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June 5, 2014 at 1:00 AM

Surprisingly common blunders of job-hunting basics

Looking for employment? You may have noticed the enormous amounts of job-hunting advice found seemingly everywhere — books, magazines, newspapers, the Internet. It seems that by now everyone has to at least have a grasp of the basics.

That’s why I was surprised when a friend of mine, the owner of a midsize Seattle business, shared some recent applicant horror stories. Seriously, folks. Doesn’t everyone know that an email address like “” is not going to impress a potential boss? Shouldn’t it be obvious that pink stationery and a script font are resume don’ts?

Apparently not, because my business-owner friend sees bloopers like these every day, from real job applicants, in the real world. So I figured it wouldn’t hurt to go over the basics of applying for a job.

  • Don’t use a frivolous-sounding email address (see above). Keep it simple and sober, like
  • Don’t use your email address from your current employer. Potential employers will think you are the kind of person who uses company time and resources to hunt for another job.
  • For written correspondence, use plain, businesslike stationery — no pastels, no perfumes, no photos.
  • Double-check your spelling, especially that of your correspondent’s name. And be sure you are using the right name.
  • When you interview, dress and act the way people who work for that company dress and act.
  • Research the company. Know something about the business of the firm you’re applying to.
  • Don’t bad-mouth former employers.
  • Don’t lie about your qualifications. Don’t even exaggerate.
  • Clean up your social media sites. Potential employers are going to Google you, so if your Facebook page features photos of you, say, passed out at a New Year’s Eve party, get rid of them.

Bonus tip: My friend also mentioned that already-employed candidates are always more attractive than out-of-work candidates. It may not be fair (you can’t always control your employment situation), but it’s a fact. So if you’re thinking of quitting your job simply to have more time to look for a new job, think again.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at

More in Work Life Blog | Topics: career change, entry level, interviewing, job search

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Blog contributors

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Randy Woods Writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Former contributors

Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.


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