The three most common job search mistakes people make are:

  1. Focusing on the resume
  2. Focusing on jobs boards
  3. Waiting to hear back

Let’s break down the pitfalls of each.

Job Search Mistake #1: Focusing on the resume

You’ve been told your whole life that your resume is the thing that will get you hired. Make sure to pack it with perfectly-worded stuff that makes you look good, get good grades and prestigious degrees and awards, puff up your work history a bit, cram in some keywords, and get your font and format right.

That’s bad advice.

Your resume is irrelevant.

85% of jobs fill by word-of-mouth recommendations, not by people who sent in resumes. The remaining 15% which fill by external applicants that get an average of 250 applications per posting. That stack of 250 resumes basically look the same. All that time spent on resume tweaking, just for the 0.06% chance of winning an offer is a terrible return on investment.

When the front door isn’t letting anyone in, you’ve gotta come in the side door.

Don’t send a resume at all. Don’t even make one. Instead, learn a few things about the company you’re interested in, find the email address of the hiring manager or a key decision maker, and send them something personal, unique, and interesting.

Try a slide deck. Or a project you made for them. Or a short video. Better yet, package it all together in a custom pitch!

The resume economy is dead. You won’t get noticed with one. The sooner you put your energy elsewhere, the faster you start to get interviews.

Job Search Mistake #2: Focusing on jobs boards

A lot of people mindlessly scan jobs boards, trying to figure out which filters to apply and whether job titles they know nothing about seem worth applying to.

The best jobs are often not advertised at all. And posted job openings often sound rigid in their requirements, when in reality they are more flexible. Finally, the HR systems that filter applicants from public postings are not good at finding the best candidates, which is why most hires come from people on the team who know a guy who knows a gal and they bump them to the front of the line.

Jobs boards can give you some useful information and help you discover some companies and roles. But browsing and one-click applying through them all day is not going to pay off. Try going deep instead of wide.

Pick 5-10 companies that really interest you. Research them, get to know their product, history, customer, and culture. Connect with people who work their on social media or in real life. Ask them questions about their jobs. Be curious, be kind, and if you can, be helpful.

When you know enough about them, pitch them with something that’s not easy to ignore! (e.g. “Hey, I saw your FAQ page is a bit out of dat so I drafted up a new one. Feel free to use it. I’d love to get 15 minutes and learn more about your company and what needs you have”). This will 10x your odds of getting hired over anyone who’s just submitting standard apps cold.

Job Search Mistake #3: Waiting to hear back

You applied. If you’re smart, you researched and sent a custom pitch. No response.

Oh well, you tried! On to the next one.


Companies are busy, sometimes chaotic places. Hiring is usually a messy process that’s almost never the most urgent thing on anyone’s plate. Emails get lost, people forget, decisions take a long time, people procrastinate, etc. etc.

Not hearing back doesn’t mean you’re out. Truth is, you don’t know what it means. And you shouldn’t stop contacting them (tastefully, graciously) until you do.

Send a followup every few days checking in. Hit up someone else in the company and say you pitched but haven’t heard and are really interested in the job. Add some additional value in a followup (e.g. “Hey just wanted to send you this bug I found on your site. Still looking forward to hearing back on my pitch!”). Don’t be afraid to persist.

If they give you a hard no, feel free to ask for feedback or advice. They may not feel comfortable giving it, but you lose nothing by asking.

Don’t leave the job hunt to chance!

Bottom line, it’s in your hands. Get creative, put in some work, follow-up, and you will get better jobs faster than the typical approach. It seems like more work at first, because you have to engage your brain a bit more, but in the end it’s less work and time.

And besides, if you don’t want your job to be boring, why would you treat your job hunt as a boring, repetitive activity?