If You Do These 4 Things During Your Job Search, You’re Wasting Your Time

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Heather Taylor11
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May 25, 2024 at 1:57PM UTC
It has long been said that looking for a job is a job, which is pretty much on point for describing the process. However, most applicants don’t want — or have the means — to be perpetually unemployed. They need to streamline the search and find a stable job ASAP. Is there anything one should not be doing during a job hunt? If you’re looking for a job, steer clear of falling down the rabbit hole with one of these infamous time wasting activities. 

1. Applying for a job you’re not excited about.

Ask yourself before you apply for a job listing if you want the job. Be honest with yourself, too. Would you interview with this company if they called you later today about the opening? If you wouldn’t, then why are you applying for the position? 
Ellen Mullarkey, Vice President of Business Development at Messina Staffing Group, advises against applying for jobs you don’t feel excited about. There’s a twofold reasoning behind this practice. The first is that you’re actually wasting your time — and subsequently the time of the company that posted the job opening — when you submit your resume to any and all listings. 
As for the second reason? This kind of behavior is busy work. It keeps you from focusing on the real thing which is finding the right job for yourself.
“If you’re one of those people who applies for every job and goes to every interview just for the sake of it, stop,” Mullarkey says. “You’re only distracting yourself from finding a job you actually want.”

2. Not customizing your resume.

Remember when I mentioned one of the biggest wastes of time during the job search is applying for every and any job that comes your way? Chances are highly likely that the resumes you’re sending out to each of these listings use the exact same template. It’s still the same resume for every position, with a few words moved around. Good enough to get the gig, right?
You may not have the time to draft a brand new resume for every job, but you can — and should! — customize its content. Susan Peppercorn, Founder of Positive Workplace Partners, notes that this is a practice typically done with cover letters, but it should also be extended toward your resume. 
“Job savvy candidates should tailor the summary section of their resume to the responsibilities listed in the job description,” Peppercorn says, adding that doing this helps candidates better stand out.

3. Chasing down HR for the status of your application.

You submitted your resume and cover letter to a specific contact within the company you’d like to work for. It has been a few days since your submission. Maybe it has been a few weeks. Why haven’t you heard back from them yet? You may feel as though you were destined for that job and may be inclined to follow up with the employer (a.k.a. send a half dozen emails daily asking when they’ll interview you for the job).
Laura Spawn, CEO of Virtual Vocations, says to avoid hounding down potential employers for a response. Be patient. Give them time to review your application and get back to you with their feedback. 

4. Emailing an HR contact to ask why you weren’t hired for the job.

I did this about five years ago after interviewing for a job I ultimately did not get. It felt like I asking someone why they didn’t want to go out with me for a second date. You’re a little humiliated at the prospect of asking the question, but curious enough to wonder if you were really the one at fault. 
There’s a great phrase that goes, “If you have to question it, you already know the answer.” I think it rings true to this kind of situation. If you don’t get the job, be professional and poised with your response. Thank the employer for taking the time to interview you and move on. Do not use this as an opportunity to write back “Why didn’t you want to hire me?” or worse yet, ask for direct help with your resume and cover letter.
The one time I asked HR this question, however, I did find out I was the problem. More specifically, my cover letters were the issue. They weren’t great. The HR representative gave me tips for how to better format my cover letters. I used her advice and found it to be extremely helpful moving forward in my career. 
If you feel the need to ask this question, come prepared with a few multiple choice answers. “Consider giving the recruiter or HR rep some options to choose from,” Spawn says. “Instead of broadly asking what it was about your application that didn’t fit with the company, see if it was the formatting of your resume, the lack of a certain skill, or another aspect entirely. If you can make it quick and easy for them to respond, you’ll be more likely to hear back.”

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