When it comes to job-hunting, those of us that have played the game a while think we’ve got it down to a science. Most of the rules seem like common sense, but you wouldn’t believe how many job seekers make simple and avoidable mistakes that end up costing them the job of their dreams. 

Competition in today’s job market is tough—it’s more of an employer’s market than ever, and even the smallest mistake can send you to the bottom of the résumé pile. Avoiding these common job-hunting no-nos can increase your chances of getting to the top of that stack, and maybe even through the doors of the job you want.

Turning Your Cover Letter Into a Novel

Human resources people are busy. Very busy. And recruiting for just one position can mean having to sort through hundreds of applicants. With all that going on, the last thing they want to do is read long, drawn-out cover letters that usually end without you telling them why you should get an interview.

No one in HR wants to read a novel, and they certainly don’t care about the hundreds of jobs you had that have nothing to do with what they’re hiring for. Cover letters are like first impressions, and more often than not, your cover letter has one minute to make a good one on the HR professional or hiring manager reading it before ending up in the trash.

Your cover letter should be no more than two or three concise paragraphs highlighting work experience pertaining to the exact position. It should be catchy and use language familiar to the organization, to show you’ve done some research. Try not to smother the reader with too much info. Get straight to the point and you’re guaranteed to go straight to the top of the pile.

Getting Too Familiar

As an HR professional, you wouldn’t believe how many people of color come into my office, see my face, and feel it’s okay to drop their interview persona in favor of a “round the way” mentality. I can’t even count on one hand how many applicants have sat across from me and thought my brown skin was an invitation to use the N-word.

They thought our “bond” made it OK to show up late, have inappropriate conversations and entitled them to a “hookup.” The fact that I was going to be the one looking over their paperwork and/or interviewing them didn’t seem to matter simple because in their mind I was “just like them.”

Not all of these people were uneducated ’hood folk. Some were clean-cut, otherwise well-spoken, qualified, multiple-degree-holding candidates… who didn’t get the job. And in some cases, they didn’t even make it through the door. Regardless of perceived similarities, it’s important to remember to be professional at all times during the interview process, and even after.

Although the interviewer, receptionist, employee, etc. might be “just like you,” these people are not your friends. They are your supervisors, coworkers, and most definitely your competition. Be cordial, be respectful and engage in small talk, but don’t ever get it twisted. Above all, maintain your professionalism.

Forgetting to Say ‘Thank You’

If there’s one thing that can make the difference between you getting the job and not getting the job, it’s thank you notes. While it seems like common sense to send a quick thank you to the person(s) you’ve interviewed with, you’d be amazed how many don’t do this—and worse, don’t do it properly. 

Remembering to send a potential employer a handwritten thank you note can set you apart from others in the running. Why handwritten you ask? Well, because the employer probably has hundreds of emails waiting in their inbox, and an email from an address or name they probably don’t remember is sure to end up in the trash folder. Also, because most organizations have serious spam filters on their mailboxes, it’s very likely that your e-card won’t even get opened. So if you don’t want to get overlooked, handwritten is the way to go. 

Before sending, make sure your thank you card looks professional and doesn’t have too many bright or distracting colors. Be sure to clearly state the reason for the card, thank them for considering you for the position, let them know you look forward to hearing from him/her in the near future, and of course, proofread, proofread, proofread! Finally, make sure the employer receives your card a day or two after the interview, so you’re sure to stay fresh in their minds.  

Danielle Pointdujour is a native Brooklynite living and writing in the Big Apple. You can find Danielle sharing her personal outlook on love, life, careers and travel on various publications across the web.