Looking for a Job? Don’t Waste Your Money on These Job Search Expenses
You have to spend money to make money. No one understands that better than the unemployed. From resume-writing services to career coaches to premium job listings, there are plenty of opportunities to spend your dwindling dollars when you’re looking for a job. But when is it worth it to invest money in finding a new gig, and when should you save your pennies?
Some job search expenses are simply unavoidable. You can’t get around paying for gas to get to interviews or paying to park downtown. Other services for job seekers fall into a gray area. Paying someone to help you write your resume might seem like a frivolous expense, unless your current C.V. isn’t catching the eye of employers. Hiring a career coach seems silly until she helps you land your dream job.
But for every reasonable job search expense, there’s one that’s equally pointless. At best, spending your money on these things won’t help you get a job. At worst, it could actually hurt your chances. Here are 11 ways you might be wasting money while looking for a job.
1. Buying gifts for interviewers
Tempted to send a basket of treats to a hiring manager after an interview? Save your money, and just buy a muffin for yourself as a reward. Buying thank you gifts for interviewers is just plain weird. These presents, however well-intentioned, make it look like you don’t understand professional norms. They might even give the impression that you’re trying to bribe the interviewer. Plus, do you really want to work for someone who can be swayed by an Edible Arrangements fruit basket?
Next: Fancy resume paper is so last-century.
2. Printing your resume on fancy paper
Back in the day, having copies of your resume printed on heavy, cream-colored paper might have made you look like a serious professional. Now, it just makes you look like a dinosaur. While you can’t ditch the paper resume entirely — it’s useful to have a few copies to bring with you to your interview — it’s perfectly acceptable to print them on regular old paper on your home printer.
“[T]he only time you even need to print your resume these days is when you’re bringing it with you for an interview as a possible back-up copy. And at that point, if what wows them the most is your incredibly fine paper stock, things are not going well,” wrote Alison Green of Ask a Manager.
Next: Why mailing your resume is a waste of time and money
3. Mailing your resume or thank you note
Snail-mailed resumes are a thing of the past, and good riddance for that. You’re wasting valuable money if you’re still stuffing copies of your resume and cover letter in an envelope and paying for the postal service to deliver them to employers. Email and online applications are the norm now. Sending your materials the old-fashioned way not only suggests you’re out of touch, but it also puts you behind the curve. By the time your resume arrives in the hiring manager’s inbox, he might already be interviewing candidates.
The same goes for thank you notes. While a quick note to follow up after an interview is basic courtesy, don’t feel like you must send a typed or hand-written note. Most job experts agree email is fine — and a lot faster.
Next: You don’t need to spend a lot on a professional-looking headshot.
4. Paying too much for headshots
Social media is a bigger part of your job search than ever, which means it’s hard to get away with not having a professional-looking photo attached to your profile. But you don’t need to spend lots of cash to get the perfect LinkedIn headshot. That’s not to discount the skills of pro photographers, who are experts at making even the least-photogenic among us look good. But if you’re out of work, you might not have hundreds of dollars to drop on their services.
Fortunately, you can get a decent-looking headshot for not a lot of money. The Muse has tips for making your DIY photos look professional. (Hint: Avoid the crooked arms and weird angles that are sure signs of a selfie.) Or head to a career fair, where you can sometimes get pro headshots for free.
Next: Are premium job sites worth it?
5. Signing up for every premium job site out there
Whether job seekers should ever pay for premium job boards and networking sites is a hotly contested issue. Some people say no way, while others argue that spending a few dollars to get access to ads other job seekers can’t see might well be worth it.
One thing is for sure: You don’t need to sign up for every premium job site out there. Glassdoor, where you can find jobs, reviews, and salary information is completely free. You can also sign up for a free trial of LinkedIn, FlexJobs, or other niche sites. Then, evaluate what you’re getting. Are you finding jobs you’re not seeing elsewhere? Are the premium features — such as LinkedIn’s InMail — really worth it? Stick with the services that are useful, and ditch the ones that aren’t before the trial period expires.
Next: Falling for a job scam is a costly mistake.
6. Falling for job scams
Falling for a job scam can be a waste of both your money and your time. Watch out for people who ask you to pay money to start a reshipping business, stuff envelopes at home, or work as a rebate processor. These “opportunities” are likely fake, noted FlexJobs. Anyone who promises you a “guaranteed” job in exchange for money is likely also a scam artist, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Next: Paying for fake job references isn’t worth it.