A few years ago, just after leaving university, I spent a year working as a recruitment consultant. If you’re looking for a job where you find out a lot about the human species, this is the ideal job.

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Things I actually encountered during my time as a recruitment consultant:

  • Graduates who claimed that their degree meant they deserve a job on at least £25k in a manager position. Hate to break it to you graduates, but three years at university and no work experience means you’ll probably have to start on £15-£18k like most non-graduates (though you might progress slightly faster). With so many people holding degrees now, you have to do something extra to stand out. Or WORK your way up. Crazy concept, I know.
  • A candidate who refused to learn how to use a computer, but turned up to the offices three times a week demanding an admin job.
  • Many, many people who turned up to interviews in jeans (despite being told suits are essential)
  • Many, many people who didn’t research the company before or the location (cue a panicked call ten minutes after they were supposed to arrive).

Here’s the thing. Lots of people are currently out of work, and vacancies are hard to come by. You can no longer just fill in a form and get a job. You need to work hard, stand out and do something unique. Good unique, not ‘hit on the interviewer’ unique. True Story.

So, what are the biggest mistakes people make when job hunting?

Not thinking outside the box when it comes to their CV

If you’re going through a recruitment agency, and even if you’re going directly, a great CV is a must. It’s the first thing they’ll see, and you therefore have to make sure it’s eye-catching. I’ve written on my own blog about how to create social media-savvy CVs, because CVs that stand out can be the thing that secures you an interview.

As a general idea, make sure your achievements and skills are clear at the top (after your contact details etc), and list your jobs from the most recent first.

Don’t forget your cover letter either. Customise it to your potential employer, do your research and be polite. Don’t be afraid to throw in a little humour if appropriate – businesses want someone with personality.

Not suiting up

If you’re going to an interview, wear a suit. Yes, they’re hot and stuffy. Yes, you might not feel comfortable in one. But wearing a suit makes you look professional, serious about the job and will make you stand out from all those who thought tracksuit bottoms screamed ’employable’.

If you’re female, you can get away with a smart dress and jacket, or a pair of suit trousers and a shirt. Equally, if you’re going for a fashion job, you can afford to push the limits a bit more and show you know your trends. Just make sure you give it a trial run – discovering the buttons pops open at the top of your shirt, the hems have come down on your trousers or that skirt is quite a bit tighter than you remember is better done before the interview.

Being intimidated by job descriptions

A recent study of men, women and job descriptions raised some interesting results. If a job description has five skills or experiences that they require from a candidate, men and women act very differently. Men will look at the list, see three that they fit the bill for, and apply! Women see the list, see two things they don’t have, and don’t apply. A job description is the ideal of what a company wants – a bit like a dating advert. If you’re got the majority of things, and a few other extras they hadn’t thought of, they might be able to overlook the things you don’t have. So don’t be put off by an intimidating job description!

Being “Social Media Stupid”

When your CV and cover letter comes through to a company, do you know what the first thing is that they’ll do? Google you. They’ll check out your Facebook profile, Twitter page and LinkedIn. They might even read your blog. If you slag off your employer, allude to pulling the odd fake sick day or bitch about your employees, you’re basically destroying your chances of getting another job.

Not pushing for a higher pay

We all know that unequal pay is still a huge issue in the workplace. While a lot of it is to do with glass ceilings, prejudice and parenting decisions, there is one way we can improve our earnings. When you’re offered a job and an employment package, ask for more. This is something men often do (and have no problems with asking for a raise later down the line), but many women lack the confidence to ask for more. If they’ve got to the point of offering you a job, they already want you. Now they’ve got to win you over with the appropriate employment package!

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