Administrative professionals with the most in-demand skills — especially those who can make immediate contributions with minimal training — can uncover an increasing number of opportunities in the current business environment. But landing a new position will require you to be in top form during your job quest. Sometimes the best way to prepare for a task is to learn what not to do.

Here are some common mistakes made by candidates and how you can avoid them:

Failing to network. There’s no denying it: Networking is the most effective way to find a new job, especially as you move up the career ladder. Through effective networking, you can reach key decision makers who have the power to hire you into jobs that have not been advertised. These include internal openings that companies fill through staff recommendations, new positions that an organisation might create specifically for you, modifications to existing positions to fit your skills and emerging opportunities at expanding companies.

Sticking to online job advertisements. Tap into a broad range of resources to increase your chances of locating work. Neighbours, relatives and former lecturers are just a few examples of people who may know of job possibilities. Join professional associations and networking sites like LinkedIn, and talk to consultants at recruitment firms specialising in administrative positions.

Going generic. If you send a one-size-fits-all resume or CV and cover letter to employers, you’re sending the message that you aren’t serious about the opportunity. Customise your materials to suit each organisation’s unique needs and highlight appropriate skills and experience.

Not following up. After you submit application materials, send a brief email or call the company to verify that your documents were received. You won’t be seen as a pest; in fact, the opposite is true. In a survey by our company, 86 per cent of executives interviewed said that job candidates should contact a hiring manager within two weeks of sending a resume or CV and cover letter. Following up shows you’re sincerely interested in the position and may improve your chances of landing an interview.

Failing to research the employer. Nearly one in four managers surveyed by our company said knowing little or nothing about the job or organisation was the most common mistake candidates make. Navigate past this pitfall by researching the employer’s goals, challenges, recent history, products and services. At minimum, visit the company’s website. Even better, go beyond this information source and read online articles about the organisation. You also can check social media channels for comments by current and former employees and clients.

Missing manners. Administrative job candidates can’t afford to give the impression that they take interpersonal communication lightly. Throughout your job search, treating someone associated with the company — or your professional network, for that matter — with anything short of courtesy isn’t acceptable.

Showing up late. Calculating your commute time to a job interview is not like planning a trip to the store. Give yourself a lot of extra time. It’s better to sit in the building lobby and wait for your appointment time than to rush in late. Still, tardiness is not necessarily a fatal blunder. If extraordinary circumstances delayed your arrival, mention them briefly. The hiring manager deserves to know whether your tardiness was a one-off occurrence or a simple mistake. Also keep in mind that showing up too early for an interview can often be looked down upon. Plan to arrive in the office around five to 10 minutes before your meeting. Any earlier and the interviewer may feel pressure to start ahead of schedule.

Being careless with social media. Assume that any online material traceable to your name will be found and considered by the company where you’re applying. In most cases, the employer will be more troubled by the decision-making suggested by the sharing of inappropriate content than by the information itself. If you can’t have it removed, address the matter directly with the hiring manager. Acknowledging your awareness of its inappropriateness and noting your efforts to have it removed may encourage him or her to consider it an isolated mistake, rather than evidence of a likely-to-be-ongoing lack of professional judgment.

Not staying positive. It’s true that job hunting can be demoralising, especially if you’ve been on numerous interviews and haven’t gotten an offer yet. But a positive attitude is essential to your success. Even if your qualifications are excellent, you’re likely to be eliminated from consideration if you come across as a negative person. Hiring managers seek candidates who are not only exceptionally well-qualified, but also people who they want to work with — individuals who project enthusiasm, confidence and good feelings.

Even under the best of circumstances, a job search can test a person’s resolve and perseverance. It’s not surprising that it can be easy to make missteps along the way. By taking care to avoid the most common problems, you can help ensure that you’re not your own worst enemy when it comes to finding a new opportunity.

Sidebar:
Interview Mistakes
The job interview is arguably the most critical part of the job search process. Unfortunately, it’s also the step at which applicants frequently trip up. Nearly a third of executives interviewed in a survey by our company said the interview stage is where job seekers make the most mistakes. Here’s a list of typical pitfalls specifically around the job interview and some effective strategies for overcoming them.

Sabotaged by the bell. Far too many job candidates forget to silence their mobile phones before going into an interview. The hiring manager expects and deserves your full attention, so turn off any noise-generating devices in advance. It’s best to shut them down completely — even vibrate mode can be distracting.

Bad body language. Your verbal communication skills may be excellent, but be careful that your body language doesn’t speak louder than your words. Slouching, yawning, not making eye contact, having a tense facial expression or crossing your arms are strong nonverbal messages you don’t want to send. For the duration of the interview be alert, attentive, courteous and focused. Sit up straight and take care not to gesture too much when speaking, as this creates a distraction.

All answers, no questions. In an effort to appear competent, prepared and polished, job candidates often give excellent answers but forget to ask a single question during an interview. At appropriate intervals, be sure to ask insightful questions (based on your research) about the company and the position you seek. This will show the interviewer you’ve done your homework and are truly interested in the organisation.

Negativity. Never speak critically or disrespectfully about a former employer. If you’re asked why you left a company, provide professional reasons: “There were no opportunities for advancement” or “I wanted to work in a different industry.” Similarly, when asked how you have handled or would handle a conflict with a client or coworker, focus on positive, productive solutions rather than the other party’s faults.

Finally, there’s one other pitfall. When the interview goes well, you may be so relieved that you end it with an abrupt farewell. But you’re not done yet. To maximise your chances, reiterate your interest in the position and your desire to work for the organisation. In fact, it’s perfectly appropriate to ask what the next steps are. This shows your enthusiasm – a quality that could help set you apart when the employer makes a decision.

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Robert Hosking is the former Executive Director of OfficeTeam (www.officeteam.com). OfficeTeam is a division of Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. The company has more than 300 staffing locations worldwide and offers ... (Read More)

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