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Five Mistakes Job Applicants Make When Applying to Jobs!

mistakes job applicants make

Preparing and submitting a job application is the first step to getting a job.

It’s your first contact with an employer and it’s your chance to make a good first impression.

Many jobs have hundreds of applications, so how can you be one of the few to get an interview?

How can you put yourself in a position where the employer will be looking for reasons to hire you rather than reasons to not?

In this post, we dive into The Top 5 Mistakes Job Applicants Make When Applying to Jobs.

You don’t want to be working against yourself in allowing these simple mistakes to take you out of the running for your next job.

Luckily, there are simple fixes to each one.

1.  Bad Resume File Format

 With many jobs, you can apply through email. Job boards like Craigslist, Proven, and often a company’s career page, will allow you to simply attach your resume, write up an email introducing yourself and hit send.

 As an applicant, this is fantastic. Everyone knows how to use email. There’s no time wasted recreating your resume through tedious application forms.  You can send an email as you’ve done thousands times.

However, one common mistake is that people often send their resume in formats that not everyone can easily open. Resumes created in tools like Pages, Word Perfect, Microsoft Works, and even Microsoft Word, pose potential issues for the employer receiving that email.

 If the employer cannot open and read your resume and they already have 20 other applications with resumes that they can open, they are likely not going to take the time to request a different format or explain the issue to you.

 The solution to this issue is simple. All of these programs allow you to export the file as a PDF.

 A PDF or Portable Document Format is a 100% guarantee that the receiver will be able to open and read the document

Other advantages include:

  • Compatible with Mac and PCs
  • No issues with viruses
  • Your beautiful resume will be formatted perfectly on any device
  • Nobody can change the contents of your resume


The only caveat to this suggestion is if the job application specifies that you must submit your resume in an alternative format. In this case, follow the directions in the job post (see mistake number 5). 

2.  Grammatical Errors in Resume

 Although these may seem minor and perhaps writing has nothing to do with the job you are applying to, these simple mistakes can still be a red flag for an employer. They may consider this a lack attention to detail or worse, that you don’t really care about the potential job.

 A good rule of thumb is to always assume you are sending your resume and cover letter to an English major who is a stickler for Grammar!

The simple solution is to make sure you take your time putting together your resume and any other application material that you have to create. Have a friend or two look over your work. If you are still worried, there are resume review websites that can help you.

3.  No Cover Letter

Anyone can just fire off a resume to an employer. Unfortunately employers know this and this is a huge red flag.  Bulk sending resumes makes it seem like you do not really care about working for that business and that you have simply shotgunned your resume to different jobs hundreds of times.

 Many employers will not even look at an application that lacks a cover letter. So if you’re serious about getting a job, why take the risk?

 Putting together a great cover letter will take a bit of work.

 The general cover letter format consists of three parts:

  • The first paragraph explains what job you are applying to, where you found it and potentially name drop anyone that you know in common.
  • The middle paragraphs should explain what you bring to the table. Mention specifically how your qualifications relate to the ones specified in the job description.
  • Final paragraph thanks the employer for taking the time to read your letter, states that you are looking forward to hearing from them, and lets them know that you will follow-up.

 Follow this recipe and make sure you include a cover letter to every job you apply.  You will see your success rate increase dramatically!

4.  Cover Letter Lacks Personality

 With the last section, I emphasized how important it is to always include a cover letter when you apply to a job. If you are doing that already, fantastic. But it is equally important to not send the exact same generic cover letter to every job.

 Take a few minutes to look up the company’s website and mention something that you could only find out by doing some research. This will really help you to stand out.

 Also, depending on how the job description is written or how the company presents itself on their website, make sure your cover letter fits with the company’s personality. If the job description is playful, then try to be creative in your cover letter. Send a comic strip as your cover letter or try to say something funny that relates to the position.

 It’s important to stand out and show some personality. Not many applicants do this, so you will immediately be noticeable.

 These types of touches will help set you up for success come time for the interview. The employer will be looking for reasons to hire you.

5.  Not Following Instructions

 The final mistake is simply not following instructions. Just as grammatical errors in your resume or cover letter can indicate a lack of attention to detail, missing some critical instruction in the job description can quickly kill your chances of getting an interview. Some employers put specific instructions in their job description in order to weed out applicants or sometimes they do it for organizational reasons.

 Take the time to fully read the job description. Write out any specific instructions that they want you to follow and make a job application checklist that you can run through just before hitting the submit button on your application.

This help will save your from ending up in the automatic no pile.

Avoiding these mistakes will significantly increase your chances of landing an interview with any job you apply to. Remember to take your time, be mindful of instructions, try to write something meaningful in your cover letter, and make sure your resume is readable. Good luck!

For more information on hiring, read The Small Business Hiring Guide!  It’s great for employers and candidates alike!

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