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13 Things You're Doing Right Now That Are Hurting Your Chances at Getting a Job

Stop making these mistakes ASAP.

You've applied to what feels like a million job openings, hopped on a couple phone interviews, and maybe even attended an on-site interview, but you still haven't gotten a job offer. Now you're wondering, "What am I doing wrong?!"

We work with thousands of college students every day, so we see students making "job etiquette" mistakes all the time, like sending emails with typos or skipping phone calls. We get it. As a student, you don't realize what kind of message you're sending and no one really teaches you how to conduct yourself in a professional setting.

We're here to point out 13 things you're doing right now that are hurting your chances at getting a job, and to share tips and tricks on how to improve your chances.

Finding Job Opportunities

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1. Not keeping up with mentors and previous managers

You never know when or where a job opening might appear, so always keep up with your network, especially your mentors and previous managers. Follow up with them and keep them updated on your life. Even sending a quick email with an article or video that reminded you of them can make a huge difference. 

Keep yourself at the top of their mind, so when they hear of an opening at their company or from their friends, they think of you and (hopefully) tell you about it.  

2. Expecting opportunities to come to you

When we're young, we're always told that "you're one in a million." While we totally agree that you're a unique human being that deserves to be recognized as such, we also want to remind you that there are a lot of new grads also on the job hunt.

You're not the only person with internship experience and an awesome GPA, and recruiters aren't going to beg you to join their company. You have to be proactive and look for different opportunities.

Applying to Job Openings

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3. Only submitting your resume through recruiting websites

Websites like are really helpful for understanding what jobs are out there and figuring out what positions you're most interested in. But you shouldn't rely solely on these sites because thousands of other applicants are also submitting their resumes and it's highly unlikely that you'll ever hear back from an actual human.

It's way more effective to find a real person to send your resume to. You can do this by using these recruiting sites to find an open position, and then using the company's website or LinkedIn to find someone to send your resume and cover letter.

4. Only applying to a handful of companies

Don't hurt your chances by only applying to a couple job openings here and there. It's really important to cast a wide net and then see what happens. You don't want to limit yourself before you even get an offer.

Think of this whole process as a funnel. The more you put in your funnel, the more likely something will flow through the the end (aka a job offer).

5. Not customizing your cover letter

Interviewers and recruiters can tell if you just copy and pasted the same cover letter to every company you applied for. A generic cover letter sends the message that you're not too interested in the role because you couldn't be bothered to customize it. Someone who was really excited for the opening would write a cover letter specific to the company.

This means that you should send a customized cover letter for each application you send in, especially for the jobs you're most interested in. You don't have to write a new letter from scratch every time, though. Instead, prepare a loose cover letter template and leave a few paragraphs or sentences open where you can customize it for a specific role. 


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6. Arriving late to calls or interviews

This seems so obvious, but showing up late to an interview or even calling a few minutes late is a big no-no. Always leave early and leave plenty of room in your calendar before an interview. You don't want to be late, or feel the stress of potentially being late.

If you're going to be late because of traffic or a class running over, send your interviewer an email the moment you realize so they're aware. Then, when you arrive late, thank them for their patience and apologize for the inconvenience.

7. Not doing your research

Before you show up to an interview, whether that's in person or on a phone call, you need to do your research. Re-read the job description, comb through the company's website, or skim through a couple of news articles or blog posts — just get a good feel for the company.

If you can, find out who will be interviewing you and look them up. You can see what you have in common and work it into the interview. Plus, you'll feel a lot more at ease if you know what your interviewer looks like and you aren't sitting in the lobby wondering if each new person walking by is your interviewer.

8. Memorizing answers to common interview questions

Practicing for interviews is incredibly important, but you shouldn't memorize answers to regurgitate during an interview. You'll come across like a robot, and the difference between your organic answers and your memorized responses will be really clear.

Instead, you want to be as authentic and prepared as possible, so think of a couple of scenarios where you exemplify the qualifications the company is looking for. Then, in the interview, pull from these situations to answer tough questions.

9. Not asking questions 

When an interviewer asks if you have any questions, they actually do want you to ask questions. This is a great time for you to learn more about the company and the role. Plus, your questions show interviewers what you're thinking about. Are you only asking about perks, or are you genuinely curious about the work culture and team? 

Prepare a couple of questions ahead of time and review them before going into the interview. If there's a good place to ask a question during an interview, do it. If not, ask at the end.

Remember, interviews are for you to interview the company, just as much as it is for the company to interview you. You need to figure out if this company and role is a good fit for you.


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10. Not responding promptly to emails

It's fine to wait an hour (or even longer) before responding to a crush, but you don't want to make a potential employer wait. Be prompt and reply to all the emails you receive, even if it's a reminder email.

A quick "Thanks! See you next week," is better than reading and then ignoring the message because it demonstrates that you're on top of it and that you're a good communicator.

11. Sending emails without proofreading

Always proofread all of your emails! Make sure it's addressed to the right person and that you've attached all the documents you said you were including. You really don't want to be the applicant who misspelled the company's name or forgot to include their portfolio.

12. Not following up

It's easy to submit an application or hop on a phone call and then just wait to see what happens. If you haven't heard back in two weeks, you should follow up. 

Send your recruiter an email and ask when you should expect to hear back. Let them know that you're available to answer any additional questions that they might have.

Basically, keep your application at the top of their mind, but don't be annoying.

13. Not being grateful for someone else's time

Whether or not the opportunity pans out, you should be thankful for every person that talks with you in person, on the phone, or over email. Send them a thank you email after each conversation to show them that you appreciate the time they took to chat with you.

You should even send thank you emails to companies that rejected your application. A quick "thank you for the opportunity" can go a long way because you never know when your paths will meet next.

Now that you know what mistakes you're making and how to fix them, you're ready to find that perfect job. Join us at PowerHour on Tuesday, June 26, 6-9 pm in NYC to chat with professionals from awesome food companies like Food Network, Sprinkles, Dig Inn, and more