point about treating job candidates and even certain co-workers as customers. In some sense, we are providing service to them as well — Not to mention that some day they may be customers.

    Also – do not tell the whole truth. I’m sure we’re all guilty of revealing too much at some point. Live and learn.

    Thank you for sharing your insight,


  6. April 5, 2012 10:32 AM

    Yep! We never know what will happen down the road a little bit. Try to make sure you keep the lines of communication open. You’ll never know when you might need to pick one up and use it again — even though it might be for a totally different relationship than you are experiencing now.

  7. April 9, 2012 5:55 AM

    Wonderful and tactful advice, Karleen. The ide that you can’t be honest enough in a job interview is actually quite frightening. I’m often amazed at the level of oversharing some of my clients do, and I shudder to think what sorts of information, ideas and inappropriate behaviors might be taken into the interview process.

    The thank you note after an interview is a great reminder. So many believe that in this digitally driven age, there’s no longer a need. There’s no comparison between a thank you email and a mailed thank you card. The card trumps the email and shows you understand the etiquette dance that is part and parcel of the process.

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