A cartoon of a man jumping around holes and orange cones, symbolising mistakes made by jobseekers.
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What are the biggest mistakes jobseekers make?

13 Sep 2023

Hays’ James Milligan looks at four of the biggest faux pas jobseekers make when applying for jobs, going for interviews and even accepting roles.

While it might be a jobseekers’ market out there, candidates can still be guilty of making mistakes when they’re looking for their next role.

Whether it’s not putting their best foot forward in the interview, not knowing how to maintain a good relationship with employers you have to turn down or even just falling at the first hurdle when applying for a job, there are plenty of ways a jobseeker can make their life harder if they don’t think things through properly.

To discuss this more, SiliconRepublic.com spoke to Hays’ James Milligan about the four most common mistakes he sees jobseekers make from application stage right through to the acceptance.

Not being clear about your skills

One of the biggest mistakes, which Milligan said can actually be a common theme within all the common mistakes, is around a lack of transparency or simply not being clear enough. When it comes to looking for and applying for the right job, that means not being upfront enough about the skills you have that will make you the best candidate for the role.

“Automation is used an awful lot in terms of reviewing CVs and somebody in internal recruitment is not likely to be technical. So, candidates quite often think that that technology or the individual can read between the lines on the CV. They can’t,” said Milligan.

“You have to overtly state what skills and experience you have that are relevant to the role. Technology is getting better, but if you’ve got a skill missing, it doesn’t necessarily understand that this other skill that you have translates and is applicable. You need to spell it out.”

With this in mind, he said creating bespoke CVs for each role is vital so that you can blatantly point to the skills and experience that you have and show that they match the requirements they list.

Thinking you don’t have to sell yourself

As we said, in some respects, it might be a jobseekers’ market, especially in certain roles with extremely sought-after skillsets. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to sell yourself to perspective employers.

“The employer always has options, even if that option is not filling the job if they don’t feel they got the right person,” said Milligan. Not only should candidates be prepared to sell themselves, regardless of the supply and demand mismatch, but they shouldn’t neglect the research just because they think a company needs them more than they need the employer.

Milligan said that when candidates come to an interview without preparing enough or if they simply don’t show up at all, which sometimes happens, it can have a long-term impact on that person’s career.

“Three years down the road, when the job market might have changed and now that organisation is hiring again and you’re active on the market, there’s a permanent record that you didn’t turn up for that interview. That’s going to have a negative impact on your future.”

Asking the wrong questions interview

We’ve written before about the importance of asking questions in an interview. This both highlights your interest in a role and helps you figure out if it’s the right fit for you. But according to Milligan, there is such a thing as a bad interview question. “Good questions are all about the organisation, the individual, the technology, the products,” he said.

Meanwhile, in terms of what not to ask, Milligan advised caution about asking too many questions about money, increases, fast promotions or moving out of the role you’re interviewing for. “That’s kind of a red flag for somebody who’s looking to hire for that role,” he said. “Once you get to an offer position, that’s the time to negotiate, not when you’re in a job interview process, particularly if you’re at an early stage.”

However, one area he encouraged jobseekers to ask about in the early stages is about the actual working day, such as remote working policies, in-office expectations and other such areas where there may be a complete mismatch of demands. These questions will save both employers and candidates time.

Leaving a bad taste

The final major mistake jobseekers can make can happen when they’ve accepted one job in favour of another, or if they just decide there’s a job that they no longer want.

“There’s positive disengagement and then there’s just not being contactable,” said Milligan, adding that candidates should always be thinking about keeping relationships positive to futureproof your network. “Treat people how you expect to be treated, because again, people move around, people remember. So, it’s really important that you positively disengage if you don’t take the job for whatever reason.”

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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