How to Keep Others From Sabotaging Your Job Search

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on

Have you been buried in job descriptions and applications for months now without getting any traction? Beyond frustrating, it doesn’t make any sense.

Perhaps you’ve diligently tailored your resumes, updated your LinkedIn profile, and networked with people at your dream companies. You’re honestly not sure why you haven’t landed a job yet.

It might be time to consider if anyone is sabotaging your job search — unintentionally or not.

Several people could potentially leave a sour taste for recruiters, and it’s time to step back and consider if any of them are causing your lack of success.

Who Might Be Committing Job Search Sabotage

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There are many ways that someone can deliberately or unintentionally sabotage your job search. It might even be a stranger with the same name who ranks higher in a Google search.

Uncover what recruiters are hearing and reading about you to understand where you need to do some damage control. Consider all of the following people who might be sabotaging your job search.

1. An Identity Thief

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If your personal information is stolen, it could be used to apply for jobs in your name — damaging your reputation in the process and making it difficult to get hired. The best way to protect yourself is to be proactive. Here are some tips:

  • Keep your personal information safe. Be careful about who you give it to and how you store it. Don’t give out personally identifiable information on applications before it’s essential (generally in the final steps of the hiring process). For example, you might provide your city, but your resume doesn’t need your street address.
  • Check your credit report regularly. This will help you catch any activity that isn’t yours.
  • Monitor your online activity. If you see anything that looks suspicious, report it immediately.
  • Use a private connection, rather than logging onto public Wi-Fi.

2. A Professional Who Shares Your Name

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Have you googled your name recently? If not, it’s time to see what recruiters see when they do a basic search for your name.

If your resume claims you’re a seasoned project manager, but Google points to a freelance writer, recruiters aren’t necessarily going to take the time to figure out why there’s a discrepancy.

But don’t despair! You don’t need to legally change your name. Instead, find a combination of your name that isn’t tied to someone else.

For example, your first name, middle initial, and last name. If that doesn’t lead to someone else’s profile, use that for all of your professional interactions, including your online profiles. Recruiters will be directed to the work that supports your resume.

3. Your Oversharing Friends

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Remember that social media can be a powerful job-searching tool and that potential employers use it to look for both the positive and the negative when vetting new hires.

If your friends love to relax on the weekends and tag you in their posts, that might leave a sour taste for a recruiter who is not getting the complete picture.

Consider creating professional profiles that support your job search and upgrading the privacy settings on your personal ones.

4. Family and Friends You Use as References

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As you wade through the job search process, it’s important to remember that not everyone has the same definition of professionalism. While you may be focused on presenting yourself in the best possible light, others may not put as much emphasis on the exact details you do.

For example, if you’re seeking a reference from a former classmate, they may not think to mention your strong work ethic or attention to detail but recount a funny story about how personable you are. As a result, their reference could unintentionally damage your chances of getting hired if that’s not the recruiter’s target.

It’s always best to choose references based on their professional experience, rather than your personal relationship with them.

If possible, select connections who are former managers or colleagues. If that’s not an option, look for personal acquaintances who have professional experience, or teachers and professors that you worked closely with.

When you contact them, let them know what roles you’re applying for and how you feel your experience with them supports your application. They’ll be more likely to highlight your most relevant qualifications that way.

5. Your Previous Boss

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Despite not explicitly listing your previous manager as a reference, there’s still a chance that they will end up in the communication chain if you include that employer on your resume. If your relationship with them isn’t stellar, it can be easy for them to cause mayhem in your current job search.

Even if they only verify basic information, their lack of a positive and enthusiastic reference might be enough for prospective employers to read between the lines.

So, what do you do? Line up your positive references.

If a different leader or professional colleague at that company would give you a reference, ask if they can put it in writing and add it to LinkedIn. Beyond that, stack as many positive references as possible on your side, and you’ll drown out the one negative in your history.

6. You, Yourself

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Lastly, consider if you are unintentionally sabotaging your own job search. When you’re buried in a lengthy job search, it’s essential to step back and get some perspective on your approach.

Have you fallen victim to the quantity-over-quality mentality? If so, it’s unrealistic that you’ll put together a resume and cover letter that grabs a recruiter’s attention.

Are you actively networking and building a personal brand that ensures you’re an obvious choice when the recruiter begins digging deeper into your background? Are you operating your job search with a growth mindset?

If not, you might be trying to play it safe and aim for something a little lower than you really should be.

In that case, are you genuinely excited about the opportunities you’re discovering? If not, it will show through in your written and verbal interactions. Instead, conduct some in-depth research and get genuinely excited about a role.

You might be amazed at how much enthusiasm can translate to make any recruiter giddy to move you forward in the interview process.

Protect Your Job Search

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In today’s competitive job market, it’s essential to be vigilant in protecting your job search on every level. Whether it’s an unprofessional digital footprint or a lack of detail in your job submissions, take some time to discover if you’re the victim of job search sabotage.

Once you find the leak, you can be proactive in your damage control and quickly find job search success.

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