Five Job-Hunt Missteps to Avoid

For Starters, Don't Ask a Question a Google Search Could Have Answered

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Jerry S. Wilson
Jerry S. Wilson

Looking for a job? So are a lot of people. That's why you can't afford to make a single misstep.

In today's competitive job market, landing a job takes more than merely responding to a job posting with a clever resume. Instead, successful candidates are approaching their job searches with the discipline of an end-to-end marketing campaign. And more than that, every job seeker must create a unique point of difference and communicate a value proposition in order to stand out. Armed with a comprehensive personal brand plan, anyone can improve his or her probability of securing a dream advertising job.

But surprisingly, people continue to make avoidable mistakes in executing their job searches. They end up giving away easy points through reckless statements, actions or behaviors.

Here are five job-search missteps that must be avoided at all costs.

1. Being unprepared
It's amazing how many job seekers ask lazy questions during an interview or make inaccurate statements concerning the hiring organization. No candidate should ask questions to which the answers are easily found on the internet. For example, asking an agency executive how long his or her firm has been in business demonstrates how unprepared the interviewee is for this position. Worse, it gives the impression the candidate is lazy.

2. Behaving inappropriately
There is no value in saying or implying anything that is inappropriate. Applicants should not make disparaging comments regarding a previous employer or a prospective client. Dressing inappropriately or using slang language during the interview -- even if done to impress the hiring manager -- are also anathema. If a person displays indiscretion during an interview, the implication is that he or she will likely do so as an employee. Stick to the questions and avoid inappropriate commentary. It's never cool.

3. Appearing unfocused
Whether it is the concise and accurate resume or the engaging interview, winning candidates deliver a cohesive story. They are organized and convey a focused overview of skills, accomplishments, learning and goals. Unfocused messaging is off strategy. The ability to succeed in advertising requires balancing multiple priorities and delivering against challenging deadlines. If a person comes across as scattered during the interview, he or she will be viewed as a potentially unfocused and incapable employee.

Jerry S. Wilson is senior VP-chief customer and commercial officer at Coca-Cola Co. He is a personal branding expert and co-author of "Managing Brand You: 7 Steps to Creating Your Most Successful Self." For more information, visit

4. Seeming insincere
Hiring managers are looking for people who genuinely want to join their company and make a positive contribution. They are looking for prospective employees who are a good cultural fit with the existing organization and clients. Don't ask questions or make comments that could be interpreted as either manipulative or condescending. Any indication that a candidate is interested only in getting his or her "card punched" relative to agency experience can sabotage an otherwise flawless interview.

5. Stretching the truth
People seeking jobs should avoid overselling their accomplishments or misrepresenting previous experience. Ultimately, the truth will come out anyway, so the best policy is to be honest from the very first encounter. Candidates are better served by being transparent with prospective employers and accurately portraying their actual backgrounds and responsibilities. Falsifications of credentials are frequently uncovered in background checks or discussions with personal references. Lie and get caught, and you can write off any future employment with a company. Successful job seekers stand out authentically, meet the needs of the hiring firm and avoid the missteps that would have taken them out of the running.

You're a brand. Know it, live it, be true to it and establish it before you even begin your job search. Because if you don't know or trust your own brand, you can't expect others to do so.

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