The Top 5 Job Search Killers

By Ross Macpherson, President, Career Quest

So, you've got your great new résumé and cover letter, your interview suit is all pressed and waiting, and it's time to start looking for that next job. You start applying for positions, sending out resumes left and right, but things just aren't really working out. Here's the problem: no one ever taught us how to do this! As a result, we fall back on traditional strategies and comfortable habits, we make mistakes, and we end up wasting precious time.

Here's is a list of the biggest and most common job search mistakes to avoid - the ones that can quickly slow you down, hamper your efforts, and kill your chances. If you can avoid these, I guarantee you you'll increase your chances exponentially!

Job Search Killer #1: Lacking a structure

Without a well thought-out plan of action behind your job search, you'll end up wasting a lot of valuable time on minor or unproductive tasks. Get yourself a dedicated space to work (hint: NOT the kitchen table), set yourself a schedule, do your research, set your goals, focus your efforts, and stick to it! Remember: structure leads to consistency, consistency leads to persistence, and persistence leads to success!

Job Search Killer #2: Trying to do it entirely on your own

Somewhere along the line, since no one ever told us how to look for a job, we assumed that we had to do by ourselves. Nonsense! If the plumbing in your home suddenly exploded, would you take the time to stumble through fixing it yourself or would you call a plumber? My guess is that you'd call the plumber because time is of the essence. So, is finding your next job any less important or less urgent? There are countless professional coaches and career consultants out there who can help you succeed, and while they will charge you for the service, if you figure that you're losing potential income every day that you're without work, then you simply can't afford not to. A coach can sometimes be the difference between playing and winning. Just ask Tiger Woods...he has a coach and it seems to be working for him!

Job Search Killer #3: Not being accountable

Trying to be self-motivated in a job search is a noble goal, but a tough one to actually pull off. It's too easy to get discouraged, get distracted, spin your wheels, and waste precious time. So, in the spirit of not going it alone (see Mistake #2), get others involved in your plan and have them hold you accountable for it. Who do you choose? Unfortunately, spouses and family tend to be poor choices. Fellow job searchers and networking groups can be helpful, but ONLY if they have a consistently positive attitude - otherwise they are poison! The best choice is a professional coach, someone who is trained to keep you focused, keep you moving forward, and knows when to show some "tough love" to get you back on track (there are countless career and life coaches out there, and their associations and listings are all online…it's worth looking into).

Job Search Killer #4: Forgetting that it's all about "MARKETING"

Now that you have your plan and your structure in place, remember that it's not just about going through some predetermined activities like a robot ("That's item #3 done...why isn't the phone ringing?"). The key to your job search is trying to MARKET yourself, and you market yourself in every piece of documentation you send out, in every personal contact that you have, in every phone call that you make, and every interview that you go to, and in every single chance that you get. Remember, in the job search game, the winner is very often the one who out-markets everybody else. Use your plan as the basis to get your name, your face, and the value you can add in front of everyone who needs to know. You should wake up every day and ask yourself "Who can I market myself to today, and what's the best way to do it?"

Job Search Killer #5: Over-reliance on others (i.e. taking a passive approach)

Let me clarify: relying on "others" refers to both people and technologies. If you are going to be successful in your job search, you have to recognize that YOU and you alone are responsible for your success. YOU have to be the one in control. The minute you start OVER-relying on recruiters, or the Internet, or anyone/anything else, you give up control and seriously jeopardize your attitude and your chances. The Internet should NOT be your only source of job leads, recruiters are NOT there to find you work, and any job search tactic that sounds too convenient, takes little effort, and does not require you to stretch a little outside of your comfort zone, is probably not going to reap the kind of results you want. Take control, get out there, reach outside your comfort zone, be creative, and see the success that follows!

© 2002-2016 Ross Macpherson

Ross Macpherson is the President of Career Quest, a Certified Professional Resume Writer, and a Career Success Coach who has helped thousands of motivated professionals advance their careers. To receive more valuable career advice, sign up to join his monthly newsletter "Career Quest Café" by visiting