3 common mistakes job-searching online

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Too many job seekers do not accurately interpret the intent of this networking journey, what it takes to get your network to help you find a job. As a result, social media is often misused in a manner that doesn’t only help your job seeking process, but might also hurt the image you want to project.


If you’re in the market for a new job, you’ve probably heard people suggesting you reach out to a broad network and communicate with lots of people. This is good advice, based on the strength of weak ties or, in other words, the studies that show we are most likely to find work talking to the friends of our friends’ friends… Why? Because if our friends knew about an open position, they’d tell us. And if their friends knew, they’d hear about it and tell us. So it’s through those new people we meet through our friends and their friends where we’ll find the opportunities, we wouldn’t have otherwise heard about.

Every day I find a number of messages in my LinkedIn account from people in my social network on the search for new job opportunities. I respond to each and every one of them. But whether I am able to help or not depends on the level of help the sender has provided him or herself. And more often than not these messages include one of the following mistakes:

No pre-work: these are messages obviously written for a general audience. Whether sent to a mailing list or addressed to a specific person, the recipient can quickly tell whether the message was crafted for them, their role, their organization, or simply cut and pasted over and over again. A generic message indicates that the sender did not look at the company website, did not check to see whether their profile or the types of opportunities he or she are seeking are relevant and if they are, what are they called in that specific organization.

A generic email, one that you crafted and sent to any name or email address you could locate, will find its way into the trash or, best case, yield you a generic message along the lines of “all our open positions are posted on the web…” or “currently no open position is available but we will keep your resume for any future opportunity “. Frustrated? Think about what you told the recipient about your own commitment to your career. If you didn’t even take the time to tailor your message to the specific organization and reader, if you didn’t bother to work for your own job search, why would you expect them to do that for you?

Someone recently sent me a message they are looking for a position of vice president for sales and marketing. To be clear, I do not work in staffing and my day job is not even remotely connected to any hiring process. Had they bothered to understand the organization, my role, my location, they would have known that VP of sales and marketing is not a likely position they would be hired into and instead they might have looked for other positions suited for their experience and skills. I have no idea whether those exist and since the person did not do their own homework I didn’t do it for them. As opposed to a different message where the person detailed their background and fit for an open position they found on the website. That one got forwarded to the hiring manager…

So how can you help yourself?  Don’t send generic messages. Job search should include an active search on the web to learn more about those companies you would like to approach. Define first of all for your own self why you want to work there, what do they do? What types of positions do they have? Are there any that suit your passion and experience? Any openings? Now you are ready to craft that message. Introduce yourself and explain why you are reaching out, why you want to work there and where, what positions you think you are suited for and what job openings you found on the website, and what makes you a perfect fit for that organization and those jobs. End with a specific ask, to send your resume to the hiring manager, a specific department or position, to the employee referral database.

You are trying to offload work: these types of messages usually include an attached resume, a short description of the sender’s experience and a request that I check if there is any suitable position for them. And yes, they will be happy to meet me. So no, my dear social media friends, you are not likely to get that meeting. First of all, as already noted, I have nothing to do with hiring, I just happen to work in an organization you are interested in. I am in no position to check whether there is a suitable position for you and in fact, since all the jobs are posted on the web, you are much better equipped to do that yourself.

But more important, consider what you told us about yourself. You are looking for a job but you are not willing to invest your time to learn about relevant positions before you contact your network. Your email did not indicate you looked at the company website and jobs site and checked whether we have a job for you. Instead you went the easy way and asked the recipient to check. So don’t be surprised if you get that standard response. Had your message included a link to an open job with your introduction and explanation why you are a perfect candidate for it, it would have been more likely to have passed on into the right hands.

Before you send that message, learn what you can about the person you are approaching. If you’re looking for a job in a particular field, it makes sense to tap people in that field or in organizations who hire into that field, there is no point in reaching across the social media to just anyone working in an organization you might be interested in. Remember, the recipient can tell if you’ve taken the time to get to the right place. If you took the easy way and tried to get them to do your work, they won’t help you.

How can you help yourself?  Here’s a great example I heard from someone who looked for (and found!) a job. She heard of an open position in a large organization. She searched LinkedIn for those in her network who can connect her to that organization and found someone she knew who used to work there but no longer did. They were, however, willing to help and connected her with someone in their network who was directly responsible for hiring that role. So before you send a random message ask yourself, who do you know that works in those organizations you are interested in approaching? Or who in their network might have such connections? Employee referral programs are a wonderful source of hiring in organizations. So find your friends, or their friends, who can help connect you to a specific request inside the organization. Don’t go for random messages.

You are not focused: here’s a message I received in my inbox. They are looking for something in the areas of marketing, network technologies or medical technologies. Really? Sending generic, broad, catch all messages to anyone in your network makes the assumption recipients will study your resume and search for those positions in their organization which might be a good fit for your background. Ask yourself whether that is a reasonable assumption. A hiring manager will go directly to those applicants, who seem to be most suited for the position they are trying to fill. That means you need to position your own resume to show them that is you. Which means you need to do the work, understand what hiring managers are looking for, tailor your resume to match and introduce yourself accordingly.

So, how can you help yourself?  Make sure your resume tells the story of your experience, what areas of expertise do you have? It is not enough to provide job titles; different companies give different names to different roles. Ask yourself, in your area of expertise, if you were hiring, what keywords would you be looking for?

Spending time inside companies’ jobs sites will help you define what roles you can apply for. Forget job titles, these change and transform over time. Look at the required qualifications around capabilities, experience, education. In this changing world of work you are likely to find jobs where these match your own career story, but the titles wouldn’t have been ones you thought to apply for. It might be worth getting some help to define clearly what you are looking for, where you are willing to compromise and what are your “must have’s” in any job. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stay open to possibilities but it is important to be able to define, for yourself first and foremost, what you care about, won’t compromise on, compared to other elements of a job where are willing to be flexible.

Sounds like a lot of work? Of course. Looking for work is work. But on the other side of this process, your broader network connections who receive those job searching messages, the work you invest might turn your message into the one which will get forwarded inside the organization. It doesn’t necessarily mean there is a matching open position or even that you will get invited for an interview. But it does increase the likelihood that your message will fall into the right hands and that your network will help you find a job. Good Luck!

Nirit Cohen

Nirit Cohen is an expert in the future of work, bridging the gap between emerging trends and practical solutions, providing valuable insights for careers, management, organizations, and broader societal systems.

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