Open Colleges

15 Habits That Are Killing Your Chances of Getting a Job

by Yvette McKenzie
Posted: January 20, 2015

  Return to blog home


Cloud-Man-Sad-Rain-Getting a job

Have you been searching for a job for a long time? How many applications did you send out? How many nibbles did you get? Not many? That’s a shame.

I have worked as a career counsellor for a while and I have the first hand experience of guiding fresh graduates land entry level roles. I have also seen people successfully change their careers. To say that it is expected to wait for months or more, or nearly impossible to land a decent role is just not right. This belief goes around because people are approaching the employment hunting process in the wrong way. They are making mistakes on their cover letters and their resume. They don’t know how to go about looking for jobs which they are suitable for. Here are top 15 habits that are ruining an average person’s career success.

1. Only Apply Online

Stop being lazy and realize that not everything happens on the internet. Step outside the virtual world for a second and make a few cold calls. Drop off your resume in person. Make a few friendly visits to local businesses to see if they are hiring. Scour the local newspapers and community newsletters. You will have a much better chance of getting an offer, especially if this is your first one.

2. Not Tapping Your Network

You say that you are a fresh graduate and you don’t have a professional network. Fair enough. You do have a network of family, friends and other supporters. Think about your past work experiences. Did you meet new people there? What about your college or Uni alumni or teachers - have you reached out to them? Have you joined any professional organisations? Are you a member of any local clubs? Sporting organisations? Do you volunteer your time in your local community? What about your relatives, or friends’ parents who are in the same business you are hoping to break in? This is a critical step that could potentially derail your job hunting strategy from the get go. Start cultivating your own network of people who can help. It is true that the vast majority of jobs are never advertised and by connecting with other people and meeting new ones, you might get your lucky break. Actionable tip: Make a list of everyone you can think of who is either employed, associated with or runs their own business. Send them a friendly email or call them to let them know you are looking for employment and ask if they can help out in any way. You will be surprised what you end up with.

3. Same Generic Cover Letter for All Positions

Bring a shift in your mindset. Write each individual letter with the point of view of how you can help a particular organisation. You need to understand that the cover letter is not about you. It’s about what you bring to the table. Why are you the perfect candidate for this company? While you are at it, also tweak your resume for every individual application. Start off with a tailor made objective and highlight your prior experience that is relevant. Actionable tip: Do your homework every time you apply to an opening. Research the company or the organisation.

4. Don’t Take Time to do a Skills Inventory

You apply for the wrong positions because you just don’t know what you are good at or what you want. Do a thorough skill analysis and make a list of all your strengths (and weaknesses). Ask a trusted friend to help you accomplish this task.

5. Wing the Interviews

What is so hard about putting your best foot forward in front of the interviewer? And still so many people fail to make a great first impression. They turn up dressed shabbily. They do no preparation, whatsoever. They forget their documents and portfolios. They stumble on questions such as ‘so tell us, why are you the best person for this role?’ And when they don’t get a call back, they wonder. Can you really blame the employer? Actionable tip: Make a good case of all the skills and expertise you bring to the table. Highlight relevant experience and soft skills such as being punctual, dependable and a hard worker. Demonstrate why they would be making a terrible mistake by letting you go.

6. No Follow Up

You either wait too long, or wait for the company to call you. Don’t. Be proactive and take action.

7. Ignore Social Media

In this current age, you cannot afford to ignore technology. The internet has made sure that all the information is there at your fingertips, why not make the most of it. Make an account on LinkedIn. Register on job hunting websites. Use your Facebook account to sell yourself. People have been known to pursue professional leads found on Twitter – and land them. You might be surprised to know that your social media habits are just as important as your resume. Actionable tip: Clean up your online image. It is not uncommon for employers to check your Facebook page. (Get rid of any offensive pictures you don’t want to be seen.)

8. Don’t Stay Current With Your Industry

Don’t read newspapers, trade publications or industry newsletters. You don’t invest time to learn new things about your occupation or update your skills. And sadly you are not deemed as an asset.

9. Don’t Establish Yourself as an Expert

If you have been working in your industry for a while, maybe it is time for you to show off your expertise. Why not publish articles in trade publications or start your own blog? Teach some classes or get involved in professional organisations. Think about creating your own personal brand.

10. Don’t Go After Companies You Really Want To Work For

Have you got your heart set on getting a job for a particular company? Would you kill for a chance to eventually work for some favourite ones? Follow them on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to build your knowledge about them. Feeds of companies and professional organisations also clue you in about any openings. You can approach them about these positions or just with polite enquiries. On the flip side, only wanting to work for big companies, or keeping your search geography very small are mistakes you want to avoid.

11. Don’t Consider Temporary or Part Time Positions

Don’t go too hung up on the kind of work you want to do. Especially, if you are a new graduate and you just need an opportunity to get your foot in the door. An apprenticeship or a trainee position is great to begin with. Even with a lot of experience under your belt, you could consider contractual or pro bono work. There is absolutely no harm in pursuing a position which might turn into something permanent.

12. Don’t Think Outside the Box

Your job seeking process doesn’t have to be a series of same steps that everybody takes. Why not stir things a little? Take them up a notch. Create a position for yourself. Go down to your local business, tell them exactly how you plan on helping them get more sales and get better results. Suggest a job title for yourself. Be audacious. Instead of following a connection on LinkedIn, why not suggest a game of golf and impress them with your high level thinking and team building skills? Ever think of entrepreneurship? Why not?

13. Ignore Career Help

You don’t read any career books, attend any career seminars. You never consider going to a recruitment agency or ask for assistance with crafting your CV. These things could make all the difference.

14. Complain About Unemployment

One thing you’ve got to watch out for: your attitude. This could be a game-changer. Are you the kind of person who complains about how tough it is in today’s economy to find jobs? How all the good positions have been filled already and that job hunting is a total waste of time? Do you bad mouth previous employers? If so, this is exactly the kind of attitude you want to avoid! Actionable tip: Ace the game by adjusting how you think about it. Avoid the gloom and doom messages. Surround yourself with positive people who lift you up. Don’t say negative things and avoid coming across as desperate. Trust me; nobody works to work with a person like that.

15. Never Take a Break

Stop treating finding a job like a job. If you obsess about it too much, chances are that you start coming across like restless maniac. And nobody wants to hire that person. Take a short trip, a change of scenery will do you good and boost your morale. You will come back refreshed and rejuvenated. Be a little philosophical. Look at the big picture and remember that things happen for a reason. Do random acts of kindness. It will lift your mood, put things in perspective and you never know who you might end up helping out. Remember to always take care of yourself. Remember to stay resilient; mentally, emotionally and physically. Employment hunting doesn’t have to be up there on anxiety level of looking for a life partner or your dream house. It is a stepping stone for your career, nothing more. Stay focused on your future and stay in the game. 

This post was written by Rebel Wylie, a regular contributor for Open Colleges. Her writing has been featured in, the Courier Mail, The Sun Herald and The Daily Telegraph, where her unique perspective on the 'working parent' experience has formed the lynchpin of some of her most popular pieces. She can be found blogging on her website Rebel Without a Pause.



Yvette has over a decade of professional experience at some of Australia’s largest media corporations, including Southern Cross Austereo and the Macquarie Media Network. With a degree in Communications (majoring in Journalism), she covers stories on education, new knowledge technologies and independent learning.

Interested in online study?

See what it’s like with our 7 day free course trial.

Find out first-hand what it’s like to study with Open Colleges. Experience our world-class learning platform for yourself and discover how online learning can work for you. There are no obligations and no payment details required.

Start Today

Course areas