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10 Common IT Job Application Mistakes

By steve - Posted on 29 October 2009

Here are some quick tips on how to avoid common mistakes people make when trying to get hired for an IT job...

Don't Have a Dumb Email Address

If you are applying for a job at a large company, I promise that having an email address like "", though it sounded clever when you made a commitment to working out at the gym 3 times a week, will not make it past the HR department screening. In fact, you'll probably end up in their "email address hall of shame". If someone in a smaller company does want to interview you, it is probably for the wrong reasons.

Same thing goes for computergod24141 @, tooeasy4you @, etc. Take 5 minutes and set up a personal, reasonable sounding email address at gmail and save yourself some pain and shame.

Make it easy to hire you.

Always Spel Chek

Seems obvious, but don't just settle for a quick spell check in Word. Have someone, who knows spelling and grammar, read your resume. Another trick is to read your resume yourself, but start at the bottom and read backwards, one word at a time. It forces your brain to process the words with fewer assumptions.

IT people are expected to be detail-oriented.

Read the Directions

When the potential employer specifies that you do certain things to apply, such as supplying your CV as a PDF, don't send it in as a Word document with some lame excuse about not having Adobe Acrobat--that's just dumb. They had a reason to be specific, even if that reason is just to see if you can follow directions. In this case, there are lots of ways to convert your document to a PDF for free--you're in IT, so you should be able to figure it out (if not, think of changing to a less challenging career).

The ability to follow direction and figure things out is an important skill for IT staff.

Be On Time

On time means on time. More than likely, you aren't the only person that the "hiring team" will be seeing. In fact, you may be just 10 minutes of an entire day of candidates. Show up early or show up late and you're hosed. Be there exactly when you are supposed to be, otherwise you are an inconvenience.

The ability to manage your time is a critical skill in IT.

Be Easy to Contact

Supply your personal email address (never your current employer), give your home phone, and give your mobile number. Make sure you have voicemail and check it. While it may take forever to get through the hiring process, once a decision is made, or if some missing piece of information is required before moving forward, the ability for the potential employer to be able to contact you is critical.

I've seen cases when, because of the closeness between two candidates made the choice difficult, an additional "final" interview was set up between the two finalists. However, only one candidate was able to be contacted in time. Who do you think was hired?

High availability and responsiveness is critical for IT staff.

Review Your Personal Hygiene

IT people can sometimes really let this part of their humanity slide, but you can't afford to. You don't want to be the one the hiring team talks about later that afternoon when they say, "boy, that one candidate really stunk--literally."

Be the exception to the IT stereotypes and make it easy to be around you.

Be Yourself, Mostly

Like dating, the interview process often requires hiding a little bit about who you really are in order to determine if there might be some future opportunity. This happens on both sides. How many candidates would stick around, if the hiring team started laying out every problem the organization has had in the last 3 months?

However, don't fall into the trap of being a good interview, but a terrible employee. Be honest about your abilities, skills, experience, and expectations. While a job, any job, might seem worth having, if you're stuck in an ill-fitting job because you exaggerated or disexaggerated (I just made that up, but it officially means the opposite of exaggerated) about yourself, you would miss out on your dream job, which might be the next interview you would have gone on.

Other than a little polishing off of the rough edges, don't try to be something other than yourself.

Be Prepared

Understand as much as possible about the organization and the job, before you go into the interview. When given the chance, ask legitimate questions about the organization based on what you've learned. Avoid sounding self-important or clever, but just get some clarification on public information.

Show that you are interested in the organization.

Check Your Fit

Try and find out the values of the organization before you apply. This isn't possible when responding to a blind ad, but when possible, especially if you've been contacted by the organization for an interview, start checking.

If you have applied at a Christian organization, for instance, and one of your personal passions is spreading the word about Atheism, you probably won't fit there no matter how accepting each side is.

Culture in an organization matters every day you work there.

Stand Out

You are one of a hundred or even a thousand of applicants for the job, so you need to stand out. This doesn't mean doing something stupid like sending your resume in a large FedEx overnight box (more than likely, shipping and receiving will open it and route it through the system in a plain envelope). Also, don't perfume your paperwork or submit it on odd colors--it may have worked in "Legally Blonde", but that was a movie--as if!. These examples stand out, but only as bad ideas.

No, these days, you can stand out by simply being a qualified candidate with a history that matches the expectations of the hiring organization. You can try some of the "Web 2.0" ideas, but instead of clever, most of what I've seen just comes off lame.

Stand out by being a candidate with a good match to the job and the organization.

So, there are some tips on common mistakes I've seen that applicants make. The bottom line: try not to be dumb, it makes you look smarter.

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