What are the most common mistakes folks make in the midst of a job search? Here’s a short list, and you decide if you’re making them.

Let’s start with networking. Common mistake: not networking. Correct that by connecting with people you know and share common interest, tell them what you do and how you add value, then ask who they know who might know of a job opportunity that would be a match for what you do best. Take names, make calls, and follow through.

Resumes. Common mistake: Writing too much and saying too little. Some job seekers, trying to be all things to all people, write resumes that are a mile wide and an inch deep. Instead, highlight accomplishments that center and inform the reader. Bolster your stated goals and objectives with specific, applicable and quantifiable achievements that reinforce the direction you want to take. Get it done inside two pages with 12-point type and wide margins.

Phone interviews. Common mistake: Job seekers, too scared, busy or lazy to prepare, lose. What to do? Get over yourself and practice. How? By phone with a career-wise friend who’ll ask you a variety of questions, listen to your answers and give you feedback on your content as well as the energy and optimism you’re projecting. Since the goal of the interviewer is to screen you out, your goal is to pass through the telephone screen. Do whatever you can to minimize disruption and distraction. Stay focused on your objective — coming across as positive and energetic while delivering articulate, focused, well-edited responses to the questions you’re being asked.

Committee interviews are a different challenge, not because the questions are harder, but because the distractions are greater. You’re confronted by conflicting visual cues, so be crystal clear about your message, describe who you are and the skills, strengths and abilities you bring to the table. Speak and respond as you would in a one-on–one interview. Answer the questioners with good eye contact and appropriate body language, and take care to include everyone in your responses.

Whether you’re interviewing by phone, committee or one on one, whether you’re changing jobs or careers, returning from a layoff, an extended stay at home, or never having worked in a paying job, do your homework.

Solid preparation includes knowing your answer to “Tell me about yourself” (aka your elevator speech), researching your target companies, having multiple practice sessions with savvy coaches and asking for, listening to and learning from candid, constructive feedback.

Asking questions: Common mistake: not having any. If you know what you’re good at doing and the job you want to do, ask questions about what it’s like to work at their company; what does success look like, who succeeds, who doesn’t and why? Ask about the greatest challenges you’ll likely face and what and by when they’ll expect you to deliver. Their answers enable you to begin to understand the challenges you’ll encounter and the role you can and should play in overcoming them.

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Contact Joyce Richman at 336-288-1799 and joyce@joycerichman.com.

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