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Job-Search Mishaps and How to Avoid Them

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Everyone makes mistakes, but one of the worst times to commit a faux pas is when looking for a job. With intense competition for nearly every position, it's vital that administrative professionals maintain perfect professional demeanors from the moment they submit a resume to the minute they exit a hiring manager's office with an employment offer in hand.

OfficeTeam asked several executives to recount some of the biggest job-search mistakes they had ever heard of or witnessed firsthand. Here’s a sample response: ''A job applicant tried to bribe me during the interview. She really wanted the job and asked how much she could pay me for it.''

The other responses ran the gamut from mind-bending catastrophes to mundane mishaps. Here are some additional job-search blunders and advice on how you can avoid making them:

''One gentleman submitted a resume that contained misspelled words and an orange juice stain.''

The importance of carefully proofreading your job-application materials cannot be overstated. According to an OfficeTeam survey, 84 percent of hiring managers polled said it takes just one or two typographical errors in a resume to remove a candidate from consideration for a job opening, while 47 percent said a single typo can be the deciding factor. So, in addition to running your computer’s spell-checker, ask a friend or family member to review your resume before submitting it. A well-written and attractively formatted document presents you as both a professional and a person with strong attention to detail.

''A job seeker wrote on her application, ‘My boss was a jerk so I quit.’''

Criticizing former employers, colleagues, or clients in an application or during a job interview is dangerous. One reason: It’s a small world, and your ''jerky'' former boss might be the hiring manager’s tennis partner. In addition, being negative or critical will make you seem bitter and petty. What’s more, if you criticize a former colleague or coworker, prospective employers may assume that it’s only a matter of time before you’ll badmouth them, too. That’s why it’s essential to show tact and diplomacy when discussing past workplace challenges.

''An applicant treated the administrative support staff poorly.''

When visiting a company for a job interview, be respectful, polite, and affable to everyone you encounter, from the department head to the mail clerk or intern. Hiring managers look for insight into your character by paying close attention to how you treat everyone, not just the person interviewing you. Being rude, dismissive, or unapproachable to a receptionist has come back to haunt many a job applicant. You never know who may weigh in on a hiring decision.

''Applicants have shown up for interviews in torn shirts, blue jeans, and flip-flops.''

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. In an OfficeTeam survey, 93 percent of managers polled said a person’s style of dress at work influences his or her chances of earning a promotion. So dress your best when meeting with a prospective employer. If you wear clean and neatly pressed business attire, you will show the hiring manager that you mean business.

''I interviewed someone who had a jawbreaker in her mouth during the entire interview.''

Interviewers can learn a lot about job applicants even before they speak. Subtle nonverbal cues can indicate a lack of interest, uneasiness, or a failure to prepare for the meeting, so it’s critical that you pay attention to your body language. Exhibiting poor posture, crossing your arms, chewing gum, or having a tense expression can send a negative message. Restlessly checking your watch on the sly or playing with your hair are also definite no-nos. It’s understandable to be nervous, but focus on relaxing and maintaining eye contact. A pleasant smile or nod of the head can go a long way.

''One woman immediately mentioned the days she would need to take off.''

When interviewing for a job, you need to clearly and succinctly define what you can do for your prospective employer — not what you can’t do. You also shouldn’t tell hiring managers what they should do for you. Going into an initial interview with demands about salary or benefits suggests that you may not be interested in the job as much as the perks. Instead, focus on the skills you can bring to the table and how they can enhance the company’s bottom line. Only after the employer has expressed serious interest in hiring you should you discuss pay, benefits, and time off.

''When asked what he had been doing while unemployed, the applicant said, ‘Staying home and watching TV.’''

How you spend your time when you’re out of a job speaks volumes about your work ethic. Employers give the highest marks to support staff who have been building their professional skills while on the job hunt. Taking a PowerPoint course at a local college, volunteering with a nonprofit organization to hone your management skills, or getting more involved with a professional association can show prospective employers that you’re working hard to expand your skill set.

Knowing how to navigate the application and interview processes is important, but don’t forget it doesn’t end once you’ve met with an employer. ''Failing to follow up'' after an interview or ''constantly calling to see if they got the job'' were also common job-search mistakes cited by executives surveyed by OfficeTeam. Continue to display your job-search savvy by e-mailing a note of thanks to the hiring manager or sending a handwritten letter expressing your continued interest in the position.

Last but not least, remember that attitude is everything. Above all, employers seek administrative candidates who are passionate about the profession and enthusiastic about the role. A polished approach to your job search suggests to hiring managers that you’re serious about landing the job and will bring the same level of professionalism to the position.

About the Author

Diane Domeyer is executive director of OfficeTeam, the nation’s leading staffing service specializing in the temporary placement of highly skilled administrative and office support professionals. OfficeTeam has more than 300 locations worldwide and offers online job-search services at
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