Job Application Mistakes

5 Biggest Job Application Mistakes


We all make mistakes—that’s what makes us human. But when you’re looking for a new job, it’s important to minimize those job application mistakes because it may cost you the position.

Related: What Happens If You Lie On Your Job Application?

Here are some of the biggest application mistakes candidates make (and how to avoid them):

Spelling/Grammatical Errors

These types of errors, although they seem small in nature, can be a major red flag to employers. It shows you lack attention to detail, and many hiring managers or recruiters will think you rushed through your application.

How to avoid this mistake: Take your time filling out applications and have someone else look it over if possible. Print out your answers and read them aloud to catch anything you may miss while scanning through on the computer.

Not Following Directions

This is something everyone learns in grade school, but it’s amazing how many people STILL don’t read directions! Every application you fill out will be slightly different or require a different response—so it’s important to read through each step.

How to avoid this mistake: Pay attention and slow down during the application process. If you’re feeling rushed, it’s probably because you’re applying to too many openings that you may not be qualified for, so you may want to re-think your strategy.

Turning In A Resume You Haven’t Tailored To The Position

This is a big no-no. It shows you don’t really understand what the employer is looking for and are just hoping your resume fits some of the criteria.

How to avoid this mistake: Carefully read through the job description, qualifications, and education requirements. Show the employer through your resume how you fit into those through your previous experience, skills, and expertise.

Writing A Generic Cover Letter

Your cover letter should tell a compelling story and make the hiring manager interested in moving on to your resume. It should also address the hiring manager by name and describe exactly why you are the best candidate for the position.

How to avoid this mistake: Write a new cover letter for each position you’re applying for. Although there may be similarities, always tailor your cover letter to the opening.

Not Going Beyond The Job Description

It’s imperative that you research the organization at which you’re applying. You need to know what it does, how it’s structured, and its mission, values, and goals in order to determine how you fit in. Should you move on in the hiring process, these things will be vital to a successful interview—and you’ll be one step ahead.

How to avoid this mistake: Perform a simple Google search on the organization. Look through their company website, LinkedIn/Twitter/Facebook profiles, read reviews of the organization and its products, and browse recent news articles that mention the company.

What are some other major application mistakes you’ve made and/or witnessed?

This post was originally published at an earlier date.

Related Posts

Why Completing A Job Application Isn’t A Waste Of Time
How To Answer Salary Questions On Job Applications
How To Stand Out To Employers When Applying Online


Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Heather Huhman

Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder of Come Recommended, a content marketing consultancy.


  1. I made the mistake of posting my resume on websites like CareerBuilder and Monster. There was one job listing that was posted on all of these type of job listing websites–it was a customer service rep position with a major company who had contracted with the Dept. of Motor Licensing in my state (Pennsylvania). The CSR’s would take phone calls from DML customers. I got about 8 or 9 phone calls and emails from job agencies located in states like Missouri, Florida, Connecticut–anywhere but my state of Pennsylvania. I had listed my cell phone number on my resume and even though I “rejected” these phone calls since I knew from the phone number they were out of state, they continued to call, sometimes as much as 7, 8 times a day. They emailed me several times a day as well, saying they were trying to “reach me” about this position. I finally gave in and let 3 of the job agencies submit my resume, even though I told the last two that I had already applied for this position with another job agency. But they kept calling and sending emails, so I finally gave in to the other 2 agencies and allowed them to submit my application as well. However, when I told one job agency who kept bothering me about this position that I already applied for this same position on 3 different occasions with 3 different job agencies, they said they couldn’t take my application since the company specifically said they did not want duplicate applications. Well, that certainly made sense to me, and needless to say, I’m sure I’ve knocked myself right out of the competition for this particular job since the company is certainly receiving 3 different applications from me.

    I’m at a loss as to how to go about even finding work these days since the only option seems to apply online. I have applied online for literally hundreds of jobs and haven’t gotten one interview yet. I’m just so frustrated by the situation. Does anyone have any suggestions? I have asked friends for info for companies that are hiring, however, I haven’t gotten anything from them, their companies aren’t hiring in the clerical office or customer service field of work, and they haven’t heard anything from any other companies either.

  2. It seems to me that most on-line postings are scams.

    Most links don’t exist or are for non-existent companies. I can’t find ANY information about the company; I don’t apply for positions unless I know where the company is and if it’s easily accessible by public transit as I don’t drive. Agencies use on-line postings to get resumes with no intentions of helping.

    I found the perfect job – location, salary, description – offered through a legitimate agency. When I couldn’t apply on-line I contacted the agency only to learn the position didn’t exist. The recruiter said the ad was put up in error and their IT people were working on getting it removed. That ad is still up and the position is still a fake.

    Within minutes after applying for a position through the company website my SPAM mailbox is filled with junk.

    I’ve received emails from companies saying I’m COMPLETELY qualified for a position in finance – I have NO background in finance. I have received job offers and when I follow up the person I speak to has no idea where the company’s office(s) is/are located. Another person I spoke to had no information about the company, the position or its responsibilities.

  3. I would add: do not write “see resume” to answer any questions. Even if attached, they won’t want to take the time go search around to find the answer. You want to make it easy to learn about you. Also remember an application is considered a legal document, while a resume is not.,

  4. Online applications are the fodder for the “dead-letter” mailboxes of lazy HR directors. I had applied 4 times, WITH confirmation receipts for an 8.50 an hour security job only to be told, “We didn’t receive your information”.Having had enough of my time wasted, I stopped by an actual office of this company and handed the receptionist my resume’. I actually heard back within 24 hours from their office manager on a position. Come to find out during our conversation, they were not actually hiring. Translation:. Collecting EEOC information.

    You’d be suprised how most of the CHUMP,non-living wage jobs are going online. Just another way to cut costs so management can pocket the money. The job I finally took, paid me 14.93 an hour to start, (22.41 overtime after 10 consecutive hours in any ONE day, NOT a week), provides insurance and a REAL PENSION, (not some 401k crap). It had an 18 page PAPER application. The company paid for my SC Law Enforcement BackGround Check (clear ofcourse). ANoND I’m treated with respect by EVERYONE from co-workers to visiting entertainers.

    Oh yea, I’m under guess what?. A UNION CONTRACT. Getting paid accurately and on-time is only secondary to safety, and the more I want to work, the more I GET to work!. The company (from Philadelphia) PREFERS a Union Crew because they can trust us to be competent, safe, and THERE when they need us!.
    I’m not getting rich, but I’m getting more work, better pay under much better working conditions, than in the non-union shops in my state.

    Lesson?. If it seems like a waste of time filling out an online application then you’re more than likely going to find the JOB (NOT career) not worth your time either. AND remember this. If you take less (like minimum wage) this time, that’s all the jobs you’ll be offered from now on out.

  5. Great basics to be reminded of Heather. It’s funny, I think the amount of work that goes into applying online so that you can compete blindly against a good 1000 other candidates makes many of us feel less-than-thrilled at the idea of applying…and that’s when the mistakes happen that completely take us out of the running! I honestly try to keep our members from applying online whenever possible for that reason.

    Still, many companies require you to follow the process even if you do have someone on the inside handing the hiring manager your resume. So, forcing ourselves to pay attention and do it right is key.

    I’d also remind people to fill in something for EVERY field, even if they say it isn’t required. The majority of these automated applicant tracking systems grade you on how much you filled in. If you leave too many fields blank, a low % will push your candidacy down the list. And usually, on the top 50 or so ever get seen.

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