A while ago, client of mine applied for a job which she was very excited about. It was perfect: near her home, in her field and in a great company. Unfortunately, maybe because she was so excited, or maybe because she was applying late at night, after a long day, for a job whose deadline was about to pass, she made some mistakes in her application; the kind of mistakes described by some online job search advice blogs as “deadly sins”. She had sent it before spell-checking it, which left two typos on her cover letter. She called me, nearly in tears the next morning – what should she do?
Search the internet for the term “job search mistakes” and you will find a long list of articles and blog posts which use words such as “avoidable” , “costly” and even “deadly” or, more dramatically, “killer” to describe the impact of even the smallest of mistakes on job search. While it is true that making a mistake is something to be avoided as much as possible, there are some things you can do to deal with mistakes once they have happened; some of these approaches might make a very big difference, to the point of even impressing a potential employer enough to reconsider a candidate in a new light.
Job search mistakes can happen at every level of job search – from career decision-making, networking, resume writing, interviewing to negotiating terms for a new job; many of these can be avoided with some knowledge and careful planning (found in many of these excellent blogs). Interestingly, as my client pointed out, there is almost no attention paid online to helping job searchers with ways of recovering from or amending these mistakes. This left her feeling that once she made a mistake, the impact is so dire that she might as well just forget it and move to the next opportunity.
In this economy, where there are many talented job searchers compete for a small number of jobs, you might think that it is easy for an employer to easily eliminate a candidate from competing for a job, based on small, preventable mistakes. Interestingly, many employers still claim that they continue to struggle to find qualified candidates. This suggests that they might be open to reconsidering an otherwise strong candidate before rejecting them for making a small mistake. But this can only happen IF the candidate deals with the mistake properly.
Pearl Buck, winner of the 1938 Nobel Prize in Literature suggested that
“Every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied”
This principle, which is a pretty useful life lesson, has some useful applications for job search; many mistakes can be corrected through direct action, which might include a quick (and brief) apology, taking responsibility and correcting the error.
After discussing her options with me, my client decided to reapply to the job – she corrected the errors in the cover letter, and updated the date on it, and re-sent it to the employer with the following note in the email:
Dear Ms X,
I am hereby re-submitting my application for the xxxx position, after having already submitted an application for this position yesterday. This morning, after reviewing my application, I regretfully noticed two errors in my cover letter. While inexcusable (and not something that happens often, my references would assure you), I am reapplying with a corrected document, in hopes that you may still consider me for this position, for which I believe, I am highly suited.
While I do hope you will reconsider me for this position, I will understand if you chose to consider another applicant.
I look forward to an opportunity to prove my worth to you in an interview.
Any guesses about the employer’s response? Not only was she called for an interview, but the employer remarked that she was so impressed by my client’s ability to responsibly address a mistake, that she prioritized her application above others she had received.
The principles of such an Artful and Effective apology are neatly outlined in this excellent article, where the author quotes an employer who says that “The secret to my success as a leader in my business has been my ability to offer well-timed and heartfelt apologies after mucking things up.”
“A Well-Constructed Apology Is:
1. Timely – As close to the transgression as possible, please.
2. Specific – By describing what you did wrong and why it was wrong, you are showing your command of yourself and your awareness of the impact you have on people and on the workplace.
3. Behavioral – Try: Here’s what I intended and why…here’s what I did…and I understand that my approach failed to communicate what I intended.
4. Genuine – Say what you mean and mean what you say.
5. Brief – No one wants you to draw it out. Don’t excuse it, don’t make excuses for your behavior and don’t try and describe the twenty things that happened that day that added up to your bad moment.”
Such an apology is bound to impress the potential employer and convey your ability to be a responsible employee who might be added value to the position.
Bottom line: As John Powell stated:
The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.
If you catch yourself in a small error, set out to quickly, briefly and simply resolve it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Who, knows – you may even make an even better impression than you intended!
Have you ever had to deal with a silly mistake in the job search process? What did you do? We’d love to hear your perspective!