When I have a job opening, I typically spend anywhere between one and two full minutes reviewing a candidate’s credentials before I sort her application into one of two distinct files: Job Application Mistakes
- The Trash
Your initial job application is your first impression
If your credentials, resume, and cover letter are satisfactory, congratulations. But you aren’t out of the woods yet. In order to score a spot in the “Maybe” file (that I’ll review before deciding which candidates to interview), there are some fatal job application mistakes you need to avoid.
Here are all the ways you can totally bomb your job application and get your resume thrown in The Trash:
1. A Whack Email Address Job Application Mistakes
Only use Gmail, work, or school email addresses. Those are your options. I see @hotmail, @yahoo, @aol, @msn, etc. as a MAJOR red flag*. They make you look inexperienced and unprofessional. (*One exception to this is international candidates who may not have access to Gmail.) Your username should be some version of your name (full name, first initial last name, etc.). Underscores and periods are fine. Numbers are even fine. Wanna know what’s not fine? [email protected]
2. The Wrong Name Job Application Mistakes
My name is Anna. Not Ana. Or Annie. Def not Amanda. And it’s certainly not the name you accidentally copy/pasted from your last email or cover letter. My name is literally written right in front of you, so prove to me you don’t make sloppy mistakes by getting it right. Also, this is a personal preference thing, but I don’t love being called “madame” or “to whom it may concern.” If you don’t know the name of the person you’re contacting (even after a Linkedin search), a simple “Dear [Company Name] team” will do. Obviously make sure you get the company name right too.
3. Clumsy Mistakes
I know you’re super busy and over writing cover letters, but do yourself a favor and proofread. Suck it up. If you don’t, you’re wasting your valuable time because inattentive spelling and grammatical errors guarantee you a spot in The Trash. How can I trust you won’t make the same careless mistakes working for me?
4. Generic & Impersonal Application
You may think you’re fooling me by changing a few words in the cover letter and resume that you sent to 100 other job openings, but I assure you, you’re not. I hate bulk applications because honestly, you look a lil thirsty. This is your CAREER – be selective, not desperate. If I have the choice between two otherwise equal candidates, but Marcella showed unique interest and knowledge about my company and Elise didn’t, I’m going to choose Marcella every time. You’ll have more success sending out 5-10 targeted and customized job applications than 100 generic ones. I promise you.
5. Job Description Resume
Your resume bullets should highlight what you accomplished and the impact you had at your company. Don’t just list your responsibilities as if your resume is a job description. You can say what you did, but then tell me the IMPACT that it had. (If you need help with resumes, check out my free resume template and guide.)
6. Basic Cover Letter
I have your resume; I don’t need more corporate speak. I definitely don’t need a summary of your resume. Your cover letter is your opportunity to show me your personality. Be authentic. Tell me a story. Even better, make me laugh. Illustrate your passions and goals. Brand yourself. Propose a project or solution that could solve a problem my company’s facing. Help me understand why you decided to apply to my company and this specific role. Convince me you’re the perfect person for this job in ways that don’t show up in a bulleted resume. Make me want to meet you in person!
7. Being Forgettable
In a similar vein, you can end up in The Trash simply by not being memorable. You have to do SOMETHING to make me remember you. If you stand out in my mind, there’s a good chance you’ll get called back. If you really want to get my attention, put together a project or sample piece of work I might find useful. It could be a slide deck pitching a new feature idea, sample social media posts, or anything else that’s related to the position you’re applying for.
I hate liars. Def paint yourself in the best possible light (the ability to sell yourself is a skill I look for in an employee), but you have to be truthful. If you lie, there’s a decent chance I’ll never find out. But if I do, run.
9. Not Following Up
If you don’t hear back from me in a week, shoot me an email and check in on the status of your application. (One email is good, ten emails are annoying.) If I’m on the fence about you, taking the time to follow up expresses interest and shows tenacity. I like that. You’d be surprised how many people don’t follow up.
The Bottom Line
Basically, I’m judging you. I’m like a detective trying to spot poor candidates, and all of these mistakes are clues. The good news is, now that you know them, it’s easy to avoid these job application mistakes.
What’s made YOU throw a job application in The Trash? Share the wealth by commenting below!