7 Mistakes to Avoid When Applying For Your First Job

Extreme job hunterNow you have your degree clutched tightly in your hand you are ready to start out on your career and apply for your first job. This can be a daunting task when you have studied, reviewed and been guided though to a good outcome for every tough test the last twenty years, but now is the time to go it alone and see what you can do to secure the position you want. The road may be winding and full of pot holes, so here are a few tips to help you overcome rookie mistakes that will set apart from the other candidates.

The Shot in the Dark

If you had wanted to be a brain surgeon, a medical degree is usually a pre-requisite rather than a semester in ant psychology. As you search for the perfect job you will see many jobs that are fleetingly attractive and will be tempted to apply for them even though you are hopelessly out gunned by … well… just about everyone! Do not be distracted by their ‘shiny’ appearances, as to put together a great resume package takes a long time and if you haven’t got a chance – don’t bother. Another more suitable opportunity may come up later and if you have applied for job that you are ridiculously unqualified for it will undermine your credibility. Some HR generalists are like elephants – they never forget.

Apply for the jobs you studied for and are capable of doing and wait for the right one to come up. Do not apply for any job in desperation, keep hopeful, and the right job will come.

Lacking in Letters

Some web sites are claiming that 50% of cover letters are not read and advise not to bother with including one in your application. Isn’t that like playing the equivalent of job application Russian Roulette? If 50% of employers don’t read it – 50% of employers do! And they can pick some pretty strange reasons to weed out candidates for the next round. Don’t let it be you!

Cover letters are a great way to put a ‘human’ face on an application and allows you to add information that does not fit anywhere else on your resume. It can sell yourself, and your resume to a prospective employer, so why take the chance?

Extreme Resumes

We’ve all seen the ‘extreme sports’ and ‘extreme ironing’ photos floating around on social media but have you ever seen ‘extreme resumes’? There’s a reason for that – they are not very impressive. If you are looking for an art based job then a full color resume, with 40 photos on 8 pages edged in crochet is a great idea. It showcases your talents and gives them an idea of your artistic nature. If you’re going for an IT position, then it’ll get you noticed, and remembered, for all the wrong reasons.

By being too clever you send out a subliminal message. Resumes full of clever enigmas send out an, ‘I’m too intelligent for this job’ message, scented animal stickers an, ‘I’m not out of the orthodontic phase yet’, and the Jokerman font in fiesta colors screams, ‘They’ll be itching powder and a whoopee cushion under your seat before home time’. If you feel overcome with the ‘I need to be clever’ – Don’t… just don’t.

Sloppy resumes on the other end of the scale are also a mistake. For crying out loud – your computer has a spell checker! Use it! Something as simple as a spelling mistake can spell disaster, even if you are the perfect candidate for the job. As will ‘Lol! Gimme a job, ‘cos IMO I’m Awesome’. Getting a job is joining the business world, so use the appropriate language to show you belong there.

Losing Your Focus

Don’t be fooled into concentrating on finding the perfect job, look more for the perfect first job. It’s far easier to swap jobs once you have one than to find a job, so look for a position that will give you experience you can leverage and create a network from.

Generic resumes also fall into this category as they have no focus on the job you are applying for. You need to show that you have the skills that the employers are looking for and a ‘one size fits all’ resume will not work.

Bullet point skills and experiences that are easy to scan and tailor your resume to that particular job. If you don’t, you’ll probably lose out to someone who will.


I get it – I really do! You need an edge to get noticed, and that’s OK. But really – lying on an application? It’ll get you noticed all right … Elaboration of the facts is nothing more than misrepresentation, and it will be painfully obvious if you get an interview what the truth is. You will get caught one way or another – even if your elaboration is you being economical with the truth. Anything missing that needs to be included to check the ‘ethics’ box will come to light with checks or questioning – we HR professionals are programmed to wheedle it out of the most proficient deceivers – we can smell a lie whilst it’s still formulating in your brain. Trust me on this… if you’re tempted, that’s no, just no.


With any job, not just your first job, you need to network. You are more likely to get a job from your network of friends and associates that know you, than from the internet. Be proactive about your search and look for opportunities from the network you have been nurturing. Finding a job is no time to be lazy about prospects that you unearth, someone has to get the job and the earlier you can make your candidacy known, the more likely you will be of success.

Boring Biographies

Do not make your resume into a boring biography that lists the courses you have studied and your summer jobs. Make stronger statements about what you want to do with your adult life and how this position will help you progress, and how you will make the company progress.

Think about what you have to offer the employer, not what the employer has to offer you. Bring out these points in your resume and tailor it to the position offered.

It is easy to wonder with so much competition how you will ever find your first job in the current market, but by avoiding these common mistakes you will increase your chances and soon be on the road to your first job.

Guest post courtesy of Free Resume Builder