by Kentin Waits on 24 September 2013
It seems like everyone has their own special brand of advice for job hunters. And in a competitive job market, advice gets echoed more and more loudly whether it's good or not. If you've just graduated or are considering making a career change, no doubt you're a bit anxious about entering the fray and slightly confused by all the advice you've been getting. Relax, and take a step back. Here are some common job-hunting tips you can blatantly ignore. (See also: 6 Important Job Search Steps Most People Skip)
1. Apply for as Many Positions as Possible
Time and time again, I've heard that landing a job is just a numbers game. The logic goes something like this: Job seekers should apply to as many jobs as possible, and eventually, once the funnel has been sufficiently filled, one or two opportunities will filter out and materialize into an offer. It almost makes sense. But applicants can rely too heavily on this approach and turn their job hunt into an assembly line of untailored resumes and cover letters. It makes much more sense to target the jobs that will be the best fit, focus tactically on each one, and redirect your energy on standing out from the crowd. (See also: 12 Unique Ways to Get a Job Interview)
2. It's Okay to Skip the Cover Letter
Savvy recruiters sometimes tell candidates to skip the cover letter until an employer has expressed an interest in their resume. Bullocks! A well-crafted but brief cover letter is an opportunity to impress a potential employer. When properly done, a cover letter showcases your writing skill, displays your knowledge of the company, explains how your previous skills can be applied in the new role, and — ultimately — shows your level of effort and commitment. While it's OK to leverage some standard copy, customize each letter to the specific position you're applying to and make it clear that you've done your research.
3. Your Credit History Doesn't Really Matter
While we may not agree with it, more and more employers are basing at least part of their hiring decision on candidates' credit history. And those credit checks aren't only used for finance positions; employers in nearly every industry use credit information to evaluate applicants' trustworthiness, responsibility, and maturity level. If you're not sure what's inyour credit report, find out before you start job hunting. If you know that your credit has some heavy bruising, own up to it early on in the interview process. Employers tend to appreciate candidates who are honest, direct, and can explain that they're working on correcting the financial mistakes of their past.
4. Employers Focus Heavily on Formal Education
Your education is your calling card, but few employers particularly care where you got it. With few exceptions, employers respond to experience, skill levels, adaptability, and motivation. In fact, many employers would prefer that you unlearn some things so they can retrain you themselves. Job candidates who display curiosity, a desire to learn, and the ability to catch on quickly will usually go to the front of the line.
5. No One Really Finds a Job on the Internet
This one couldn't be further from the truth. While it's easy to depend too heavily on the web, employers do advertise open positions and source candidates via online sources. For job hunters, the challenge is standing out from the crowd of candidates who are scrolling and clicking just like you are. Do your research, make your resume and cover letter shine, bring your best to each and every interview, and follow-up with a handwritten thank-you letter.
6. Don't Mention Salary During the First Interview
While finding the right job fit is important, ultimately, we all exchange labor for money. There's no reason to hesitate in determining if the salary range and other compensation opportunities fit with your needs. It shouldn't be the first question you ask, but it shouldn't be sidelined either. Discussing salary specifics early helps both you and your potential employer avoid wasted time and effort. (See also: 4 Questions You Must Ask at Your Interview)
7. You Must Stay in That Job You Hate at Least One Year
While it's hard to defend a job-hopping past, it's seldom a good idea to grind your teeth for a year in a job you hate. Employees who are just putting in time tend to perform poorly, do not excel, and do not build the kinds of professional relationships that can be valuable down the road. If you've accepted a job that's a terrible fit, get out early, learn from it, and move on.
8. Network, Network, Network!
It's not that networking isn't important; it's just not the Holy Grail of job hunting. Much like the application process, your networking efforts should be targeted and strategic. Shaking hands, exchanging business cards, and connecting via LinkedIn with everyone you meet will only go so far. Network with those who have the job you want today and the job you may want tomorrow, and understand that the process is reciprocal. Ask yourself, "What can I offer others who may need a leg-up in their industry? Who could benefit from my connections now, grow their career, and evolve into a more valuable colleague later?" (See also: Simple Networking Tricks)
In any economy, landing your dream job (or at least a job that's not a nightmare) is all about targeting the right prospective employers, perseverance, standing out from the crowd, and good old-fashioned follow-up. And at every step in the process, it helps to take a critical look at each piece of advice that's lobbed your way. Discard whatever doesn't pass the common-sense test or ring true from your own experience. Beyond that, get creative about how you source leads and respond to opportunities, stay motivated, and help your fellow job searchers when you can.
What advice do you have for job seekers out there? What is the best and worst job-hunting advice you've ever been given?
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