Simple mistakes can be the difference between having a job and not having a job.

With a tight job market and candidate pools for individual roles rising fast, it is surprising that so many applicants are making the same old mistakes and a few new ones.

As recruitment professionals we process hundreds of applications and the trends in mistakes are alarmingly consistent.

It is disappointing that after going to the trouble to apply for a role that often a candidate, for the sake of a few extra minutes effort, could have made it to the next stage rather than get consigned to ‘no letter’ hell straight away.

At the other end of the chain it is frustrating for recruitment professionals and management to have to process applications and put them all in the system despite many of them disqualifying themselves at the first hurdle.

So what are the most common mistakes that job hunters are making? Based on our experience they are:

1. CV’s not updated – There are two things a job hunter needs to ensure about their CV prior to submitting it. The content needs to be as up to date as possible with the most recent information about work history and training included. It is frustrating to get CV’s coming in where something as simple as an old date has not been changed.

The other issue with updating is that the work experience and qualifications need to be adjusted to reflect the particular role they are applying for. Unnecessary detail can be taken out to de-clutter what the recruiter is reading, and the most relevant information should be brought to the fore.

2. Covering Letters non-existent or not relevant – A covering letter offers the applicant the opportunity in a few short paragraphs to capture the recruiters attention and hook them on why we are right for the role. If there is no covering letter then our best opportunity of making the shortlist has been blown before we start.

Many covering letters are full of irrelevant detail that causes rapid eye-glaze in even the most enthusiastic recruiter. Remember you are selling why you are right for the role not publishing your autobiography.

In this digital age the reading attention span is shortening. In years past we were happy to read 2,000 word newspaper and magazine articles. Now the span has shortened dramatically. Most website news stories will only be around 1,000 words. Readers will usually give an article about 250 words before they decide to pull the plug or carry on reading. Our covering letter should take this into account.

3. Online applications covering note – Online recruitment is increasingly the preferred way of conducting the job market. It is easy to apply for a role. Just attach our CV and covering letter to a basic online form we have filled out and we are in business.

Usually there is a box as part of submitting the application where the
applicant can add a few comments. Rightly so many applicants see this as an opportunity to write a mini-covering letter.

The problem we are seeing is that for some reason a lot of applicants, probably because of the informal nature of a blank box to write in, seem to revert to awful spelling and grammar which is a huge turn-off for recruiters. To make matters worse applicants often think that communicating in text-speak is ok. This is an even bigger turn-off for prospective employers and their HR gatekeepers.

4. Too many applications – Most medium to large organisations channel their recruitment through an internal/external HR resource. We certainly see serial appliers coming through. They see a role that they might be suitable for and they apply. Usually little adjustment has been made to their standard covering letters and CV. The thinking behind this as a legitimate job hunting tactic is a bit fuzzy.

Applicants probably feel that it shows they are keen to work. They may not realise that their applications are usually being seen by the same person every time regardless of the role they are applying for.

For recruiters it smacks of desperation and poor preparation. An applicant is always going to have greater success if they are selective about what they apply for. If they focus on the roles that more closely match their skills and experience and put in the effort to ensure the covering letter and CV are focused on that role then success is a real possibility.

5. Spelling and Grammar – With digital word processing we have excellent spell checkers and grammar checkers at our finger tips. But despite that there are still a large number of applications coming through that have basic spelling and structure errors.

It only takes a few minutes to put our covering letters and CV’s through the wash to ensure we have not missed any errors. Even a simple error sends the message that this applicant lacks attention to detail.

In writing this article there were six spelling mistakes I missed initially that I picked up in final editing. It is easy to get casual and think we have been accurate without checking it again.