By Sunil Bhardwaj


Habits can be good for you. As Stephen Covey pointed out in his landmark book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the right behavior patterns can propel you to great success. Unfortunately, however, there's also a dark side to habits. Habits can be good, and they can be bad. And, the wrong behavior patterns can constrain your opportunities and, ultimately, derail your advancement in the world of work. What are the bad habits of online job search? With a nod to Dr. Covey, I think there are seven.

I call them The 7 Bad Habits of Ineffective Job Seekers. They are:

Habit #1: Limiting the time and effort you invest in your job search As the old axiom goes, looking for a job is a full time job. That's true whether you're conducting your search online or off. A job search on the Internet, however, exposes you to many potential distractions that are not found in the real world. There's e-mail and browsing, chats and discussion forums, online poker and other games, and a host of other forms of entertainment, exploration and communication. And the key to job search success is to put them all aside. You must dramatically limit the time you spend on such activities and maximize the time you spend using the Internet's job search resources.

Habit #2: Limiting the research you do to plan your search campaign The #1 reason people don't work out when they're hired by an employer is not that they can't do the job, but that they don't fit in. In other words, they take the right job with the wrong employer. Doing careful, thorough research helps you avoid the negative consequences of such a situation: When you go to work for the wrong employer, your performance goes down which can, in turn, hurt your standing in your field; you waste time that could have been spent searching for your dream opportunity—the right job with the right employer; and you risk losing that opportunity to someone else who's active in the job market. To put it another way, inadequate research virtually guarantees an inadequate work experience. And the alternative is right at your fingertips. Use the Internet to assess alternative employer's culture, management, values and performance, and the focus your search on those organizations where you're likely to feel comfortable (and do your best work).

Habit #3: Limiting your search to a handful of the same job boards There are over 40,000 job boards in operation on the Internet. In addition to the ones that you've seen advertised, there are thousands and thousands of others that you may not have heard about. Collectively, they post over two million new openings every month. To find your dream job online, therefore, you have to use enough sites to cover the job market and the right ones to satisfy your search objective. The formula 2GP + 3N + 2D will ensure you do that. It involves using two general purpose sites that offer opportunities in a broad array of professions, industries and locations; three niche sites, including one that specializes in your career field, one that specializes in your industry, and one that specializes in the geographic area where you want to live; and two distinction sites that focus on one or more of your personal attributes (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity, college, military service). I call it the 7:1 Method; use seven of the right sites to find the one right job for you.

Habit #4: Limiting your application to clicking on the Submit button The competition for jobs today, particularly the best positions, is simply too tough for you to do nothing more than show up online and submit your resume. If you find your dream job and want to position yourself for serious consideration by the employer, you have to practice the "application two-step." Step 1 involves submitting your credentials exactly as specified by the employer and exactly for that job. It's a test to see if you can follow instructions and will take the time to tailor your resume for the position you want. Step 2 involves networking to set yourself apart from the horde of other applicants who are also likely to submit their resume for that opening. Your goal is to find a personal or professional contact who works for the employer and will walk your resume in the door of the HR Department and lay it on the desk of the recruiter assigned to fill your dream job.

Habit #5: Limiting your use of the Internet to reading job postings As in the real world, recruitment ads posted online reveal only a portion of the job market. There are many more openings, including some of the best positions, that aren't advertised. To find this so-called "hidden job market," you have to make contact and develop relationships with others online. That's called electronic networking. It's done by participating in discussion forums and bulletin boards hosted on the sites of such groups as your professional association and college alumni organization. To get the most out of your involvement, practice the Golden Rule of Networking: Give as good as you get. Share your knowledge and expertise with others in these online discussions, so that they will be inclined to share their knowledge of job openings and their connections in the workforce with you.

Habit #6: Limiting the care you take with your communications E-mail is often viewed as an informal communication medium where typos and slang are not only appropriate, but expected. When you're looking for a job, however, e-mail is strictly a business communication. Every message makes an impression on the recruiter and other representatives of the employer who receive it, and that impression becomes a part of the data used to evaluate you. To make the right impression, carefully edit and proofread every message before you send it off. Don't use stilted or flowery language, but do be formal and professional in what you write. Take the time and make the effort to eliminate grammatical errors and misspellings and ensure that your points are clearly and accurately expressed. Doing so tells the employer that you take pride in what you do, and that attribute makes you a stronger candidate.

Habit #7: Limiting the preparation you do for employer interactions In today's highly competitive job market, the interview begins in the first nanosecond of the first contact with an employer. That means you have to be well prepared and at the top of your game virtually all of the time. What does that entail? First, make sure that you thoroughly investigate each employer to which you apply. Visit its Web-site, use a browser to search for information published by other sources, and check out the commentary and research available at such sites as and Then, use the formal and informal educational resources on the Internet to stay at the state-of-the-art in your field and up-to-the-minute on your industry. Finally, use the information and insights you've acquired to hone your ability to articulate the contribution you will make to the employer, during every interaction you have with its representatives. All of us get into a rut from time-to-time. We put ourselves on autopilot and fall back on habits. It's a benign way to relieve some of the workload and pressure in today's demanding business environment. When you're looking for a new or better job, however, those ruts can be harmful; they can lead to behavior that limits your opportunity and potential success. They are the 7 bad habits of ineffective job seekers—the ruts in the road to your dream job.

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