If you’re stuck in the unenviable position of looking for work, taking steps to make yourself a more well-rounded, qualified, marketable candidate is always a good move.

Typically, advice along those lines involves going back to school, learning a trade, or even entering an entirely new career at the bottom of the ladder. All good advice, depending on one’s situation.

But what if you could make yourself a more viable candidate without doing any of those things? What if you could simply pay attention to a few small details and, as a result, differentiate yourself from a significant percentage of the competition, and maybe land that interview while others don’t even make it through the door?

That’s exactly what Technical Recruiter Paul Farrior thinks, and he’s got the experience to back up his claims. Paul got his start with AtWork Professional (our direct hire division) three years ago after college, and since then he’s placed hundreds of candidates all along the skill spectrum, from entry level machine operators to machine maintenance to IT, engineering, HR, and marketing professionals.

Paul hasn’t quite seen it all yet, but what he has seen has him constantly shaking his head at the ways job candidates shoot themselves in the foot before they even set foot inside his office for an interview.

Here are just a few:

Outdated resume / profile work history

Here’s what happens. You go on Indeed.com three years ago and put in a profile with your work history. Maybe you land a job in a few months, work it a couple of years, and find yourself in need of employment again. So you start applying for jobs using that handy-dandy Indeed profile, not considering that potential employers might be interested in your most recent employment experience.

According to Paul, this happens all too often! In fact, it’s not uncommon for him to ask an applicant over the phone about what he thinks is an applicant’s latest position only to get “that was three jobs ago” as a response.

It’s somewhat understandable to some degree. In a panic, it’s easy to get click happy and just apply for as many jobs as you can. Problem is, when your online resumes aren’t updated (whether it’s your pdf resume or on a job board), it reflects poorly on key factors employers want to see, such as conscientiousness, attention to detail, truthfulness, and even work ethic. If you aren’t willing to do some of your own legwork, why should we?

Inaccurate contact information

According to Paul, upwards of 40 percent of phone calls he makes during any given workday are to numbers that, for whatever reason, are no longer in service. Granted, this problem seems to get worse the further down the pay scale you go, but people need entry-level jobs too, and not having accurate phone information, or not being able to maintain a phone number for longer than two weeks, is a colossal example of shooting oneself in the foot.

We may have had the perfect job for you, but yeah, you’ll never know it because we tried to call you and couldn’t reach you.

No voicemail set up

Of those with working numbers, at least 20 percent don’t even have their voicemail set up correctly, or we’ll call and get that dreaded “this voicemail is full” message. “I can call and call and call,” Paul says, “but typically people won’t answer unless they recognize the number. Problem is, if I can’t leave a voicemail, how will they know its me?”

You won’t, and sadly you won’t know anything about that great job Paul had for you either.

Answering the phone rudely or unprofessionally

We get it, it’s your personal phone and you have the right to answer it with “What?” or “Who dis?” or even a “Buzz off” if you want, but don’t be surprised when we move on to the next, less rude, candidate. After all, if you’re rude, short, or unprofessional to people you don’t even know, how will you be on the job site?

Paul especially loves it when people answer rudely, then when they realize it’s him their “tone instantly changes.” Interestingly though, that first impression never leaves his mind.

One word answers to questions

Paul: “Are you still looking for work?”

Applicant: “Yes.” (long pause)

OK, sure that was technically a yes or no question, but how about a LITTLE help here?

Here’s another one:

Paul: “What type of work are you hoping to find?”

Applicant: “Anything.” (another long pause)

You’d be amazed at how many applicants manage to answer open-ended questions with terse, even one-word responses. Paul knows the art of the long awkward silence and isn’t afraid to use it, but when he has to, trust me, he isn’t thinking favorable thoughts about you.

Granted, it takes a little bit of effort, but regardless of work history, background, or even individual smarts, anyone, and I do mean anyone, can correct these seemingly obvious things to differentiate themselves from a higher percentage of fellow job seekers than, sadly, should be the case.

Written by Scott Morefield

Since beginning his AtWork career in 1999, Scott has served as Staffing Manager, then Branch Manager | Social Media Manager, and now his current role as Director of Marketing. By night, Scott is a news and opinion columnist for BizPac Review. His op-eds have also been featured on the Drudge Report, The Hill, Fox Nation, Breitbart, National Review, TheBlaze, The Federalist, and WND, among others. Scott holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Resources and an MBA from East Tennessee State University. He and his wife, Kim, live in Bristol, Tennessee with their four children.

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