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Avoid These 7 Job Search Traps and Land Your Dream Job

Topics: Career Advice
job search traps

Even in a good economy, landing a job isn’t easy. The higher your expectations, the more difficult it becomes to find the right role at the right time.

Of course, some of the process is beyond your control. You can’t make hiring managers call you back or employers post honest job advertisements. Even if you’re among the most qualified candidates, your search might take longer than you expected and involve a fair amount of rejection. It’s natural to find that frustrating, even disheartening, especially if you’ve been looking for a while.

But there are things you can do to streamline the process and make it more efficient and rewarding. The first step is make sure you’re not getting in your own way, and that means avoiding some of the most common job search traps.

Ask yourself if you’re hitting any of these snags:

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1.Trying to go it alone

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A lot of good can come from being an independent self-starter, but you don’t have to be an island. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t make sense to go it alone when you’re looking for a new job.

Some estimates say that upwards of 85 percent of open positions are filled through networking. So, you aren’t doing yourself any favors if you shy away from this process. Friends, family members and professional contacts can be helpful in other ways, too. A friend in the industry may be able to answer some of your questions about a potential role, for example, which could give you a head start when it comes to your job search.

It’s smart to use your resources. So, talk to people who might have information to share about the job or industry you’re interested in pursuing. Reach out to contacts who might be able to help you. And, utilize social media, especially professional sites like LinkedIn, as a tool for your job search process.

Finally, be sure to tell the people in your life, online and otherwise, about what you’re up to. You never know who might be able to connect you with a great opportunity.

2. Believing the unbelievable

work-from-home scams

Always remember the old adage: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

It can be really exciting to be offered a job, especially when it seems like a good fit. Just remember to question offers that seem over the top. For example, if you just graduated from college, you probably won’t be able to earn six-figures while working part-time from home.

There are some key warning signs you should keep in mind:

  • The salary you’re offered is way too high
  • You never went to an interview
  • You can’t get anything in writing
  • You’re asked to put up money to start
  • Your instincts are telling you to run

The interview process can be complicated. Legitimate employers might call you back for multiple interviews, ask for tests and spec work, and take time to get back to you even after you’re several interviews deep in the process. But they won’t ask for cash, offer something for nothing, or hire you without vetting.

Bottom line: real employers may frustrate you, but they probably won’t confuse you. Their process, as well as the terms of employment, should be straightforward and clear.

3. Being too picky (or not picky enough)

job offers
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Try not to let the uncertainty and anxiety of looking for a new job get to you. Otherwise, you could find yourself jumping at the wrong opportunities — or not moving on the right ones.

It’s exciting to be offered a position, but remember to keep your head at this stage of the hiring process. You might be tempted to accept a job — any job — just to end your search. But, before you do that, you should carefully weigh the offer.

The same rule applies in the other direction. Securing one solid job offer doesn’t necessarily mean that dozens more are about to pop up as well. Think about your decision carefully before turning down a job opportunity.

It’s essential to do your homework. Use the PayScale Salary Survey to find out what professionals working in your industry are earning. Go into the negotiation process with a range in mind. This will help you to better understand, and navigate, the offers that come your way.

4. Counting on others to manage your search

gender pay gap
JD Hancock/Flickr

Depending on someone else, anyone else, to oversee and manage your job search for you is a mistake. Go ahead and work with a recruiter — they are definitely an asset in many hiring processes. However, don’t count on them to sit at the helm and steer the course.

You’re the one in charge of this process and you know what’s best. So, don’t count on others to manage your job search. Other people can help you, but always remember that you’re the one in charge.

5. Pausing your search while you wait to hear back

Ben White/Unsplash

Some hiring processes are quite lengthy. You may have a series of interviews over a period of weeks, for example, before receiving an offer. It’s tempting to get excited if an interview, or a series of them, go really well. Sometimes, it can feel like a job offer is almost inevitable. But, be careful not to count your chickens before they hatch if you find yourself in this kind of scenario. A company showing interest in you doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re about to be hired.

Even if they were excited about you, job offers can fall through for all kinds of different reasons. So, until you have that “bird in hand,” resist the urge to call off, or even pause, your job search. Distract yourself from all the waiting by continuing to move forward with other leads, just in case.

Also, keep in mind that it’s perfectly all right to follow up with an organization after an interview. (You should definitely send a thank-you note to everyone you interviewed with within a day or two after your meeting.) Then, if a few weeks of silence have passed without word, you can check in by email or with a phone call to inquire about how the process is going. Ask if there is any other information that you can provide. And, be sure to thank them for their time and consideration, no matter what happens.

In the meantime, don’t put your job search on hold just because one avenue starts to look promising. This could end up causing you to waste precious time, or even miss out on other opportunities. So, stay in the game until you have accepted an offer.

6. Applying for the wrong jobs


Looking for a job can be a long and arduous process. It can be tempting to lower your standards after it’s gone on for awhile. But, you’ll be wasting your time and energy if you apply for jobs that you actually aren’t interested in accepting. Just because you’re qualified for a position, that doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

How long should you expect to job search before a good offer comes through? There are a lot of different opinions on this. But, conventional wisdom states that it should take about a month for every $10k you hope to earn in your new position to find the job. Keep that in mind if the process is taking longer than you expected. And, only apply for opportunities you’d be willing to accept.

7. Not asking for feedback

lead with empathy
Christina Morillo/Pexels

There are so many people and resources that can help you along the way. It makes sense to utilize these resources to their full potential. However, it’s not just important to surround yourself with these people — you actually have to listen to what they have to say in order to benefit from their wisdom.

So, if you’re working with a recruiter or a career coach, ask them for feedback regularly. Take notes on the things they say, and integrate their suggestions. Have people you trust review your resume and provide you with feedback. Learn from the jobs you’ve had in the past and from the feedback you received from those employers.

Finally, know that it’s often a good idea to ask for feedback when you aren’t offered a job. So, if you hear back from a hiring manager and it’s bad news, ask a few questions. Thank them for considering you, and then ask if they wouldn’t mind telling you why you weren’t selected. You might just learn something important about your interview style, your resume, or some other factor, that will help you land another opportunity down the road.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever fallen into any of the job search traps on this list? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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I’ve absolutely fallen into one of those traps. I’ve accepted several wrong jobs just out of the impatience of the lengthy job search.

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