People First HR Services

Don’t panic going into job search

Colleen Coates

Whether you are looking for a new job, a better job or simply any job that will help make ends meet, it’s important to come up with an effective strategy to ensure your hunt goes smoothly.

It may be tempting to throw yourself into a “no rock left unturned” frenzy of sending out resumés, filling out applications and answering online job postings. Yet, it is essential not to panic and instead clarify your career goals, focus your job search and develop a strategy for presenting yourself as the best qualified and most desirable candidate.

Job hunting in today’s competitive market is an uphill march that will require a great deal of time and energy. Because of this reality and to make the best use of your resources, it is important to avoid some of the common pitfalls that job seekers make, such as:

1. Waiting to look for a job until you actually need to. If you neglect to keep up with your network or do a poor job of networking, relying on your circle of colleagues and contacts to let you know about job openings will not be effective. Get out there, meet new people and stay in touch with friends.

2. Letting your resumé go stale. Keep your resumé current, not only by adding your most recent jobs at the top, but by updating the layout and the language used. Make sure that your skills are properly identified and emphasized and that your past performances are accurately described. Whenever possible, include detailed information that highlights your accomplishments.

3. Overlooking the little details. It goes without saying that typos and grammatical mistakes in your cover letter and resumé are a fast track to the reject pile, but when submitting to multiple companies, be sure to customize your application. Double check that you’ve got the right name, position, company, date and other vital facts in place before you hit the print, or worse, the send key.

4. Relying on only one type of media. If you comb only one job board site, or only the Careers section or only your personal network to find a position, great opportunities will slip through the cracks. But if you combine all of these media to create a broader web — along with participating in professional associations where available, visiting industry websites and calling employment agencies — you’re more likely to find success.

5. Casting too wide of a net. As good as you may be, there is no way you are great at everything or a perfect fit for every job. To be effective, stay focused on the type of work you want to do and the kind of organization you really want to work at.

6. Neglecting your social media presence. Be mindful of your social networking profiles, photos and postings to ensure nothing out in the public realm might be viewed as inappropriate. At the same time, boost your personal brand by maintaining a profile on professional networking sites and being active on industry blogs.

7. Trusting that your resumé speaks for itself. The average resumé is read in less than 10 seconds, so to impress the interviewer, it must stand out. Yet words alone may not be enough. After sending your resumé, call the company to introduce yourself (make sure their ad does not specify no phone calls). Sometimes, making a personal connection will get you moved to the top of the interview pile!

8. Walking into the interview unprepared. Just as you’ve primped on the outside, make sure you’re also primed on the inside. Anticipate and practise the answers to commonly asked questions, formulate your own questions to ask the interviewer and most importantly, research the company in advance of your in-person meeting. Know your strengths and find ways to work those into the conversation. Where possible, look for common ground with the interviewer. Take note of pictures or knick-knacks they have in their office and use these as a conversation starter. Don’t forget to ask for their business card before you leave so you can follow up.

9. Failing to follow up after an interview. Never underestimate the power of sending a note or an email to courteously express your thanks to the interviewer. Don’t gush, just a simple thank you and possibly mentioning a point they brought up in the interview and how that piqued your interest even further. Not only does it demonstrate your professionalism, it often sets you apart from other applicants.

10. Putting all of your eggs in one basket. Even if you walk out of the interview feeling positive that the job is yours, it’s important to keep looking and keep the interviews lined up. Things don’t always go how we expect them to, so while your confidence is high, keep the momentum going and continue searching for the job that’s right for you.

— With reporting by Barbara Chabai


Colleen Coates, CHRP, CCP, is a practice leader with People First HR Services Ltd. She can be contacted at




Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 5, 2012 H2