Are you concerned about losing your job in a downsizing? Do you have a new boss with whom you don’t get along? Are you thinking about looking for a new job with a better compensation package or more growth potential? Perhaps you are unemployed now and the job search is not going as well as you expected.

While there are seemingly thousands of people vying for every available job opening, there are tactics that will help you rise above the crowd. A job search is all about making the right contacts, accentuating the positives and minimizing the negatives. Today’s article is all about the last point – minimizing the negatives.

During a job search you will go through a series of doors. Make a mistake and a door will slam shut. As a recruiter I am in a position to see what works well and what causes instant failure. Here are real mistakes that I have seen or heard about from our clients – hiring managers and human resource recruiters. Avoid these mistakes and you will improve your chance of success.

  • Resume SpellingThis is probably the first disqualifier. I’m not the only person to tell you to check your spelling. However, a computer spelling check will not correct the misuse of words that do appear in the dictionary.Are you a collection manger? An office manger? An IT manger? During the past 24 hours, more than 1,000 job hunters posted a resume on with the word “manger.” That’s just in the past day. Read every word then do so again.
  • Resume FormatAre you organized and detail-oriented? Everybody thinks they are, but why do we see so many resumes with multiple fonts and type sizes? Perhaps your old resume was done in Times Roman, you updated your last job in Ariel and you added some other text in Verdana. Along with spelling, format is a sure way to close a door. The solution is to have 3 other people proofread the resume for both content and grammar.
  • Showing Up is Half the GamePerhaps not quite half but please allow for transit delays, weather problems, etc. Oh, and please don’t bring your spouse to the interview.
  • Mind Your Mouth!Foul language, prejudice, derogatory remarks and slang may instantly disqualify you. Even if you get very comfortable with an interviewer you should always act professionally.Other interview turnoffs include too much perfume, poor grooming and casual dress. Nobody ever lost a job opportunity due to a navy suit.
  • Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?Somewhere along the way all of us have had a new boss that we didn’t like, a negative change in compensation structure, uncontrollable events that had a negative impact on performance or just mediocre performance in a certain position. You should never lie in an interview but you should be careful about being brutally honest. If your last three bosses were tyrants or sexual harassers, do we see a pattern that might extend into the future?
  • ReferencesBe very careful about who you provide as a reference. You may think that they will go along to help you out but far too often a reference turns lukewarm or worse. Door slams shut.Call each reference immediately and make sure that they are familiar with your accomplishments and why you would be a great fit for the new position. Ask directly whether they are comfortable providing a glowing opinion.
  • Ask Not What the Employer Will Do for You…Ask What You Can Do for the Employer.Until an offer comes, do not ask about salary, commissions, fringe benefits or anything else that the employer may provide to you. The employer wants to hear you ask about challenges, for example: What you need to do to succeed? Where are the company’s growth opportunities? How can we beat the competition?By avoiding compensation questions, not only will you improve your chances of an offer but you will also maximize the offer when it does come. If you ask about compensation before the employer knows how good you are, they can only take a conservative approach. It is better to continue to impress the employer so that when an offer comes the employer will be convinced that they really need you.
  • EgoWhile it is critical to highlight your accomplishments on your resume and in an interview, nobody wants to deal with an inflated ego. You must learn and rehearse your success stories – what you achieved and how you achieved it. You must also be able to listen to others and respond accordingly. Talking too much is almost as bad as talking too little.
  • Tug of WarWhen the offer comes you should look at the whole picture – base, bonus, benefits, growth and learning opportunities, quality of work life, chance of success, etc.Let’s say you are earning $80,000, you would like to get a position at $90,000, then you get an offer for $88,000 with a superior bonus plan and great growth opportunities. Do you really want to draw a line in the sand? Take the long view.
  • Lack of Follow-UpIf you have an interest in a position you should get the interviewer’s business card and send a thank-you note after the interview. If you think it’s not worth your time you are putting yourself in second position. Not only will it improve your chances of an offer now, but even if you don’t get the offer the interviewer is more likely to remember you when the next position opens up.

The above tips are based on real situations that have hurt people in their job searches. Learn from others and you will improve your chance of success.