Are you making these 5 common resumé and interview mistakes?

When you’ve found that ideal job to apply for, it’s time to present yourself and your skills in the best way possible.

But there are common mistakes people make when job seeking which can prevent them from making a great impression. Research for SEEK shows these are the key things employers and recruiters find frustrating when they’re hiring.

Find out the five mistakes to avoid and give yourself the best chance of landing the job.

1. Using a resumé that’s too long

Resumés that read like essays are off-putting for more than half of hirers. “Applying for roles with a resumé of more than three to four pages will quickly turn off recruiters who simply don’t have the time to review pages and pages of information,” says Relaunch Me Career and Interview Coach, Leah Lambart.

Instead, focus on writing a concise resumé that’s customised for the job you’re applying for. Steve Grace, CEO and Founder of start-up recruitment specialist The Nudge Group, recommends focusing on your achievements.

“It's great to know what you're responsible for, but if I don't know what you achieved, who cares what you're responsible for,” he says. “Achievements are as important as responsibilities, and they need to be relevant for the role you're applying for. Likewise, if you've got jobs that aren’t relevant for the role, you don't need to include them in your resumé.”

2. Not including a cover letter

Leaving out a cover letter from your application can send a message that you’re not serious about the job. It also makes it harder for you to stand out from the other people who apply. And it doesn’t go unnoticed – more than half of hirers say not receiving a cover letter frustrates them.

A compelling cover letter is a short, clear summary of who you are and why you’re suitable for the job you’re applying for. “It's almost a guide for the hirer of where to go on your resumé to find the information that you want them to find,” Grace says.

Because cover letters focus on what makes you a good fit for the role, he explains, “you should write an individual cover letter for every single role”.

3. Being late to interviews

It’s an obvious one – but an important one to avoid. When it comes time to interview, lateness is rarely tolerated. More than 80% of hirers list people arriving late as a top frustration.

“When you’re looking to hire you want people who are excited to join, and hirers assume you’re going to show your best when you come to an interview,” Grace says. “If you turn up late it’s not a great start.”

Whether your interview is in person or online, Lambart recommends planning ahead. “Ensure that you allow plenty of extra time for travel, parking and working out where to go when you arrive,” she says. “A practice run is a good idea if it’s an important interview.

For digital interviews, ensure your camera is set up correctly, that you have good lighting and that there are no distractions or mobiles ringing in the background.”

4. Appearing arrogant

Talking yourself up can feel unnatural if you’re not used to interviews. Don’t be afraid to highlight your skills and experience, and present yourself in a confident way (even if you’re not feeling confident on the inside!)

Lambart says aiming for a balance between confidence and self-awareness is best. You can show that you’re self-aware and willing to improve when an interviewer asks you about your weaknesses, she explains. “They are looking for you to demonstrate real self-awareness – that you appreciate that you have areas you need to work on, and that you’re committed to doing so.”

Grace agrees: “Being very humble, but honest, is the way to go.” It’s ok to mention that you’re also considering other opportunities, Grace adds. Just do so briefly, and where relevant – such as when you’re discussing when you’ll hear back from the employer.

5. Being unprepared

Turning up to an interview without doing any research about the job or the business shows hirers you’re not serious about the job.

“There is an expectation that candidates will do some research about the company and the role prior to the interview,” Lambart says.

Showing that you’ve found out about the company’s size and structure, the products or services it offers, and its values demonstrates that you’re excited about the job.

Some simple searching online can get you up to speed. The company’s own website and social media pages are a good place to start, but Grace suggests searching for news articles, podcast interviews or videos for extra information. “Many companies have YouTube videos about their products and services,” he says.

Lambart also recommends considering key skills required for the role – these are often listed in the job description – and preparing examples of where you’ve demonstrated those skills successfully.

The process of going for a job can take a lot of time and effort, so it’s worth doing all you can to make a great impression. Avoid making mistakes that frustrate employers by starting with a concise resumé and a cover letter designed for the job. Follow that up by being on time, prepared and open to improvement in an interview, and you’ll be giving yourself the best chance of success.

Independent research conducted by Nature of behalf of SEEK, interviewing 4000 Kiwis annually. Published August 2022.

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