How to avoid the most common job search mistakes

How to avoid the most common job search mistakes


By Sabine Vollmer

The most common mistake job searchers make: They don’t do their homework, according to a 2016 survey by Accountemps, a staffing company for temporary accounting, finance, and bookkeeping professionals.

One-third of the more than 2,200 CFOs Accountemps surveyed in the US said job applicants most often fail by not customising their application materials for the open position. Other mistakes include typos or poor grammar (24%) and providing irrelevant information (21%). Another 21% of job candidates go wrong by focusing on their job duties rather than their accomplishments.

Lack of preparation also foils success in many job interviews, the Accountemps survey suggests. Twenty-seven per cent of the polled CFOs said the most common mistake job candidates make is to come to the job interview with little knowledge of the company. Another 22% come unprepared to discuss skills and experience, and 16% aren’t ready to discuss career plans or goals.

“These are pretty easily avoidable mistakes,” said Bill Driscoll, an Accountemps district president. “Job applicants shouldn’t be making these mistakes, if they put the time in and do the proper research.”

The ease of applying for open positions can tend to make applicants complacent, said Kirsten Duke, CPA, CGMA, vice president of finance and HR at DomainTools, a Seattle company that helps secure data and networks against cyberattacks.

Professionals applying for jobs at DomainTools frequently submit résumés without cover letters, or the cover letter is poorly written and has spelling errors, Duke said. An applicant should research the hiring company and the open position before writing a cover letter. This is an excellent way to customise an application and make it stand out, she said.

Some applicants don’t even seem to read the job description before they email their résumé, she said. For example, DomainTools received applications from job-seekers looking to work remotely even though the job description clearly stated the position didn’t offer accommodation to work remotely.

The reality is, Duke said, “If you want a job, you’ve got to put the effort in.”

To avoid the most common job search mistakes, Accountemps offered these tips:

  • Write a concise résumé and cover letter, and organise the information in a way that’s pleasing to the eye. Stick to the facts employers would be interested in, which are typically your credentials, experience, and accomplishments.
  • Spell-check and review your materials thoroughly, and ask someone you trust to proofread them for typos.
  • Research the company by exploring its website and searching for recent news articles. Incorporate what you learn into your cover letter and interview responses by making the connection between what the company needs and what you offer.
  • Be honest. Fabricating or overstating your experience is never acceptable.
  • Conduct an online audit of your social media pages and remove any posts that could be perceived as unprofessional or inappropriate.
  • Consult industry resources to learn about compensation ranges for jobs in your field. Understanding market trends will help you know what your skills and experience are worth.
  • Look for multiple ways to find job openings. Attend industry events, join professional associations, or ask your current contacts for introductions to new ones.

Sabine Vollmer (svollmer@aicpa.org) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.