6 Rookie Mistakes Every Job Seeker Should Avoid
Applying for your first job after graduation is exciting, and it can come with some surprises. People often find that the process of applying for a first job doesn’t go exactly as they expected. That’s okay, because applying for and landing that first job is a great learning experience, and you can use the knowledge you gain when you apply for other jobs in the future.
But if you’re feeling nervous about your first job applications, it can help to review a few pointers and to take note of potential mistakes. Once you’re aware of these common rookie mistakes, it’s easy to watch out for them. You’ll feel more confident knowing that you’ve avoided some of the most frequent mistakes made by new job candidates.
1. Providing incomplete contact information
Forgetting to include your full name, email address, phone number, and mailing address on your resume is a rookie mistake that can unfortunately derail a job application. It’s easy to overlook contact information if you’re new to creating resumes, and it may seem so obvious that you don’t think to double check it. Or, you might assume that including an email address is enough. But most employers still expect to see complete contact details, and if information is missing, you can’t count on them to search for it. They may just move on to the next applicant.
2. Exaggerating your abilities
When employers look at a resume and see a claim like “best employee at my summer job” without evidence to back it up, they’ll probably assume the resume was written by a newbie. To project a more professional image, provide support for your claims. Did you achieve the highest sales of everyone on your team, or did you receive an award or a commendation from the head of your department? If so, include that information. But if you don’t have any evidence to offer, your statement will probably be seen as an exaggeration or as bragging. Tone down the statement to make it more accurate, or leave it out if you can't actually back it up with examples.
3. Putting yourself down
While praising yourself without supporting evidence can give you away as a rookie, it’s also possible to go too far in the opposite direction and downplay your abilities too much. Don’t write that you’ve never worked a full-time job before or that you’re new to the industry. Don’t mention skills that you lack or apologize for not knowing something. Hiring managers can figure out if you don’t have much experience yet, so there’s no need to point it out. Calling attention to your own deficiencies suggests that you’re not aware of best practices for resume writing, and that can be a red flag for hiring managers—besides the fact that it doesn’t show you in a positive light.
4. Forgetting to answer the phone in a professional manner
If you’re used to answering the phone with a very casual greeting like, “Hey,” “Yeah,” or, “What?” now is the time to adopt a more professional phone habit. You never know when a recruiter is going to contact you, so you want to sound polished at all times to make a good first impression. State your name when you answer the phone, as in, “John Smith, how can I help you?” or, “Hello, this is John Smith.” Keep in mind that you can’t rely on caller ID to flag every call from an employer, because a hiring manager could call you on a personal cell phone.
5. Arriving late for an interview
If you’re new to the job market, you might not be aware that employers take punctuality very seriously. A few days before your interview, make sure you know the time and location of your interview and how to get there. Call now if you have any questions about how to reach the interview location—don’t leave those questions for the day of the interview, because a last-minute phone call from an applicant who’s running late looks unprofessional. Use Google maps or another traffic app to estimate how long it will take you to travel to the interview, and plan to arrive 20 minutes ahead of time to give yourself some leeway for traffic jams or getting lost.
6. Showing up at an interview unprepared
Interview questions can catch you off guard if you don’t have much experience with applying for jobs. To avoid surprises, look up some common interview questions and think about how you would answer them. Of course, the interviewer might not ask you the exact questions you prepare for, but chances are that you can adjust some the answers you’ve thought of in advance to fit the questions you do encounter.
For example, if you prepare an answer for the question, “What is the accomplishment you’re most proud of?” and the interview asks you about your greatest strengths, you can use the accomplishment you decided on earlier as an example of a time you demonstrated your strengths. Also, review all the items on your resume. The interviewer may ask you about anything you’ve written there, so be ready to say a few sentences expanding on each of the points you included.