7 Critical Job Application Mistakes to Avoid (Especially for New Graduates)

Neeraj Chand 06-02-2019

Every year, a fresh batch of college students enter the job market looking for their first full-time job. This first job and the company that hires them drive the trajectory of their career for the next few years. Any job application mistakes is a minefield for career growth.


Frequent surveys reveal the most common job application made by new graduates. They range from minor typos outright lies. Here are several such mistakes that you need to avoid making while looking for your first job.

1. Neglecting the Applicant Tracking System

Google’s former HR chief Laszlo Bock had said that the tech giant received nearly 50,000 resumes a week. So more and more companies are using Applicant Tracking Software to handle job application resumes. The software allows companies to handle a large number of resumes efficiently.

So it means that resumes not properly formatted may not pass this initial digital barrier.

Many candidates struggle with the question of getting their resume past the applicant tracking system How to Get Your Resume Past the Applicant Tracking System Nine out of every ten large companies now use a robotic Applicant Tracking System to screen your resume. We help you bypass their judgmental algorithms with simplification and keywords. Read More . The simple solution—make your resume as ATS-friendly as possible.

Remember: Most types of ATS follow a specific style of formatting while translating your document into something readable for the employer. The style of formatting is usually specified in the job advertisement itself.


Here are some of the points to look out for:

  • Avoid creatively designed resume templates. The ATS can misread resumes that are not optimized for ATS. Follow the document format as mentioned in the job guidelines and use simple resume formats.
  • Simplify headers. Keep section headings simple, use consistent formatting for your work history and dates, and avoid tables.
  • Use relevant keywords and phrases. The ATS is programmed to read specific keywords. Scan the job ad for potential keywords you can use.
  • Spell out abbreviations. This makes your resume more readable to the ATS.

If you’re not sure about the resume format, reach out to the company for the specifics of the formatting style.

2. Being Unprofessional

The job marketplace has changed dramatically in the past decade. A lot more emphasis is laid these days on creating a “fun” work environment. The lines which delineate a professional company hierarchy are being blurred.

But all of this comes later, once you actually get the job. During the interview process, you are still just a potential candidate. At this point, it is important for you to show your professionalism:

  • Make sure you are dressed neatly and your phone is silent.
  • Plan your commute with some time buffer so you can be on time for the interview.
  • In case you don’t get the job, thank the management for considering you and make a request to be considered for any future job openings.

3. Not Asking the Right Questions

Types of questions to ask the interviewee

It is often said that during a job search, not only does the company interview a candidate, but the candidates also interview the company. Near the end of most interview processes, your employee will ask if you have any questions regarding the job.

Many first time graduates believe raising questions at this point will negatively impact their chances of getting the job. But the truth is, companies appreciate candidates who ask questions about the company’s history and their potential role in it during the interview.

Asking relevant questions shows you are:

  • Actively engaged in the interview process.
  • Not afraid to ask when you need more information.
  • Have an interest in the company and it’s functioning beyond the interview.

4. Lying to Appear More Experienced

New graduates are acutely conscious of the fact that they lack the necessary experience while applying for a job. This often drives them to lie on their resume about past jobs and work experience.

This might seem like the kind of lie that would not be found out easily. But experienced HR managers know how to read the signs. Some of the ways they get tipped off are:

  • Your age doesn’t match the experience you claim to have.
  • You cannot produce any actual proof of past employment or previous employer recommendations.
  • You fail to answer basic questions related to the work you claim to have done in the past.

5. Being Unprepared for an Online Interview

Online interview essential equipment
Image Credit: Samer Daboul/Pexels

More and more interviews are being conducted online. Inexperienced candidates often treat such interviews like Skype sessions with friends. Just because the interview is online does not mean you should be unprofessional. Some ways to prepare for an online interview include:

  • Check and re-check your laptop to make sure your audio and video feed is clear.
  • Ensure you have a strong internet connection.
  • Make sure your video’s background is tidy and isn’t distracting for the interviewer.
  • Dress professionally for the camera with appropriate grooming.
  • Control your gaze by looking at the webcam instead of the screen.

You might also practice for that all-important meeting with these mock interview websites 8 Mock Interview Websites to Help You Nail Your Job Search Not very good during interviews? Use these mock interview websites to face your job interviewers with confidence. Read More .

6. Applying to Jobs You’re Unqualified For

New graduates tend to apply to any job opening remotely associated with their field. This sets them up for disappointment when they get rejected for a job that they were clearly not qualified for.

Instead of applying for every job indiscriminately, try to narrow in on where your professional strengths lie. At the start of your career, your focus should be on learning as much as possible and building up experience. Even if you haven’t landed an actual job yet.

Some ways to build your skills can include:

7. Attaching a Poor Quality Cover Letter

Your cover letter is like your first handshake with a potential employer. It needs to let them know you are professional, confident, and qualified. Some things to look out for while writing a cover letter are:

  • Start your cover letter with a brief intro in which you mention why you’re writing to the company. Also, the specific job title you are applying for, where you came across the job listing, and any referrals you might have.
  • The middle paragraph is for you to detail your qualifications and explain why you would be good for the job.
  • The final part of the letter is for you to wrap up your application, thank the company for considering your candidacy, and include follow up information for contacting you.
  • Don’t copy your letter straight from online letter templates. In other words, don’t make it too generic to be distinguishable from other similar letters.
  • Always proofread your letter before submitting it. This will help you spot common grammar and spelling mistakes.
  • Never talk negatively about your competition or go into long-winded personal anecdotes.
  • Don’t send the letter to the wrong department or forget to include your contact information.

Learn more about cover letter mistakes to avoid 7 Online Cover Letter Mistakes That'll Derail Your Job Search Cover letter mistakes can derail your job search. Pay heed to these critical mistakes and tweak your cover letter to avoid them. Read More .

Streamline Your Job Hunt

There is often an urgency among new graduates to get hired as quickly as possible. If you are one, then your inexperience and uncertainty over professional etiquette will work against you. You shouldn’t grow impatient or discouraged but look at everything as an opportunity.

The good news is that the internet has given you a global pool of potential employers. So keep applying to jobs that fit your qualifications. In case submitting applications to a bunch of online job openings as soon as they surface doesn’t sound possible, you can learn how to automate job applications using Google forms How to Automate Job Applications Using Google Forms Automate your job application process with the help of Google Forms, Google Sheets, and IFTTT. Read More .

Related topics: Careers, Job Searching, Resume.

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