Those looking for their first jobs out of college also must look out for potential career pitfalls. According to Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Job Hunting For Dummies, competition for jobs has intensified, making it even more important for entry-level professionals to put their best foot forward.
"In today's employment environment, there is less room for error when looking for your first career opportunity," said Messmer. "Employers want assurances that new hires will be able to contribute immediately. They seek applicants who are polished and pay attention to detail -- traits that must be evident in one's job search materials and interactions with hiring managers."
Messmer noted that the job hunt has grown in complexity in recent years as new online tools, such as professional networking sites, have become increasingly prominent. "Online exposure makes candidates more visible and also more vulnerable," Messmer said. "Because so much information is now public, those with career aspirations need to be especially thoughtful about what they post for everyone to see."
Accountemps cites seven common job search mistakes and how to avoid them:
- Thinking small: Spread the word about your job hunt to everyone you know, including family members, friends, professors and former coworkers. Also take advantage of professional networking websites such as LinkedIn and work with staffing firms that specialize in your field and maintain a broad base of contacts in the local business community.
- Adopting a one-size-fits-all approach: Tailor each resume and cover letter to the particular opportunity, and try to obtain the name of the hiring manager so you can personalize your cover letter. A little detective work can go a long way in helping you stand out.
- Failing to proofread: Make sure your resume and cover letter are error free. Be vigilant about spelling, grammar and punctuation in all of your written communication, including e-mails, web pages and thank-you notes. Ask a detail-oriented friend to review all of your job search materials.
- Remaining in the dark: Applicants who uncover beyond-the-basics knowledge of the job and the company by using the Internet and corporate websites are better able to communicate specific ways they can contribute to the organization's success.
- Posting indiscriminately: Consider your online image, and don't post anything that would appear unprofessional (think spring break photos, rants about a former employer, etc.) for a hiring manager or recruiter.
- Leaving a bad first impression: Make sure that both your land line and cell phone voice-mail greetings are clear, professional and succinct. Likewise, avoid using off-color or overly cute e-mail addresses.
- Failing to thank others: Express appreciation to everyone who helps you in your job search, whether or not their efforts on your behalf are successful. Also be sure to send thank-you notes to every hiring manager you meet.