If you’re being honest, you can probably name a bad habit or two that negatively affects your personal life. But what about those not-so-great behaviors related to your job search?
We’ve identified four habits you might need to break to put yourself at the front of the hiring line, as well as tips for overcoming these potential stumbling blocks. Read on to see if any of the following bad habits ring true:
Bad Habit #1: Giving in to negativity
It’s a cliché, but attitude really is everything. Pay attention to your internal thought patterns as you job hunt. If you’ve been looking for months, it’s easy to start thinking “I know this company won’t hire me” or “This networking event is going to be a waste of time.”
Your attitude can come across in subtle ways you may not even realize. It might be a less-enthusiastic cover letter or low energy when you interact with people at networking events. And since hiring managers want to work with positive employees, your negativity can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So how can you stay upbeat? For starters, shift the tone of your internal dialogue with positive add-ons: “I know this company won’t hire me … unless I prepare a targeted resume and cover letter.” “This networking event is going to be a waste of time … unless I set aside time to do follow-ups a day or two afterward.”
Then seek out support in the real world. Check social networking sites to find a group of local job seekers to help keep your spirits up. Or simply reach out to a close friend or mentor and ask for help brainstorming fresh job-hunting ideas.
Bad Habit #2: Winging the interview
You’re a natural people person. It’s no big deal to strike up a conversation with a stranger and make an immediate connection. But those killer soft skills aren’t a substitute for preparing before every job interview.
An experienced interviewer knows when you haven’t bothered to look beyond the home page of the company’s website or when you’re struggling to give examples about past work accomplishments. Neither bodes well for how you’d perform on the job.
Prepare for every interview with a strategic eye. What do you want the interviewer to remember about you? Identify the three most important things you’d like to communicate about yourself. Do you want to come across as creative? As a leader who can motivate others? As a sales superstar?
Next, find out everything you can about what the company does and where it’s going. Then, use this knowledge, coupled with what you want to communicate about yourself, as a guide to prepare answers for common interview questions. Practice your responses out loud as you might before a big presentation.
Bad Habit #3: Being too informal
One area where people get into trouble? Flip communication. When you’re emailing a potential employer, it shouldn’t come off as casually as a quick text or instant message. Include a greeting and salutation (as with an old-fashioned letter) and avoid slang, text abbreviations and spelling and grammar errors. Good phone manners count, too.
When your killer communication skills land you the interview, take care to put forward a professional appearance from head-to-toe. This isn’t the time to show off your personal style. Choose classic (even slightly conservative) clothing that fits well. In fact, many employers still expect candidates to show up in a suit.
It’s also crucial to pay attention to shoes, socks and accessories. And whatever you do, don’t forget to switch off your smartphone or other digital devices before you head into the meeting.
Bad Habit #4: Coming across as arrogant
You’re so focused on projecting confidence — and communicating past successes — that you come across as arrogant. You know, the slightly obnoxious guy or gal no one wants on the team?
First sign you might be crossing the line: You take all the credit in every work story. Make sure to focus on teamwork and collaboration — not just how you saved the day — when you discuss professional accomplishments. Strike a balance between team projects and personal triumphs.
It’s also crucial not to do all the talking when you’re meeting with potential employers. This is your chance to learn more about the company and position. Make a point to listen carefully and ask relevant questions.
Kicking those habits for good
While facing up to bad habits is rarely fun, it might mean the difference between a job offer and a few more months of hunting for leads and contacts. Take an honest look at what you’re doing. Then, make a few job-search resolutions to change your habits for the better.
This article was brought to you by Robert Half International, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 400 staffing and consulting locations worldwide.