What are the top 10 common mistakes made by job applicants?

This month we have been doing some recruiting of our own. Its been an eye-opening experience and one that has highlighted that there are some really basic things candidates need to watch out for.

  1. Sending the wrong attachments. Applications for our role have been mistakenly accompanied by everything from an invoice for soft furnishings to an invite to a birthday party. We won’t be paying the former or attending the latter. But we would have liked to have seen the CV that should have been included…
  2. Attaching covering letters addressed to somebody who is not part of our team, applying for a job that is definitely not ours. Last time we checked we didn’t own a mine in Nigeria or a software business in California. Yet we’ve had covering letters applying for these and many, many other jobs.
  3. CVs in file formats that our laptops don’t recognise – let alone open. If we can’t open it, we can’t read it. Stick to Word (or the open office equivalent) or pdf.
  4. Sending CVs containing viruses. Your application is in our quarantined file folder and won’t be coming out. You can get free anti-virus software for your device so there really is no excuse to share viruses with us.
  5. CVs with email addresses that don’t work. Given we are a career business, we have painstakingly responded personally to every candidate who has applied. Probably 10-15% of those emails have bounced back as undeliverable. Whether that was a rejection or an invite to an interview you’ll never know.
  6. Your mailbox is full. So even if the email address is valid you are probably out there right now complaining that we have ignored you. We haven’t – you need to manage your email account properly.
  7. Not checking your email regularly. We have emailed a few people asking them to get back to us with extra information. So far all we’ve had is silence. Now the recruitment process has moved on so they’ve “missed the bus”.
  8. Failing to set up your spam filter properly. So our emails get blocked. If you don’t think we’ve replied to your application go check your spam folder.
  9. CVs so full of spelling mistakes it’s embarrassing. Especially as that thing called a spell checker puts neat red lines under your mistakes so we don’t need to look very hard to find them…
  10. Not reading the job advertisement properly. We spent hours crafting it so candidates would be very clear about the skills, knowledge and experience required. We think many jumped straight from the job title to the reply paragraph. Missing out all the important bits in the middle. All you’ve done is raised your expectations artificially. And wasted time that you could have spent applying for a job where you’d have a real chance of success. Please don’t be upset when we send you a reject email. Good job hunting is about quality applications not quantity.

To all those job applicants who did it right, thank you. We’ve seen some great CVs and met some very incredible people. We’ve only got the one job so as always many really great people won’t get the job they hoped for.

And that’s important to remember. You can be a very good applicant and not get the job. Somebody else just did better on the day. Don’t beat yourself up. Next time you may succeed. Especially if you avoid these common mistakes made by job applicants.