The 5 Deadly Sins of a Job Hunt

As Director of People Operations for ModSquad, a large part of my role is recruiting. I review many e-mails, cover letters, and resumes, and I reply to Facebook posts or Tweets asking about opportunities with ModSquad, so I’ve seen many approaches to job hunting. The best advice I can give job seekers? Be professional; treat your job search like a job in itself.

It’s interesting (and distressing) to see how many people submit applications filled with typos and grammatical errors, or coming from completely inappropriate personal e-mail addresses. Regardless of the job, whether it’s customer service or sales, in order to be successful and move ahead in your career, you need to demonstrate professionalism. That begins with your first contact with a potential employer. These tips may seem obvious, but I see applicants commit these job-hunt sins daily.

1: Thou Shalt Not Make Grammatical Errors

Hiring managers may get hundreds of applications, so you want to make a strong first impression. Don’t give them an easy reason to drag your resume into the recycle bin; nothing says “trash this” like a resume chock-a-block with grammatical and spelling errors.

  • Proofread your resume and cover letter.
  • Read it out loud to make sure it reads well.
  • Have a friend review it as well.
  • Use capitalization. Don’t send a resume in all lowercase because you think it looks cute; it will more likely annoy than impress.
  • Posting on a company’s Facebook page or Tweeting them doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use grammatically correct, complete sentences.

Sample Sinners (with identifying material redacted): The ModSquad applicant who, while touting his writing schools, said that he attended the [redacted] Scool of Writing.

2: Thou Shalt Be Professional In All Thy Communications

Give all replies and communications with your potential employer your utmost attention. The application process may involve many e-mails back and forth. Every message you send could send the wrong message if you’re not careful. You even need to consider the source of your message; your e-mail address could make or break your chances

  • Don’t reply on your mobile; there’s a good chance you’ll be distracted or mistype. Even if you state “Please excuse typos” in your signature, no one will.
  • For the love of all that’s good, don’t use “text speak.” (“Can u pls tell me how much the job $$? Pls call me bk tmrw. Ty.”) If we see that, we’ll just LOL as we TYR (that’s “trash your resume,” ICYDK).
  • Sell yourself to the future employer by emphasizing your skills and what you can do for them. Saying “I need help finding a job that will pay a decent hourly rate. I have a lot of bills and not enough income to cover them” just tells us that you can’t stick to a budget. It doesn’t help make your case.
  • Use a professional-sounding e-mail address; if you don’t have one, set one up as you start your job search. I can’t tell you how many unfortunate e-mail addresses we talk about internally. Be aware of cultural colloquialisms; for example, [email protected] may not be the best e-mail prefix to use in the United States.

Sample Sinners: Believe it or not, we recruiters don’t necessarily enjoy receiving e-mails sent to our work accounts from [email protected][redacted].com, [email protected][redacted].com, or an e-mail that shows the sender’s name as “great f***er” (without the asterisks, unfortunately). We’ve seen them all and shake our heads every time.

3: Thou Shalt Use a Cover Letter and Resume

In this day and age, it might seem like a cover letter and/or resume is archaic. Not so! Always tailor the cover letter to the company and role you’re seeking. Almost daily I receive cover letters addressed to a different person or company. This lack of attention to detail is almost an immediate dismissal. Your resume should be customized to showcase the work experience and skills you can bring to the role in which you are interested. A few other notes:

  • It’s okay to use a resume template off the Internet, but remember to proofread it. Don’t copy someone else’s mistakes.
  • Having a bullet point like “Sold over [dollar amount] and exceeded sales goals for [year]” does not necessarily help your case. Illustrate how those skills might translate to the potential employer.
  • It should go without saying that your cover letter and resume should be error free and grammatically correct. But we’ll say it again anyway.

Sample Sinners: When applying for our customer service and moderation opportunities, there is no need to include a picture in a bikini; it won’t help. Yes, this actually happened. 

Lest we not forget the ModSquad applicant who listed her job responsibilities in her previous role as a manicurist: “Step 1, I wash my hands. Step 2, I dry my hands. Step 3, I walk back to my table…”

4: Thou Shalt Use LinkedIn Correctly

LinkedIn is a vital tool in today’s job-search environment, so learn how to use it. The site offers many tools that you can utilize without your current employer knowing you’re looking for a new job. Here’s how to get yourself set up correctly.

  • Update your profile with the latest information and a current professional photograph. Don’t use that great picture of you holding a red Solo cup, and don’t use a shot where you’re cropping out your best buddies.
  • More than likely, potential employers will Google you and review your online presence, including your LinkedIn page. Make sure there isn’t anything you don’t want a potential employer to see.
  • Maintaining an up-to-date LinkedIn profile tells us that you’re detailed, thorough, really interested in opportunities, and not just taking a half-hearted approach to your job search.

Sample sinners: The many who reference their empty LinkedIn profiles on their applications.

5: Thou Shalt Update Your References

Nothing frustrates a recruiter or hiring manager more than getting an email bounce-back or a disconnected number.

  • Ask your contacts to be a professional or personal reference for you.
  • It’s good practice to let your references know to expect a call; otherwise, they may get a call for which they’re unprepared or choose not to return.
  • Let your references know what type of job you are looking for and what skills you offer, so they can highlight your positives and help sell you to the hiring manger or recruiter.

Sample sinners: Let’s just say it can be a struggle to get a reference from someone who doesn’t speak English (many of our Mods are bilingual, but not everyone in our department is). Beyond that, one call we can’t forget wasn’t exactly a reference call. We found ourselves trying not to seem too shocked when we called an applicant for a background check and heard him try to explain away his murder charge. Same issue for the guy with the Internet solicitation charge…

Here’s a bonus tip: Keep in mind that employers receive thousands of resumes. Most recruiters and hiring managers already have busy schedules and must find time to review applications. While it can be appropriate to follow up your application, burdening them with multiple e-mails will not have the endearing effect you may hope. It’s just a balancing act. Yes, it can be frustrating when you don’t hear back, but you may be one of hundreds (or even thousands) of applicants. Demanding a reply or update will only make you seem entitled rather than thorough.

Keep these five sins in mind when starting your next job search; refrain from these grievous errors and follow these simple tips, and you’ll be ahead of the pack!

Gina Miller
Director of People Operations

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