by Sharon Boerbon Hanson

There are a lot of things that can go wrong in the job hunting process. Some are out of your control and can cost you an interview or a potential job offer. But there are three mistakes that you can easily fix.

The Cover Letter
Your cover letter needs the same love and attention you give your resume. The first misstep is to send a poorly constructed cover letter accompanying a polished resume. This tells the reviewer that someone else cleaned up your resume, which opens doubts about your communication abilities. Basic skills such as writing and spelling are as important in IT as they are in other careers. So is the ability to summarize ideas clearly and succinctly. It is a good practice to have someone else proofread your cover letter in addition to proofing your resume, but keep the tone of both true to your abilities and manner of expression.

The Resume
A resume is a tool to get you an interview. The second error is to list the technical tasks you completed in your last or current position. They already know the types of assignments a particular job entails. They want to know what you can do for them using your IT skills and your non-technical abilities. For each job you’ve held, tell how you solved a situation/problem by using a skill listed in the job posting to show how it benefited your company. This breaks down into an easy formula:

Situation/Problem + Your Skill = Their Benefit

Make each contribution you offered unique. Don’t repeat the same skill or solution numerous times, or you will seem to have only one useful skill set. Create examples using both IT skills and non-technical skills.

The Interview
Can you answer this question: when employers need a new employee, what is important to them? If you answered “to have their needs fulfilled” you are saving yourself from mistake number three. Many job seekers sabotage themselves by offering only self-focused answers to the interview question “what interests you about this position?” Frankly, employers don’t care if you: can learn a lot in the position, like their company, or love doing X. When they ask that question, they want to know how your skills, interests, and background will benefit THEM, not you. The best answer speaks to being able and eager to apply your IT skills and non-technical talents to their business goals.

Avoid these three common slip-ups and you’ll be on your way to collecting a paycheck.

Sharon Boerbon Hanson is associate executive director of Advance IT Minnesota, a Center of Excellence that promotes awareness of and excellence in IT careers in order to ensure career and business success. She has over 25 years experience in marketing and brand-building, and has over 15 years as a resume and interview coach.