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Sprint through the tape...and avoid common job hunting mistakes.

In Olympic track races, the difference between first place and finishing off the medal podium can often be measured in fractions of a second. The history of track and field is littered with upset victories where the runner in the lead, victory in sight, slows up at the very end only to be passed at the finish line. Maybe they stop to look back at their rivals, maybe they’ve already started raising their arms in victory, only to be edged out at the end. Track coaches drill into their athletes to “sprint through the tape” – to only let up after victory is in hand.

Like those athletes, job hunters can make a similar mistake the deeper they get into the interview process for a position – they ease up, which can cost them the job, and precious time.

Think of a typical job hunt like a race – a frenzy of activity in the beginning to get up to speed. We get it…it’s exhausting both physically and emotionally. Uncertainty permeates the process, which only adds to anxiety levels and sucks away energy and confidence. Days, weeks, and sometimes months go by, with the job seeker plugging away. At some point, things start to click, and the phone starts to ring. The early process might be a phone interview, then an invitation for an in-person interview. Maybe the first in-person interview goes well, and they indicate that they want to bring you back for a final interview. At this point, many job seekers start committing avoidable mistakes.

The most catastrophic and common mistake is stopping everything else in their job hunt while the interview process grinds on for a position. From that first phone interview to offer stage could take weeks, or sometimes months. Interviewing candidates to fill a role is often a lower priority than running the business (it drives us nuts, too). Compounding the problem is the fact that most companies want to get multiple stakeholders involved in the interviews. It’s not uncommon for candidates to have to interview with a dozen different people, often over the period of weeks. As a job seeker, you have no idea what’s behind the scenes. A hiring freeze can come out of nowhere. Maybe they have already identified an internal candidate and are just trying to have back-up options. Often companies will imply to a job seeker that they are going to get an offer “in the next few days” and then weeks go by only to get a rejection. While the candidate was sitting around waiting for an offer, the company was pursing another candidate and keeping the others on the hook in case their first choice fell through. If along the way a job seeker stops pursuing other job opportunities, only to come in second on a job, they have lost all momentum in their search.

When they ease up in their search and focus on one position there can be a big psychological and financial cost. Getting too emotionally invested in any one job or employer means that a rejection is much more devastating. Go through the same cycle multiple times (ramp up, interview, rejection) will erode away at self confidence. This will make it far more likely to accept an inferior offer vs. either negotiating for what you are worth or holding out for a better job. A job seeker will have so much more control of their destiny when they have multiple job offers pending – more negotiating power and more choice over which company will ultimately win their services.

Another common mistake job seekers make when they are coasting towards the finish line is getting lazy in the process – they don’t prepare for second, third, and final interviews the way the might have for the first one. They don’t send thank you notes after interviews. While they are mentally spending that first paycheck, other candidates might be out-hustling them to get an offer.

If you find yourself in a job search, our advice is to approach the last day of your search with as much energy as your first. Keep up the pace until the ink is dry on a signed offer letter. The goal is to get to a point where you have the luxury of comparing multiple offers at the same time and taking the one that is the best fit for you and your career. You’ll be so much happier with the outcome.

If you are struggling through a job search and not getting the traction you were hoping for, let us know. We at the Rivet Group are here to help.

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