Been searching for a while and not getting the result you expected? Or, haven’t searched in a while and not sure where to start? Either way, the technology of a job search now means that an average of 70% of applications are rejected by the applicant tracking systems (ATS)  before they are seen by a person. So, it can be easy to get frustrated in the process. But don’t. Instead, here is how to avoid the 5 most overlooked job search mistakes:


Searching for a job almost always starts online. But, it shouldn’t end there because not all positions are posted. This means that you will be left out of the hidden job market unless you take the search off the job boards. To take your job search to the next level, consider the following:

  • Network. Use your network and the people you know to ask for help. They would gladly do the same for you. So, let people know you are looking and more importantly, ask for help.
  • Follow-up. Reach out to the person that posted the job or your connections at the company after applying. Ask for guidance or information on the position. Well done, this follow-up can help pull your resume out of the ATS rejection pile. Poorly done, this can put you straight on the blacklist. So, keep it professional and focused.
  • Work with recruiters. Employers work with outside recruiters to help fill jobs that they don’t want to post or don’t have the bandwidth to fill. You can’t learn about these positions unless you reach out to recruiting firms and stay on their radar. Check out tips on how to work with a recruiting firm here.


Social media is not all the same. Most people don’t realize that LinkedIn is more than a professional networking platform. Instead, it has evolved into an applicant tracking system. This means that recruiters who pay for the LinkedIn recruiter (or those that don’t) are using the system to find candidates for their positions. If you want to be found by recruiters, then consider the following:

  • Skills matter. The LinkedIn algorithm will evaluate your profile and determine whether you are a fit for the position based on the skills identified by the recruiter. Make sure you add the Skills section to your profile AND that you fill out the limit (which is 50).
  • Keywords are key. There are a number of filters that recruiters use on LinkedIn to search for candidates for their roles. If you don’t have a profile or it is incomplete, then you don’t have the keywords necessary to be found for roles that are a good fit. Think of your LinkedIn profile as an EXTENDED version of your resume and add to it. Never remove things from your profile unless it simply hurts not helps your current search.
  • Pictures really do matter. A profile without a picture is almost always viewed as a fake in this era of fake news. Plus, studies show that you will increase the views of your profile by 11x if you add a picture. You don’t have to love the picture, you just need something simple and professional. Find more tips on your LinkedIn profile here.


A job search is a marathon and not a sprint. You can’t “make up” for lost time by doing more on the weekend. Instead, you should set aside 15-30 minutes at least 4-5 days a week to work on your search. When doing that remember:

  • Quality not quantity is key. Putting out 100 applications in a night means that you will undoubtedly get 100 rejections (if not immediately very soon). Instead, focus your time to find the right fit for your background and put time into those applications instead of churning out a ton of applications.
  • Small things add up. Adding in a reference to something specific or otherwise taking the time to illustrate the skills you espouse in your resume can go along way to landing an interview. Be creative and professional in showing that you are really interested in the position.
  • Stand out from the crowd. Take the time to find ways to stand out from the average of 70 applications received for each position. This can be as simple as searching for the roles that are a perfect fit and clearly articulating why you think that is the case.


The single most common mistake that hurts a job search is the myth that 1 resume is enough. That’s simply not true because your relevant experience cannot be boiled down to 2 pages. Beyond that, roles (and titles) can vary dramatically across organizations. So, you will want to customize your resume to each position when possible. Think about the following when considering how to customize your resume:

  • Read the posting. Posting language is confusing and often dramatically diverse for the same job title. Make sure to take the time to read the posting and understand what it is that this employer is looking for in this specific position.  
  • Use the posting language. ATS are often endlessly customized which means there is no universal solution for job seekers. An easy way to address the uncertainties of customization is to use the language from the job posting whenever possible. Make it your own and make sure you have the experience. But, using this language will undoubtedly improve the performance of your resume. Find more tips to write a resume to beat the ATS here.
  • Timing is everything. Being prepared enables you to capitalize on timing in your search. Knowing how to articulate your skills and having the resume ready to go is essential so you can be the first to apply or follow-up when the timing is right.


Experts and most everyone has strong opinions about whether a cover letter is necessary and the best practices in preparing a cover letter. In reality, the recruiter reading your resume has an average of 6 seconds that they will spend on your application (even after the ATS has screened the applications). Thus, they undeniably mean less than they used to.

Nevertheless, there are still circumstances when a cover letter can help your application (or they are required by the online application system). In that case, consider the following:

  • It must be customized. A universal cover letter has zero value and can be spotted quickly by a recruiter. Take the time to customize the letter to the position to explain why you want this position and why you are a good fit. Make it clear and specific.
  • Tell your story. There are times when the recruiter wants to know more before they decide to schedule an interview and your cover letter is the best place to address these issues. (i.e. you have been at the same company for most of your career, you are out of town, the industry is different, you are transitioning careers, etc.). In these cases, make sure to acknowledge the obvious questions and clearly articulate the answers. This will make or break your application.
  • Be specific. The more specific the better. Name drop whenever possible and include details about why this job, why this employer. Never presume that this information will be inferred.

Don’t let these 5 most overlooked mistakes hold back your job search. ​Instead, focus your efforts on the things (and roles) that will have the most impact in advancing your job search. To do this, focus on finding roles that could be a good fit while putting in the time to submit a quality application to make it obvious to the recruiter that they must interview you.

Not sure where to start? The Contingent Plan career experts are here to help. Request a quote or submit your resume for a free resume analysis today.


With years of experience in the job acquisition field, Kathy has delivered exceptional service by providing in-depth knowledge about recruiting qualified employees, and crafting the perfect resume. The Contingent Plan comprises a team of expert recruiters, resume writers, and outplacement experts—all ready to help you! Read Kathy’s blogs, and discover simple tricks and tips to help you land the job of your dreams.