Do you waste time on your job search? If you make these mistakes, then you do. Related: 5 Things You Should Be Doing If You’re Unemployed As a professional recruiter and career coach, I receive hundreds of resumes each week from eager job-seekers. I have noticed that some candidates are unintentionally decreasing their odds of getting an interview by not using the time they devote to their job search in the most productive manner. By sharing these top three time-wasters, hopefully my “insider” view will help you find your new role that much quicker.

This article was written by Elisa Sheftic, creator of, on behalf of the Happy Grad Project. Whether you are searching for your first job or looking to advance your career, the most valuable piece of advice I can give to any recent grad is to develop a "One-Upper Mindset." This framework will help you differentiate yourself among the crowd of young professionals in the job market. Related: 4 Ways Young Professionals Can Stand Out In A Crowded Job Market Recruiters always talk about how competitive the job market is, and I think speaking about it in this way has become a little staid. So, let's create a visual. Picture "Bob" and his pursuit of being a "one-upper." Bob graduated with you, delights in being your competitor, and whatever you do to advance your career, his goal is to do it significantly better. Here is a real world example: I intermittently speak at colleges to give students some insights on the most productive way to job hunt. Each time I present, numerous eager students introduce themselves, connect on LinkedIn, and - in general - do all the right stuff to establish the initial networking process. They ask if I can review their resumes and provide some constructive feedback, and I'm happy to oblige. I often recommend some changes and provide a format that I like or make some suggestions, and I let them know that I'll be happy to review once they revise. Then, weeks go by and... crickets. Eventually, I may receive the revised resume a month later or longer with no explanation. What they obviously don't know is that I also met Bob at the same presentation. At the event, all were equally enthusiastic and professional. But Bob sent me his revised resume within 48 hours of our meeting, thanking me for my time, and asking additional insightful questions. Bob made it known that he is looking for an internship during the summer and asked for my suggestions. Bob also asked for additional feedback on his resume and presentation and seemed receptive to constructive feedback and, generally speaking, seemed like someone who would make a great impression with my clients. What the "slow responders" also don't realize is that they had unintentionally sent up a red flag. The best way to predict future success is to look at past performance, and since recent grads have limited professional experience, recruiters must make assumptions through our own brief interaction with them. By not responding for a month or more, what assumptions, right or wrong, can be made? Not responsible, not a strong communicator, and not good with time management, just to name a few. So, the lesson from this scenario is to ask yourself, in any professional or job-hunting situation, what would Bob do? Then beat him on the "one-upper" mindset. If only one person will be hired or recommended or promoted, then you need to do everything you can to stand out in a positive way (and mitigate any potential red flags as well). Go the extra mile and "one-up" the competition, including Bob.

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Are you using an ineffective job search strategy? As an agency recruiter and career coach, I speak to 30-50 job seekers a week on average. Inevitably, one of my first questions is: "What have you done thus far for your job search?" The typical response includes:


As a professional recruiter and career coach, I regularly have the opportunity to speak with recent college graduates referred to me by parents from my professional and personal networks. Unfortunately, I see countless recent college graduates who went to great schools and have stellar grades, but have done almost nothing to develop professional relationships prior to graduating. They often spend months searching for jobs without success, and find themselves frustrated and disillusioned. This leads me to suggest the single most important thing parents can do to help their children obtain a job after graduating college: Encourage networking in high school. Yes, high school!


I had the opportunity to watch this movie again (having not seen it for more than ten years) and I enjoyed it just as much the second time. If you have not seen the movie, this analogy might be a little hard to grasp, so you may want to rent it before you continue reading. About a day or so after I watched it, I interviewed a candidate for a finance position. As he replied to my questions with his well-rehearsed answers, it occurred to me that he could benefit from the lessons of this movie. If I had to sum up the movie in one word, it would probably be "heart." The athlete (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.) had the same skill set throughout the movie, but the press pretty much ignored him, regardless of his accomplishments - for one reason and one reason only. He didn't show any "heart." When he finally showcased his "human" side, he formed a connection with the crowd and reporters, then he suddenly received the recognition he deserved all along. I realized that this has been a universal theme among many of the candidates that I interview. Often, they are so focused on presenting themselves professionally or getting the right answer to the question, that they fail to display any personal attributes or positive energy that would make them stand out among their peers. Likeability and passion go a long way on an interview. While plenty of candidates may have similar credentials, what can differentiate you from the mob of other applicants is your ability to communicate verbally and non-verbally who you are as a person and a potential employee. I will give you an example: I was interviewing candidates for a trading assistant position at a billion-dollar hedge fund. This was a great entry-level opportunity for a recent college graduate, and the competition was fierce. After reviewing hundreds and hundreds of resumes, and completing phone screens with a select group, we narrowed it down to 10 candidates. They all presented well in the interview and had similar backgrounds: impressive schools, financial services internships, extracurricular activities, and stellar grades. However, the one candidate who stood out made a concerted effort to show some heart. Throughout the interview, his energy and the intonation in his voice were very positive, and when he spoke about his experience he made direct eye contact. He often smiled while he spoke about his internships, classes, and so on, and it intimated that he had taken away something positive from every professional experience. At the end of the interview, he thanked me for my time and said "I know that you must be interviewing many candidates for this role and they may have gone to better schools or had higher grades, but I am 100% certain that no one will work harder than I will to learn and add value to the team." He then gave me a very brief example of his strong work ethic and the interview ended with a firm handshake, warm smile, and his sincere thank you for my time. His personal attributes and positive energy are what differentiated him from candidates with similar backgrounds. Before an interview, it is imperative that you practice, practice, and practice some more to be ready for the most common interview questions. (A free recruiter-designed interview simulator is available on But the moral of this story and my Jerry Maguire reference is that, once you have the content "down," make sure that your energy and personality come through as well. As a recruiter, I cannot emphasize enough how much these "soft skills" factor into the final hiring decision. So, remember this advice for every interview: your delivery is as important as the content, so focus on both! Author: Elisa Sheftic Photo Credit: Shutterstock

If you asked most people what an executive recruiter's favorite word is – and by this I mean the word they repeat most frequently each and every day – the majority would assume that "resume," "interview," "compensation," or "job" would all be in the running, but they would be wrong. Hands down, without question, the word that comes out of my mouth or runs through my head countless times each day, more than any other, is... "why." A recruiter's job, as I see it, is to ascertain whether a candidate would be a good fit for a current opening, and the only way to do this is to get answers to the "whys" that inherently come through in every person’s resume. The key to a successful job search is to look at your resume, experience, and education, and ask yourself what "whys" your background evokes. Then, to the best of your ability, provide the answers directly on your resume. Given the number of resumes recruiters receive per job posting, if a resume has too many "whys," it's automatically moved to a "Review Later" pile - and who knows when that will occur? Here's an example of a common "why" I see unanswered on many resumes: Multiple jobs over a few years span. Naturally, this evokes a "Why?" Clients are very reluctant to hire job hoppers. So, if your resume shows any short tenures and there are valid reasons for each departure, next to each position indicate in a few words why you left. For example, bankruptcy, relocation, recruited by former boss, and so on. If the "whys" are answered one by one, recruiters keep reading. There aren't any negative connotations as they review the rest of the resume, because the job history makes sense. One of the best tips I can give a job seeker is to review his or her resume and try, objectively and with a critical eye, to ask what "whys" may be raised by a recruiter or potential employer. Then, make sure the questions are answered. If you do this, I can’t guarantee that you will get the coveted job offer every time you apply, but I can guarantee that this simple step will increase the number of responses and interviews that you receive. There are so many variables that can’t be controlled in a job search, but the "whys" of the resume world can - so why not answer them? Author: Elisa Sheftic Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The top three things you must do before an interview are: Anticipate, prepare, and practice. As a recruiter and career coach, I cannot emphasize this enough. You got the interview, which means the hiring manager has obviously agreed that you appear to be a fit for the role on paper, and now the interview requires that you back it up in person. If you don't prepare, you might just negate all the hard work you've done on this job search by blowing this opportunity. I always tell candidates to go into an interview as if the job is the only role you want. Then, it's ultimately your decision whether to take the job or not. If you seem ambiguous or lack enthusiasm, it will be their decision and their answer will most likely be no. One of the best ways to show your interest and enthusiasm for the position is to prepare: Know the role, the company, and be ready to explain how hiring you is a smart "return on investment" for your prospective employer. We all know that no one can possibly anticipate every possible interview question. Case in point: I have a client who likes to ask prospective salespeople to "name 10 things you can do with a pencil that doesn't involve writing or erasing" in under a minute. Obviously, this is not the norm - but there are more standard interview questions that are frequently asked. You should practice concise answers to those common questions, and wherever possible, quantify your achievements. Some examples might include: "Tell me about yourself," "Walk me though your resume," "Why did you leave your last position?" and "Why should we hire you?" Also, "What are your greatest strengths?" "Weaknesses?" "Work accomplishments?" And so on. You can be sure they will ask you for specific examples of where and when you had the experience they require for the role in question. Since you have the job description, the "role-specific" questions can be anticipated and your answers practiced. As a recruiter, I look for "strong-fit" resumes and conduct a thorough screening process to confirm the match before presenting them to my client companies. If the company is interested and schedules an interview, I supply my candidates with a "prep packet" and conduct a mock interview with them before their interview with my client. It is always disappointing when it is obvious that the candidate has not done the necessary practice and preparation and it is something you simply can't fake. You only have one chance to make a first impression, so make it count. Prepare and practice. Give yourself the best chance for getting that job offer! Author: Elisa Sheftic Photo Credit: Shutterstock