7 Job Application Bad Habits to Stop ASAP

Resumes and Cover Letters - Style Nine to Five

It’s time to refresh what you know about how to write resumes and cover letters. Industries and application expectations are always growing and changing, which means some of the application package habits you learned back in the day are now obsolete. Here are seven things to stop doing if you want your application package to reach its full potential.

1. Starting cover letters with “Dear Sir or Madam”

Some hiring managers might not even read your cover letter once they read the vague greeting. “Dear Sir or Madam”, or “To Whom It May Concern” looks lazy and outdated. Generic openers show you didn’t put in the effort to research the company and figure out who you’re addressing your cover letter to.

Dig around on LinkedIn or the company’s website to find the hiring manager’s name. Address your cover letter directly to them – it feels more personal and involved and shows that you took the time to research the company.

But maybe you looked around and couldn’t figure out who’s responsible for the hiring. In this case, get as specific as you can. For example, you can say, “To the Hiring Manager of Style Nine to Five”. That way, they know the application was tailored to their company and you didn’t just send the same letter to 10 different jobs.

2. Sending in plain-looking application packages

Even if you aren’t pursuing an artistic job, it’s important to get creative with the layout of your application package. You don’t even have to be a graphic design expert – there are plenty of application package templates available to customize to your liking with colors and designs.

Customizing your application package will make you stand out among the rest of the pile. It’s also a way of showing that you put a ton of effort and attention to detail into everything you do without even having to say it.

3. Including vague soft skills on your resume

“Communication”, “adaptability”, “work ethic”, and the rest – it’s time for all of it to go. It looks like page filler since all of these skills are implied throughout your job experience and cover letter. For instance, if you explain that you were the main liaison between your former company and the media, the hiring manager has evidence of your communication skills. The point is, it looks redundant to add it under the skills section.

Replace the soft skills on your resume with all the hard skills you can think of. The more specific, the better – for example, list programs like Photoshop and Canva instead of “creativity” or “design”.

4. Writing resumes or cover letters over one page long

When it comes to a job application package, less is more. Everything you submit should be as concise as possible, which means keeping both your resume and cover letter to an absolute maximum of one page.

Hiring managers tend to only give these pages a quick skim before deciding if they’re interested in reading the rest. So, if you’ve got a ton of important information on a second page, they likely won’t even look at it. Make sure each aspect of your application package is straight to the point, tailored, and sticks strictly to the highlights.

5. Applying to multiple jobs with the same application package

Never spam-send the same vague application package to a bunch of jobs. You might think you’re cutting down on the time it would take to write new cover letters, but re-using an application package is actually preventing you from getting a job.

Employers want to see that potential hires are excited about their company, so tailor your application package as much as possible. This means writing your cover letter around what’s in the job posting, name dropping the company’s values and inserting their mission throughout the package. A company will only take interest in you if they can tell that you take interest in them.

6. Including an objective statement

Objective statements on resumes make you seem inflexible. They’re limiting because employers will read them and think you’ll only want to be stuck into the exact slot you describe. The rest of your skills will line up and your cover letter will be a great read, but your objective statement can make you look like you don’t want to grow or you only want to do one type of work.

The only time an objective statement might be worth your while is if you’re switching industries entirely. Then, you’re telling the hiring manager why you’re applying to their job even though your current skills and experience don’t entirely match up.

7. Forgetting to proofread

You can do everything else on this list correctly, but the second there’s a typo or grammatical error in your application package, you’re done – especially if you’ve referred to your “attention to detail” somewhere on your resume!

It’s exhausting after typing up an entire resume or cover letter, we know, but you need to proofread your application package as many times as possible. Make sure every sentence makes sense and there are zero errors. Get some other eyes from a mentor, friend or family member on it if possible, too.

Once you clean up the small details in your application package, tailor it to the company you’re applying to, and do a couple of final edits, then you’re good to go! Your package is fully optimized and there’s surely a job on the horizon.

Don’t know where to begin when updating your application package? Purchase one of Style Nine to Five’s Job Application Templates!

Emily Morrison is a media professional with passions for writing, film and popular culture.

Feature Image: Adobe Stock