How to Avoid Making Bad Job Search Decisions

By Chelsea Babin

No two job searches are alike and, when you’ve been out of the game for a while or when you’re new to it completely, it’s easy to forget how difficult the process can really be. Throughout your job search you’ll be heavily taxing your decision making abilities. From miniscule decisions like not having someone else read your resume to larger mistakes like accepting a job that has two times the commute you’re looking for and none of the flexible perks you wanted, these decisions can change the shape of your career for years to come. Here are a few bad job search decisions many people make that can easily be avoided:

– Going into an interview completely unprepared: Never underestimate the power of preparation, especially in regards to the interview process. If you go into an interview with no understanding of what the company does, what the specific position entails, or who your interviewers are and their positions within the organization, you’ll end up looking disinterested in the role. Whether you ask one too many questions that could have been answered by a quick Google search or you miss opportunities to relate your experience to what they’re doing because you don’t have a complete grasp on what the positions’ responsibilities are, being unprepared for an interview could potentially ruin your chances at being offered the job. It doesn’t take long and it isn’t a hard thing to do, so adding interview preparation into your job search should be a no brainer!

– Making a career choice based entirely on salary: Yes, your salary is important, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. However, if it’s the only factor you’re considering when you’re job hunting, you’re doing it wrong. Is it more important than finding the right company culture? Is it more important than finding a flexible company that increases your work/life balance and improves your life overall? Is it more important than a 401k with match, a tuition reimbursement program, or the chance to grow within a company? Decide what you value in a job early on. Feel free to stick to your guns and refuse to compromise, but know that your ideal job may take a long time to find and, even then, you may not be qualified for it. There is a delicate balance between getting everything you want in a job offer and getting everything you want out of a job, and higher salaries can persuade you to choose a job you otherwise wouldn’t. Similarly, lower salaries may dissuade you from going after a job you’re perfect for because you haven’t considered if the salary cut is worth it in the long run. If the only element of a job you’re looking for is salary, you’re setting your job search sights on the short term and that may, ultimately, damage your career.

– Not interviewing for a position because you don’t know if it’s the right fit: If you need to collaborate in order to thrive at work, you’ll naturally avoid applying to all positions described as the “lone-coder”. If you have to have flextime to pick up your kids from school every day, you’ll steer clear of positions that don’t list it as a benefit. There are certain elements of a job ad that you’re looking for as key words to figure out whether or not the company offers what you’re looking for. But what if they don’t mention their Agile approach, even though they use one? What if they don’t explicitly state that they’re prone to promoting from within? This makes the job search incredibly complicated and frustrating for people like you who are just trying to narrow down the right fit. It’s not a mistake to be picky about which jobs you apply for, but it is a mistake to avoid applying for jobs you qualify for based solely on a job ad. There is no formula for striking the perfect balance here. Many experts warn that if you find yourself applying to every position that sounds somewhat close to what you want, you’re overdoing it. But being gun-shy can be just as detrimental. If no jobs look appealing or seem to fit what you’re looking for despite the fact that you’ve been searching for months on end, you may be overthinking it. Instead of waiting around for the perfect job ad to appear out of the sky, apply for a few positions you’re qualified for and, if you get an interview, prepare for them like you would for any other. You may be surprised to find a job you’re incredibly interested in or you may reaffirm your existing standards. Either way, you’re making progress in your job search and that’s nothing to sneeze at!

– Letting anxiety guide your decision making process: Are you worried that the step you’re about to take is a risky one? Avoiding risks is generally good for your career, but it’s easy to confuse risk with uncertainty, particularly in high-anxiety situations like a job search. For example, when you go on an interview you are uncertain about what your odds are for actually getting the job. But are you risking anything by going on that interview? Of course not! The worst that could happen in any interview is that the company isn’t interested in hiring you. That’s not a risk because you’re not losing something you already had, you’re just not getting a job you didn’t have in the first place. Distinguishing between risk and uncertainty will lower your anxiety and help you make better overall decisions throughout your job search.

– Not making post-job-search notes: You did it! You got a job you love and you’re absolutely thrilled. Maybe you’ll stay at that company for the next 50 years, but probably not. That means there’s another job search somewhere on the horizon. Hopefully it will be many years down the pipeline, but that means you’ll be thrust back into the job interview process with little memory of how it went the first time. What was that one thing you said in that interview that you instantly regretted? Which resume style ultimately won over the most employers? What question did you wish you asked at the end of an interview but completely forgot about? Make notes about all of the juicy details you think might be relevant in your next job search process and keep them somewhere safe. It may be a long time before you need them again, but you’ll be glad to have a set of memory jogging notes to kick start your next job search.

There are so, so many decisions to make during a job search that it’s impossible not to feel a little overwhelmed. Instead of winging it and risking making bad career decisions, keep these common blunders in mind and avoid them at all costs! You’ll have a smoother, happier job search and hopefully find the opportunity you’re looking for in no time. Start looking here!