Watch out for job search time-wasters

Amy Lindgren owns Prototype Career Service, a career consulting firm in St. Paul, Minn. She can be reached at or at 626 Armstrong Ave., St. Paul, MN 55102.

If you’ve been job searching recently, you may already suspect what I’m about to tell you: A lot of what passes for job search these days is really just a waste of time.

Careful — I’m not saying job search itself is a waste of time. There are jobs out there, and people are landing them.

But the processes and steps people are using to conduct their searches? A lot of this activity can be filed under “f” for “futility.” Somehow we got into the habit of thinking that an earnest job search is measured in the number of hours spent conducting it.

To be fair, job seekers aren’t entirely at fault for the time-wasting processes they find themselves embroiled in. Often, they are following advice from people they trust. When the advice doesn’t work, they assume the fault is theirs and try to do even more of it.

On the other hand, some job seekers hear good advice but refuse to follow it, particularly when the process involves an onerous task. In the search for an easier process, they unwittingly consign themselves to a longer, unproductive search filled with time-wasting steps.

Wondering if you’re involved in job search time-wasters? Check out the following list to find out.

Online job search time-wasters

Completing online applications when you’re missing key qualifications. Remember: Only a handful of people will be interviewed, so unqualified candidates aren’t likely to make the cut.

Following up on online applications. Anytime you complete an application online (as opposed to simply forwarding a résumé), you know you’re entering a system designed for employer efficiency. They may or may not send you a form letter, but they’re not likely to respond personally or directly to your pleas for information on the process.

Creating profiles on job boards and company sites in hopes of being matched. Yes, it’s true that you don’t win the lottery unless you buy a ticket. So go ahead and fill out those profiles if you can’t resist. Then forget about them, because your chances of being discovered this way are really similar to your odds of winning the lottery.

Targeted job search time-wasters

Repeated attempts to contact recruiters with whom you have no relationship. One email to share your résumé with a recruiter makes sense. Weekly calls or letters? Not so much.

Résumés sent to managers without follow-up calls. Sending your letter and résumé to a company manager is a smart move; not calling afterward negates that smart move. The résumé is the warm-up, but the conversation is the point.

Rewriting résumés when contacting managers. If you’re rewriting your résumé for each manager you contact, something is wrong with your targeting. You should be able to discern the key data needed by the overall category of managers and make one résumé to present this information.

Networking time-wasters

Conducting informational interviews for work you already know how to do. Why present yourself as a novice when you’re not?

Arranging networking meetings without an agenda or objective. If you don’t have a specific purpose for the conversation, why meet?

Conducting intensive company research before you have a meeting scheduled. Not everyone will grant a meeting, so why over-research? Wait for the meeting to be set before digging in.

Linking randomly on LinkedIn but never contacting anyone directly. Is it really networking if you never speak with anyone?

How did you do? If you found some time-wasters in your own process, give yourself permission to drop them from your to-do list. This will free you up for more productive activities, including direct contact with employers and better networking practices.