Last Updated Sep 28, 2010 4:53 PM EDT
In years gone by, you'd hit the pavement or snail-mail resumes when looking for work. Today you're more likely to be applying for jobs online and posting your resume on a site like LinkedIn. These technological improvements make job-searching faster and more effective. But the way we use technology can also submarine the chance of getting a job, experts contend.
What mistakes should you avoid?
Facebook faux pas: By now everybody has heard the advice that you should lose the boozy Facebook photos, but that's just the start, says Jodi Schneider, a job coach and trainer who writes the job-search blog DCWorks.
"You need to scrub the page. If there's anything on there that you wouldn't want some stuffy executive to see, get rid of it," she says. "You may say that it's my right to have it there and you're right. But then accept that you won't get the job."
What does "scrub" the page mean? Take down compromising photos and erase comments that use profane language. Go through your Facebook profile and make sure that everything from your favorite movies and videos to your "likes" wouldn't offend a prospective employer.
While you're at it, re-set your privacy controls so that just friends can see your profile. You might also choose to hide your wall, just in case you've got impolitic buddies, who are likely to post comments and photos that would undermine the professional outgoing message that you're now trying to project.
Google them: Employers are going to Google you and find out as much as they can before they meet you in person, you should be doing the same with them, Schneider says. Pull up articles; find friends who have worked for your target company and ask them to tell you about the corporate culture and goals, adds Vicky Oliver, author of "301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions." Figure out how you could fit into the company so you can emphasize these strengths both in your resume and an interview.
Grammar check: We've all gotten used to cellphone short-hand like: "When r u home?" It's not appropriate for online job applications. In fact, you need to read and re-read those applications several times before hitting the "submit" button to ensure that you don't have typos and grammatical errors. Spell-check isn't enough. Your resume could say you've graduated Summa Cum Laude, but if you use the wrong form of their/there/they're, your prospective employer is going to wonder what you've learned.
Please leave a message: Your friends may think having a rapping outgoing message like "Yo, yo. I'm out capping, or maybe just napping; but can't talk wi' you, so you know what to do" is a laugh-riot. Lose it.
"When I hear, 'You know what to do,' I do know what to do," says Schneider. "I hang up. If that's the message machine that a recruiter is going to call, you'd better make sure that the outgoing message is professional."
Email me: The same holds true for your email address. You may be the world's biggest Big Lebowski fan; or think Jersey Shore is where it's at, but telling your prospective employer to email you at "thedudeabides" or "snooki4evr" is not your best bet. It takes five minutes to set up a free gmail account with your first and last name. Do it before you apply for work.
No-phone zone: If you get past the initial stages of job searching and make it to an interview, turn off the cell phone.
"We're all used to multi-tasking and it's great to text-message your friends while doing your homework and watching t.v.," said Oliver. But if you're distracted in a job interview, the employer is going to think you're not interested -- or at least not interested enough to work there.
Turn off the cell. Don't just set it on "silent." You don't want to feel it buzzing; you don't want to be tempted to check it for the time. Look your interviewer in the eye. Listen attentively. Ask questions, when appropriate, and think about your answers. Don't fidget.
"People forget how many non-verbal cues they're sending," says Schneider. "You can say you want the job, but if you're looking around and fidgeting, your non-verbal cues say you're not interested. They're going to base a decision on what you do, not what you say."
Electronic thanks: Lastly, if you got an in-person interview, be sure to say "thank you" afterwards via email, says Oliver. A written thank-you note could get lost in the pile; an electronic one is more likely to reach the recipient. An emailed note has the added benefit of giving your prospective boss an easy way to reach you by hitting "reply." Write the email formally, as if it were a letter, she advises. You can drop the formality if the boss replies informally, but always be professional.
In the end, it's about projecting attractive professional attributes personally and electronically. You need your application to stand out because jobs are scarce and competition is fierce.
"It's about presenting a good portrait of yourself," says Schneider. "It should be an authentic portrait, but one that shows you in the best light."
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