two feet standing next to a stop sign

5 things you should never do when applying for a job

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There’s a lot of chatter about what you should do when you’re applying for a job. I’m here to tell you what not to do.

bird shaking its head saying no

1.  Don’t use the same resume for every job
It’s easy to attach the same resume to every job you apply for. This also makes it easy for a business to drop your resume in the bin. If you don’t tailor your resume to the job you’re applying for you won’t get an interview.

2. Don’t ignore the job ad
Use the same words in your resume that are in the job ad. This makes it easy for the business to match your resume to what they’re looking for.

magnifying glass over job ad

3. Don’t use ‘To Whom It May Concern’
Everyone loves the sound of their own name. If you address your cover letter To Whom It May Concern, you won’t get an interview. When you’re applying for a job, call up the business and find out who is looking to hire. Put their name on your cover letter. It shows initiative and you’ll make an impression by getting in touch.

4. Don’t forget to do your research
When applying for a job, research the organisation. Go online or walk past their business. Find out what they do. See how you can match your skills to what they do. Then write about this in your cover letter and resume.

woman with fingers crossed

5. Don’t despair
It’s really hard to stay upbeat when you don’t have a job. When you are applying for a job, think about how great it would be to work there. Think about the way a job could change your life. It can help you stay in a good headspace when you’re looking for work.

Images: iStock, giphy


  1. I have had a pretty lucky working life to date, I am 63 and have been working since I was 13 part time after school and weekends. While I have had stints of unemployment through several recessions in the past it has been possible to find something to do even in “lesser” positions.

    The old CES was actually quite efficient and could organise an interview almost on the spot,employment agencies knew their clients and asked the right questions before suggesting you as an applicant. Employers advertised directly in the newspapers you had to call or write to obtain an interview.

    Now it seems that while we have all this technology at our fingertips the “human” element has been stripped away and it relies on “Buzz” words and word search software. Anything that may be relevant to the actual job or the applicants capabilities can be instantly discarded if the “key’ words are not found in the resume or cover letter.

    In the last 3 months or so I have applied for close to 50 positions. I know from my experience that I could do most of these jobs, without being boastful “standing on my head” In reality most of the advertised jobs are well over hyped, with grandiose responsibilities and duties. Most advertised positions are so narrowed in the job description now, I am surprised they receive any applicants. In the past I have held positions which required and had degree qualified incumbents. Anything I wasn’t sure of I studied, researched or questioned to learn and improve any shortcomings.

    The same positions now are advertised requiring, as noted in a previous post, with 2-3 years experience and a Masters Degree! Ridiculous! The reality is they can get an inexperienced “graduate” for less money.

    As also noted in previous comments, a lot of these positions seem fake. These positions are on continual “rotation” anyone seriously searching will see these same jobs time after time by the same spruikers. i’m convinced it is to get applicants on the books and boost their coffers from public money.

    Other previous comments have pointed to the ageist theory, maybe older workers are seen as a threat to younger managers because of their knowledge. Then there is the overqualified excuse, what threat could that be? Lastly there is the discourtesy of no acknowledgement or reply to the applicant. Would you want to work in such an ignorant organisation anyway?

    It’s easy to sit in the centrelink ivory tower an advise you how to apply, how to improve your resume etc….. My experience of late is, unless you have an inside contact you have a much less than 50% chance.

    That’s it with my vent.

  2. It is absurd how employment agencies can shift cultural diversity, recognition and structure and manipulate the progress of social and economical everyday living to an absolute nonexistence for some. Huge rewards for wishlists that contain an assortment of skills, most that will reach their useby date at the turn of the next technological cycle and some that require a specially trained skillset, a cultural difference – which means “a selected profile”. These rewards are manipulating how and who is hired, they are also changing the cultural and social diversity of our poulation. An guess who started it all?

  3. Beware of the recruitment agencies. My experience with one left a sour taste in my mouth and that of a potential employer. I saw a job advertised by a major recruitment agency and it ticked al of the boxes for me, so I applied, sent in my resume, had an interview and waited. During the waiting the agency gave me a few other job offers, even though I had said that I was only interested in the job advertised. I rang around a few companies, talked to the Managing Director of one and between us we realised that this was the company that the agency was advertising.The Managing Director realised that at no stage had he or his staff ever asked the recruitment agency to advertise a position in his company. The company was looking for staff, I was offered the job, which I accepted, the Managing Director then received a bill from the agency for $30,000 Finders Fee. This immediately compromised my position as it ended up with threats of legal action. Because of this I turned the job down.

    1. Manipulators, cheats, liars who have no skills except cut and paste keywords. No wonder we are now in such a mess. Forget hands on hard core experience, that would get the job done so efficiently and those greedy beggars would be jobless and broke.

  4. I had help from a recruitment officer to write my resume and I always alter my resume and cover letter for every job that I apply for. Sometimes cutting and pasting in the job requirements from the add. I have travelled over an hour for each one to register and do their exams and answer their questions, with 6 agencies in the past 5 months and even obtained a 100% in a picking test given at one of the interviews. I’ve passed a full medical at a previous employer in May and online police checks twice on Seek and WorkPro. I have done so many inductions about OH&S and Anti Bullying and Harassment I’ve lost count. After leaving each “interview” (sometimes group sessions), I was told that they would call me “when” they had something for me. I was under the impression that I had applied for a job that they actually had. I have contacted each of these agencies after a couple of weeks, to enquire if they were having any problems with my referees (as sometimes the referees are busy working and can’t answer the phone) or needed me to answer any more questions. It has been another two weeks since then and I have had no contact from any of them again. The thing that makes me angry is that I applied for a job add that they had placed, only to be told that they didn’t actually have a job. Then why are they placing adds for jobs they don’t actually have? They must be just recruitment add. I’m seriously beginning to think also that anyone over the age of 50 has been shelved by the industries that we have been faithfully working for for most of our lives. We are stuck in BS land at the moment having to look for jobs to fulfill Newstart requirements, too old to rehire (or maybe its because the companies don’t want to pay us what we are worth, they can hire less experienced or skilled workers for less money) and too young for the pension. OK I feel better now I’ve got that off my chest. I also wanted my fellow Job Seekers to know that they are not alone…….we are all having trouble getting work.

    1. I am also over 50 and have been to several interviews. was told in one feedback, that I was good on paper only..hmm?
      I have vast experience and have found out the people they hired were not qualified for these positions and much younger than me..It’s depressing and not fair

    2. It’s become much more difficult to find a job these days (in 2019).. even for people under 50.
      I have many many years of experience in my field & qualified for the jobs that I apply for, but don’t get any responses. (Sometimes treated as being ‘overqualified’) – In many cases, people with 10/20+ years experience in a field seem to be ignored/rejected because the recruiter thinks they can pay less to someone younger with less experience. – Many of the jobs only ask for 2 to 3 years experience.
      Add to this the fact that we have a lot of people here on workers visa & increase in immigration (& some people with fake/forged certificates/qualifications).
      If the govt could help with eliminating these types of issues…

    3. You hit the nail on the head there LIsa, I always maintained the reason I couldnt get a job was because I was either too old or too experienced and they wouldnt be able to afford me and they wouldnt be able to manipulate me on the job

    4. Hi Lisa, thank you for being upfront about your feelings. I am 56, and after a long career in nursing , I am depleted. I devoted my time to patient and families, making sure that I provided the most optimal care possible. I resigned my position as a nurse, due to mental health reasons, and I have struggled since to find non nursing jobs.

      Yes you are right Lisa, despite all the research and planning for my next job interview, only to be told “We regret…” or they don’t even bother to get back to you. It seems that I’m insignificant or over or under qualified. I feel that have been left behind, despite being a major contributed to the healthcare community. Its about being valued in a society that puts profits before good people.

      Keep up the campaign Lisa!

      Best Regards,

      Peter S.

      1. Hi Peter. I was touched (and a little saddened) to read your message.
        On behalf of all the individuals you assisted in the healthcare community, over your long and dedicated career in Nursing, I’d just like to send you a big THANK YOU! for the many years of selfless, devoted, considerate, thoughtful and optimal care that you provided, to so many patients and families. You should be justifiably proud of the significant and positive impact you have made on the lives of so many people, at a time when they needed it most!

        I’m a strong believer that ‘good karma’ has a happy knack of finding its way back to worthy, deserved people!

  5. Agree with other users comments re “impersonal” process of job applications in general.
    After being in the workforce 30+ years, and now being redundant I am seeing so many auto-email replies where it is clearly stated “we won’t bother to contact you unless you get an interview”. I even had one employer run me through the application process and I got “second place to an internal applicant” (in their words). Two weeks later the exact same job was re-advertised, I re-applied and I did not even get so much as a return call or reply for requested feedback, and this was one of our top 100 companies (not some fly by night mob).

    Kind of leaves you wondering “If I acted this way how far would I get”?

    Also makes you wonder how these organisations can claim “equality”, “inclusion”, “diversity” and the like when they clearly lack even the most rudimentary communication skills!

    combine automated resume “scanners” with recruitment groups who aim purely for target numbers and then throw on top a layer of corporate masking (see last sentence) and it really doesn’t leave that much in the way of genuine recruitment options out there.

    1. If they do not give you feedback keep on their backs until they comply with your request what they did was extremely bad manners

      1. Seriously!!!!
        That will certainly help you get a job……………………………………….

      2. Company’s do not like to give feedback because they feel “i am told by a recruitment company ” it could be used in a court of law against them. What is the world coming to.!

  6. Lol, you guys really dont gave a clue. Maybe you should employ people who genuinely care about the job seeker? You sit in your jobs and pump out useless information that doesn’t actually help job seekers. It’s condescending and vauge. Go and interview a long term job seeker and see what they have to go through. Think about how you would feel if someone gave you this advice? Would it actually help you gain employment? You are public servants, not journalists. Stop writing fluff pieces.

  7. No offence Ray, the employment system does not work like you think it does. It’s becoming quite rare to apply for a job where you know who the actual employer is.

    I almost never apply for work through agencies, because they are mostly clueless numpties, and otherwise fake.

    Its interesting that the highest proportion of fake jobs are on the jobactive site. So many “mystery shopper” and WOOFER fake job ads.

    Its kind of hilarious that this government uses these fake jobs in statistics when they talk about available work in Australia.

    After 20+ years of being blamed for getting cancer, I’m prepared to call this whole employment system as fake. Change my mind.

    1. Hi Rod, no offence taken! We love a robust discussion here. Totally understand it’s hard to customise a CV if the employer isn’t revealed in the job ad. Then, you can only try to match your skills to the ones the job ad is looking for. That’s where key words become important, I’ve just written something about this which may help. In terms of fake job ads, we have very strict protocols on what kind of job ads we allow on the site. Fake jobs aren’t included in the official stats we pass on. As for the employment system, it can be better and that’s why we’re working on things to improve it. I’d be the first to admit it’s not as flexible or helpful as it could be. While I can’t change people’s attitudes or responses to people with cancer (I’m sorry people are so disgraceful) I can genuinely try to help people find a job. It’s hard when there’s one job for every seven people out of work, but we’re here to help.

      1. Your are right Ray I understand about 7 1ods.Ray can’t you tell
        To me .why most job we have around 79% all student or back backpacker why is that…

  8. Got to say that the way Jobs are applied for today is very impersonal. Would be so much easier to find the job I need if I could put in my post code and do a radius to search. You don’t even know which zone is the one your address might be in. I need to work half an hour from home for personal reasons and its difficult looking through so many jobs to find the needles in the proverbial haystack!

  9. Useless advice with today’s jobs searching being almost completely though a labour hire or recruitment company’s that tells you hardly anything about the job or who it is with. How do you research a job that does not say much about the company you will be working for. I want to work and have been for the past 10 years but now I’m unemployed and finding it very hard to even get a interview.

  10. Firstly, a lot of organisations do not even give you their name let alone their personal name. They list themselves with a recruitment service (who do not tell you their client’s name so you do not even know what company you’re applying to, so doing research is impossible.) Some organisations list themselves as Private Advertisers so this doesn’t help either. Secondly, a lot of organisations want to know your estimated desired income. What a stupid question when I do not know who I am working for, what the actual job entails, if I am going to get any other benefits, where they are even located and most jobs do not even advertise what the specific hours of work will be. It is so difficult looking for a job these days. Too much cyberspace anomalies where an app that doesn’t even know me, determines I’m not suited instead of face to face encounters.

    1. Hi Suzanne, you raise some very good points. You can do some quality assurance on a recruitment service to make sure it is legitimate.

      But I know I have certainly had my details captured for marketing before – I have applied, or at least thought I was applying for a job and all I got was endless calls asking me to sign up to do a course. After that experience I was a lot more skeptical when I dealt with recruiters.

      The most important thing is just to make sure you think the job and the employer are legitimate before you share your details. If you’re not comfortable, or if your instincts tell you something is not right, it is best to be cautious.

      You can always use the Report this job feature if you have concerns about any job advertised on the jobactive website.


      1. I agree with Suzanne, it is so hard applying for work these days. I went to an interview with a recruitment service – 1 hour drive to interview, 15 min interview, 1 hour drive back home, – I don’t know which job the interview was for as they could only tell me a few things in the ad. I am applying for lots of jobs that require those things. I have had to do online assessments, so a computer can say yes or no to me. Job applications have become very impersonal. No sit down interview with the person you will be working for, face to face. Suzanne, I agree, how can we say how much we want to be paid if we don’t know who we are working for and the full details of the position. I am finding it so frustrating having to talk to these recruitment services. Just because we are unemployed does not make us non-people, being unemployed is waiting for your mobile to ding at you to let you know you have another online assessment to do, you missed out on that job or another phone interview.

    2. Indeed, indeed! There is just too much anonymity in online job ads, and I would have never entered my (true) details, had I not been forced to by this mad system, which includes “You’d better look for a job or we’ll cut off your welfare and make you homeless, ya bludging scoundrel.”

    3. You usually don’t even know what the pay might be, which often shows that you wont get what you expect to get.

  11. thanks these hints of job searching, but not really enough to get the key of success, and we never know about what are these potential principles they hunt.

    1. Thanks for your feedback. Let us know what kind of information you would find useful so we can take it into account when we’re writing our blogs.

    1. I don’t think I am ever going to get full time work again, Raymond, but, thanks for the tips. WOW careers website have locked me out at applying for any Woolworths Supermarkets jobs until the 28th Nov 2019,. Simply because I answered a question wrongly, and for that penalty I have been locked out for a 12 month period by their HR recruitment office. As, I live in a small country town where there is only 2 bigger retail stores (Coles Express and Woolworths Group), it does not leave me much choice in regards to job seeking. I will just have to annoy Coles Express for a job until WOW careers unlock date 28th Nov.2019 ends. Cheers!

      1. I have had similar issues. It seems rather common now days to automatically reject future resumes at a company if you have already been rejected. As you first start job hunting, you will make mistakes with your resume. And these mistakes get you blocked for 12 months?! It would save Centrelink money in the long run, to get everyone a professionally written resume that might cost a couple of hundred dollars, if it meant that your resume would be getting read and not automatically rejected.

    1. Thanks for your feedback, Abe. What kind of stories would you be interested in reading, or what kind of information would you find helpful? It’s important to us that our readers get value from our blog, so your suggestions are always welcome.

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