Big Mistakes Job Seekers Make and How to Avoid Them

By Jacquelyn Smith

There are a lot of ways you can go wrong during your job search. You can fail to devote enough time to it, but you can also get so involved you become isolated from family and friends. Those are among the most common mistakes job seekers make, according to a 2010 study published in the Academy of Management Journal.
Three researchers, Connie Wanberg, Jing Zhu and Edwin A. J. van Hooft, wrote a paper titled "The Job-Search Grind: Perceived Progress, Self-Reactions, and Self-Regulation of Search Effort." The study also found that signs of progress can make you relax too much and that you should diversify your search tactics.

In Pictures: Big Mistakes Job Seekers Make and How to Avoid Them
The three scholars asked 233 participants to complete a baseline survey and then follow up online every Monday through Friday for three weeks. Participants tracked their emotions, the time they dedicated to their job search and the level of confidence they felt about finding an acceptable job. They all had been out of work for about 16 weeks.

"There is a significant amount of research available on job search, however there is little understanding of what job seekers do on a day-to-day basis," says Wanberg, a professor of human resources and industrial relations at the University of Minnesota. "I found that there are a lot of ups and downs in the process, and I would say that one of the biggest mistakes that job seekers make is that they don't regulate their emotions. They often start off angry, especially if they were let go from their previous job. Once they start the application process, they become very confident. Next, they get frustrated by their rejections."

The study reveals that more than 40% of the participants dedicated less than three hours a day to their searches, while another 40% spent more than half their day at it. Wanberg warns against taking either too many or too few breaks from the job hunt. "Some people tether themselves to the computer and become isolated," she says. "It is healthy to take time out to exercise or have lunch with a friend."

Wanberg says job seekers tend to make these kinds of mistakes because they don't always have the help and resources they need to conduct a successful job search. "A lot of unemployed people go into the process without talking to people or researching effective methods for finding a job," she says. "For instance, many people are not aware that they need to diversify their approach."


In Pictures: Big Mistakes Job Seekers Make and How to Avoid Them

  • Taking too many breaks from the search, particularly after making progress.
It's OK to take the occasional breather, but don't allow yourself lengthy breaks every time you make progress. "Don't rest on your laurels after posting a job application or getting an interview," Wanberg says. "Keep your effort going!"
  • Not dedicating enough time to the process. Almost 44% of job seekers spend less than three hours per day looking for a new position.
Research shows that people who put more time into their job search find jobs sooner, Wanberg says. "If you are unsure about what to do next, visit your local workforce center, read a job search book, peruse the internet for tips, or talk to others for advice on how to increase and expand your search effort."
  • Letting emotions and frustration get the best of you.
Looking for a job can be grueling and emotional, but there are ways to stay calm. "Make sure you are exercising daily, eating right, and that you have a good support person to talk to," says Wanberg. "When you have a bad day in your job search, try to get together with a friend or family member and do something fun together."
  • Putting all your eggs in one basket.
Even if you are extremely confident about a particular job opportunity, don't devote all of your time and energy to one potential position. It's best to continue your search efforts and pursue several jobs while you wait to hear from your preferred employer.
  • Not diversifying your job search. Some people rely solely on online job postings; others depend on networking.
Find a balance. "If you are not a very social person, ask yourself if you are spending too much time in front of your computer," says Wanberg. "You need to be contacting people you know and going to business socials or events. Have you contacted your university alma mater? It is really helpful to meet with alumni from your university in your field. If you are a person who is very social, you may need to spend more time researching companies and looking at online postings and hiring trends."
  • Rushing into the process too quickly.
Do your homework. "Looking for a job is a process that has a big learning curve," Wanberg says. "Talk to others who have been in your shoes about lessons they've learned and mistakes they've made. Consult job search books or go to a job search class."

See the full list, 13 Mistakes Job Seekers Make And How to Avoid Them on Forbes.com

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