Deborah Sweeney
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MyCorporation.com CEO

Certain job application mistakes are immediate dealbreakers. These mistakes, subtle as they may be, get resumes and cover letters tossed into the rejection heap — no matter how qualified the applicant may be. 

Think you know the most common (and offensive) job application mistakes? Let’s take a look at the biggest flubs and how you can make sure it doesn’t happen to your application.

1. Typos

Checking for typos, such as name misspellings or grammatical errors, should be priority number one before submitting a cover letter and resume. 

Hilliary Turnipseed, Founder of Hill Street Strategies, helps lead talent acquisition for early stage tech startups and education technology firms. Turnipseed says spotting a typo in a resume shows a lack of attention to detail.

How can you prevent from making the mistake? Get a fresh set of eyes to review your application. Turnipseed advises asking a friend or mentor to proofread the materials with you. Once everything has been properly reviewed, submit the application in for the job listing.

“Be intentional with your applications,” Turnipseed says. “It’s a competitive market, so even a slight typo will disqualify people.”

2. Generic cover letters

Does your cover letter read as though you can copy and paste any job title or company name into it? If you answered yes, you’re in possession of a generic cover letter. 

Ellen Mullarkey, VP of Business Development at Messina Staffing Group, is familiar with candidates treating their cover letters like a game of Mad Libs. The candidate may think they’re speeding up the job search process with the help of a generic cover letter that allows them to fill in the blanks. However, they’re really slowing it down because these cover letters show little to no personalization. 

“If I get the impression that the cover letter I’m reading is the exact same one a hiring manager at another company is reading, I’m not interested,” Mullarkey says.

The remedy for any generic cover letter is a tailored cover letter. That means writing a fresh letter for every position and its recipient. Do not endlessly chatter on about how you work hard and arrive to work on time. Use the cover letter to thoughtfully expand on why you would like to work for the company. 

Want to set your cover letter even further apart from the competition? Mullarkey says explain to the hiring manager why working for this company is the best move for your career. More often than not, candidates are advised to share why they would be the best person for the job. By expanding on why working for this company is a savvy career move, you’re able to show you’re forward-thinking and eager to learn. 

3. Not following additional instructions

Some job application listings come with submission instructions. These may include emailing your resume and cover letter to a specific contact email address, as opposed to applying directly through sites like LinkedIn. Other listings may request links to your recent work or portfolios.

Applications that do not follow instructions are a big red flag for Holly Leyva, Customer and Career Services Division Manager at Virtual Vocations. Much like not checking your resume or cover letter for typos, this signifies to hiring managers the applicant may not be detail oriented.

The easy way to rectify these issues is to carefully read through the job application listing. Make sure you have followed any additional instructions before sending in your application for consideration. 

“If you don’t follow the instructions on the job posting, your first introduction to the employer won’t be a positive one,” Leyva warns. “It could cost you the job.”

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