should you follow your parents’ job search advice?

We have two questions from readers about advice they’re getting from their parents.

Here’s the first one:

Have the rules about hardcopy resumes changed? I came across a posting for a position that would like to have resumes and cover letters mailed to the company’s HR department. My parents insist that I should print my resume and cover letter on heavy stock paper and mail it in a large envelope so as to not have to fold the documents. They also said I should mail it priority to ensure that it is received. Would a reasonable hiring manager reject a candidate for sending in their documentation on regular white printer paper or for having the gall to tri-fold it to fit into a regular envelope? Does it really matter all that much?

Your parents are following job search rules from the 1980s. But this employer is following rules from the 80s too — it’s very rare to be asked to mail in a hard copy resume these days. It’s so rare that I’m wondering if you came across this ad in an old newspaper from 1989 that your parents have lying around?

In any case … even when an employer is asking for resumes to be mailed in, very few are going care one bit about what kind of paper your materials are printed on. They care about whether you’re the strongest candidate for the job. (And really, would you even want to work for someone who gave you an advantage for using heavy stock paper or cared that you folded them to fit them into a standard envelope? That person will be a manager who gives your coworker a raise because she turns in all her reports in those awful old plastic binders, while you email them like a normal person.)

Send it by normal mail, on normal paper, in a normal envelope. Trust that if you’re a strong candidate for the job, your normal paper will not get in the way of the employer seeing that. At least not any employer who you want to work for.

Your parents are well-intentioned here, but their advice is from a different time.

Here’s the second letter:

I don’t know if the latest advice from my parents is right on or another example of outdated job-searching advice. I should also mention that I live with my parents and they financially support me, so I’m much more inclined to at least consider their advice.

They have been encouraging me to back off on looking for jobs I might be qualified for in the already-posted job ads and instead identify organizations I might like to work for and send them a cover letter and resume, even if they have no jobs posted. They think that if I get myself in front of a hiring manager before a job is even posted, then I will be on their mind when a job becomes open. I am willing to consider this because I know what I am doing presently (applying to online postings) isn’t the most effective way to search. However, I also don’t want to burn bridges with organizations I am interested in because I came across as too pushy or desperate (even though I am desperate. I’m so ready to be employed like, yesterday).

I could also contact these organizations, express my interest and ask for “advice for my search.” I have been doing that for the past year however, and it’s led absolutely nowhere. Maybe I’m doing something wrong here?

Ugh. After all this time, I still have no idea how to network.

Your parents aren’t totally off-base about it being useful to make direct contacts with hiring managers so that they think of you when they have an opening. It’s true that pitching yourself directly to a hiring manager can be effective. But it can’t be a typical cover letter — in order for this to work, it has to be really customized to the person you’re writing to. Either customized to why you really want to work for them (and it has to sound genuine and not in the least bit generic), or customized to how you think you could help them (which can be hard if you’re a recent or semi-recent grad, because you probably aren’t super marketable yet — although who knows, maybe you are).

If you don’t do it that way and instead just send in a fairly typical cover letter, they’re not likely to pay much attention to it.

Your parents are off-base when they tell you to ask these organizations for advice for your search. Most people who do hiring are busy and aren’t going to take time away from their jobs to respond to a request for job search advice from someone they’ve never spoken to. After all, they’re not in the business of giving job search advice; they have something else that they’re focused on getting done. They might give advice to candidates who they’ve interviewed (although plenty don’t even do it then), and they might do it for people in their network, but you’re unlikely to get responses just going in cold. (Also, is it their advice that you’re really seeking? It sounds like your parents are recommending it as a back-door way to build relationships with people who hire, sort of like people who ask for informational interviews when they really want jobs. That rarely works, and it’s usually pretty transparent.)

What I would recommend instead is to take a hard look at your resume and cover letter, using the advice in this post. As I wrote in that post, whenever I talk to people who are frustrated that they’re not getting interviews, the problem is nearly always their resume and cover letter. Nearly always, seriously, even when they think those things are fine. And when they fix them, they start getting interviews. So I’d start there, and be brutally honest with yourself about whether you’ve really done the things that that post will tell you to do.

Meanwhile, regarding parents: While some have great, up-to-date advice, an awful lot don’t. And that’s not just true of parents, of course — it’s true of most people who don’t have significant and recent experience hiring. But you do tend to hear a lot of outdated advice from parents because they’re so invested in helping their kids and will push them to do whatever they think will help, even if their knowledge is outdated.

Related:
Ignore your parents! They are forbidden from giving you advice.
is my parents’ advice destroying my job search?
more bad job advice from parents

{ 103 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous

    Non-scientific poll: If you print hard copies of your resume for an interview or other event, do you print it on nice paper? (This isn’t asking for advice, I’m asking if you personally do this). I never have, but my husband always brings it up. “I have nice paper for your resume, honey!” To which I politely refuse. It has always seemed like a dated practice.

    1. Josh S

      I typically don’t. But for some reason we have about 40 sheets of high quality paper that I’ll use if I remember to. But if I hit print and then remember about the fancy paper? Nope. Not printing them out again.

      Because the company ought to want me for the value I bring, not because I remembered to put high quality fiber 28lb off-white paper in the printer.

    2. KayDay

      I print it on very good quality copier paper, but not the fancy resume paper.

      More importantly (imo), I try to have it printed with a laser printer, if at all possible.

      1. -X-

        This.

        There are varying qualities of paper – don’t use the cheapest around. Use a decent paper. It doesn’t have to be fancy paper, but at least 28#. Good copier paper. Not cheap copier paper. Use a decent printer.

        If mailing, fold it normally, mail it normally.

      2. AnotherAlison

        Seconding KayDay.

        I wouldn’t use the offwhite resume paper I used back in college, but I prefer the fancy copy paper (but probably wouldn’t make an extra trip to FedEx to use the laser printer).

        While some people question why anyone would care about paper – it’s all about the content – I think there is a line somewhere. You aren’t scratching something out on notebook paper, obviously, so presentation does matter.

        1. The IT Manager

          I agree. The off-white, marbled looked good in the box but didn’t look as good with my resume printed on it.

        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          I’ve never received a hard copy resume on paper that I found to be of insufficient quality. It’s hard for me to imagine that whatever paper someone has in their printer won’t be perfectly fine! No sane hiring manager is going to penalize someone for using normal paper.

          1. AnotherAlison

            Jamie’s comment below covered it. At home, we use the $2.00 el cheapo paper from Wal-Mart, and it is bad.

            I wouldn’t penalize someone else, but for myself, I put this decision in the same group as wearing a suit or carrying the appropriate purse/bag/portfolio. If it’s done right, it shouldn’t be noticed. Crappy paper is noticeable.

          2. JT

            I don’t think we’re all aware of the influence things such as paper or even clear design have on us. We don’t think “Oh, that’s lame – I’m going to not go forward with this person.” But these things can make a small subconscious impression the same way slightly better fitting clothes or a better handshake do.

            We’re not going to really penalize someone for their stuff fitting less well, but it’s certainly part of the whole impression they give, so within reason it’s worth spending a tiny bit of thought on.

            Ditto with paper.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              I totally get what you’re saying, I just don’t think it applies here. Honestly, if I’m going to judge resume paper, even if unconsciously, I’m going to be slightly LESS impressed with the heavy stocks — because I’m going to think, “You are wrong for thinking this matters.”

              1. Joey

                I bet there are just as many more formal managers that have the opposite view. It’s a detail and some managers dig that people pay attention to every little detail. I can think of just as many colleagues who would appreciate it as those who wouldn’t.

        3. Jamie

          I’m another in agreement of this. Some copy paper feels so cheap and it’s almost transparent. It’s the kind that jams the freaking copy machine.

          But I’d use a normal quality copy paper – not bond stock or anything.

          1. Rana

            You also have to watch out for the low-end recycled papers. Some of them are weirdly grey and soft, and the ink bleeds. If green paper is important to you, go for the rag or bamboo or kenaf papers instead, or pay for the nicer recycled ones.

            1. Katie in Ed

              I carry a couple copies of my resume printed on New Leaf sustainable resume paper in my portfolio. It’s a bit nicer, but not overwhelmingly so. At the very least, I think it’s one more way you can show that you are sincerely interested in the job and are making an effort to show that interest. I definitely think it’s more in the “wear a nice suit and look put together” camp than the “send your interviewer flowers/self portraits/booze/candy/video resumes” camp.

              And, c’mon…doesn’t anyone else like nice paper? You’d think with all the obsessive font people here there would be some paper people too.

              1. Rana

                I’ve used the New Leaf stuff! It is nice.

                I am rather fond of artisan paper, myself, but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that many people don’t care (especially since it’ll probably just end up as a bunch of photocopies in this case), so it’s not worth spending money on it for business purposes. I save the nice stuff for my friends and myself. :)

    3. Liz in the City

      I’ve never printed my resume on good paper for the in-person and it’s never been a problem for the past three jobs I’ve landed. If you have it leftover from the old days, you might as well use it, but otherwise, I wouldn’t sweat it. I bring it as a courtesy to someone who may not have printed it out–and that would have been on normal paper anyway.

    4. Christine

      Usually just whatever paper we use for everything else we print. I don’t go out of my way to use anything special.

    5. Lils

      Can we just all agree that it’s SO NICE to not have to worry about the fancy paper anymore! I can’t even recall how many trips I made to Kinko’s in my last year of college, sweating what color to choose, worrying about the cost of reprinting all those copies if I made a typo, etc. That + not wearing pantyhose anymore–life is good.

    6. Dulcinea

      Personally, I think if you are applying to one of the (thankfully rare) organizations that asks for a hardcopy resume these days, then they *are* asking you to do all the other old-fashioned customary things: fine quality paper, laser printed, and placed in a flat envelope (not folded). So that is what I do. I am also in law, and in my day to day work still receive business communications on fancy letterhead with all the formal trappings, such as ///Enc. at the bottom to indicate (in this case, 3) enclosures, and of course, ABC:xyz to indicate the initials of the person who dictated vs. the person who typed….we’re slow to change in law I guess!

    7. EM

      I keep a few copies on fancy paper in my portfolio because I guess I’m neurotic and uptight. :) It’s something that makes me happy to do, but now that I’m not entry-level or even junior-level anymore, I probably wouldn’t do it again if I happen to be in the market again.

    8. Jen at ModernHypatia

      I’ve always gone for good-quality copy paper (i.e. not fancy paper, but not the cheapest thing out there, and I like the 24 pound range a lot) because it holds up better to things you might want to do with a resume (move into different piles, make copies to hand around, hand to someone else, etc.)

      The cheapest stuff, in my experience, can crinkle a little weirdly when folding (a pain to copy if you run it through an auto feed), and it starts looking a little faded much sooner. I also never staple, because that’s a pain if someone has to make copies, and the better stuff holds up to paperclips better.

      My basic goal has always been “It should not actively annoy someone who handles my paper resume” though.

  2. Pepsi

    Hi,
    Can anyone let me know, how do i create a new post in this site. I am not seeing any button or link where i can create a new post. I am only able to comment on someones post.
    Please help

    1. Sunday's Child

      You can comment on the post by selecting the underlined, blue link, “add one”. It’s just after Alison’s response and under the links to other posts.

  3. Amanda

    Thank you for publishing my question!

    Just for clarification, my parents have only encouraged me to send applications to hiring managers. My job-search support group is the one who suggests that I ask for “advice for my search.”

    And I have been having much better luck getting interviews since I revamped my cover letters. The problem is that really doing a good job applying has been very time-consuming-I really research the website, write a customized cover letter, tailor my resume, carefully insert the proper keywords…after all that, I’m exhausted! I only get 4-5 applications out per week (less if I have an interview to prepare for too) and that’s not a high enough volume, since even if I get an interview, I will be competing against Really Qualified People. But back when I was blasting lots applications with much customizing, I was getting no interviews.

    1. Josh S

      Your job-search support group is giving you bad advice in this case. (And given that, possibly other cases too.) Perhaps use them more for ‘support’ (like, “don’t get depressed about being unemployed because the market sucks right now”) and less for actual job hunting advice?

      And there’s 2 things about your coverletters that I’d like to share:
      -First, you don’t need to be so time-consuming with your approach. Instead, if you were describing the position to a friend, what would you say that describes why you’re a good fit? You don’t need to cram in every little keyword and prove that you’ve exhausted their website to understand the culture of the company — you need to express your genuine interest in this job, and why your experience really makes you a good fit. Sure, that means you need to understand the job description and what is required. But it shouldn’t need to take all day.
      -Second, which would you rather do: Send out 100 applications and get 2 interviews, or send out 5 applications and get 4 interviews? Having more highly-targeted, better-prepared, more well-written cover letters that are tailored for specific positions that you are actually excited about is a better strategy — in terms of success rate, efficiency of your time, and total opportunities — than blasting your resume out there for whoever picks it up off the ground. And which company do you think is going to be better to work for?

      Don’t fret about spending time on your cover letters and not getting as many out. It’s the better strategy.

    2. Runon

      It is totally ok to only get that many. Think about this from an ROI perspective.

      In one week:
      You submit 50 blasted applications you got a return of 0 interviews.
      You submit 5 good applications you get a return of 1 interview.

      You can blast thousands but if you don’t get good return then you don’t get a win.

      1. Lynn

        I agree. Even once I got my personal job-applying “system” down really pat, it took a couple hours per job I actually applied to. But I got a really good response rate, many more interviews than my fellow layoff victims who spammed out their resumes at the rate of dozens a day. (There were a couple hundred of us laid off at once, and we kept in touch for a while, so it was a semi-controlled experiment in job search techniques.)

      1. VictoriaHR

        I must respectfully disagree.

        I wasn’t getting any calls for interviews with my standard resume until I started including specific words and phrases from the job posting into my resume. Assuming, of course, that I had experience in those exact things. As soon as I started doing that, I had 3 calls for interviews in 1 week, 1 of which turned into my present role.

        I will always tailor my resume with specific words from the postings going forward. Generating a word cloud from the job posting helped me also.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Hmmm. I’m not saying that to say “Kerry says it so it’s true!” (Although Kerry is awesome and that would be a good argument.) I’m saying it to mean, of course any good recruiter isn’t going to only search by one specific keyword for what they’re looking for (as she argues there).

              1. ABC

                I agree with VictoriaHR
                – its not “Keywords that Software Reads and People Search For” but
                “Keywords from Job Post that Instantly Convince HR/Hiring Manager that Job Fit Exists”

                When you reflect back *with exact same words/phrase* what the job posting says, it becomes easier for the person on the other side to recognise the fit faster. Thats all. No fancy software thing to it!

          1. KayDay

            I had always been told the keyword myth by our career center, but the article doesn’t completely disprove it. It just clarifies what happens. Kerry does agree that corporate recruiters do use keywords, just with the caveat that they use a much broader set of keywords than urban legend gives them credit for, and don’t limit themselves as much to these keywords as the myth states (because they want to a complete picture of who all is applying).

            For example:
            What the job add asks for: “Experience with Exceed by Sage donor management system.”
            What ‘urban legend’ says will be searched for: “Exceed by Sage” and “donor management system”
            What Kerry says will actually be searched for: “Exceed” or “Sage” or “donor management” or “donor tracking” or “donor database” or “fundraising software”…….as well as other keywords about other things.

            So, to me, it still makes sense to tailor your resume using keywords from the posting, it’s just not necessary to freak out that the word “synergize” isn’t on your resume.

            1. Elizabeth

              I’m not sure what it says that when I saw “Sage” & “Donor”, my brain went to “organ transplant management”. Because there is software produced by a company called Sage _____ for managing transplant candidates and matching them to potential donors.

            2. Ask a Manager Post author

              Oh, I agree with that — it’s the idea that there are very specific keywords that you must include and if you don’t have those you’ll be overlooked that I disagree with.

              1. Jane Doe

                I think the silliest piece of advice I ever received along those lines was to add keywords in white (so they’d be invisible) somewhere in the margins/at the bottom of my resume or cover letter so that any keyword tracking tool would pick them up.

                1. Hyhybt

                  That sounds like an especially bad idea: it would be very easy for anyone looking at the document in electronic form to see those, whether intentionally or by accident, and people who set up automated systems don’t appreciate attempts to bypass them.

            3. Joey

              They’re certainly not used as much nowadays- I think now they’re sort of a last line of defense. Back in the day systems were pretty basic and search words were a common way to screen. But there have been improvements and longer drawn out applications that allow us to screen much more efficiently.

        1. Joey

          The only place I’ve ever used keywords was on 3rd party sites that sell access to their resume database like Monster. And it’s largely because the volume is so overwhelming when you filter the standard criteria that’s the only way to parse it down. But most in house systems have more efficient means of screening.

    3. Anonymous

      5 great applications per week is SO MUCH BETTER than 20 so-so applications per week. A “blast” approach is not the way to go. When I was j0b searching, I could go an entire week with no applications because nothing I found matched my skills close enough. Other weeks, I might get out 2-3. Find the jobs that are the BEST match to you and your skills and spend the time writing a quality cover letter.

      1. EM

        I agree. When I was job hunting, I was VERY PICKY about what I applied to because while I was unhappy at my job, I a) had a job, and b) wasn’t so unhappy I was going to quit with nothing lined up. I applied to maybe 20-50 positions over a period of about a year (I didn’t really keep track), and I wasn’t particularly consistent about my search either. Out of those, I got 3 interviews, and one offer.

  4. Hannah

    My mom tried to convince me that I needed to get a letter of recommendation written by my supervisor to take when I leave (one-year service position).

    When I gently explained that no one wants letters anymore (except for academia, which is not my field), she got really mad and took it quite personally that I didn’t want to follow her advice.

    I guess I should just nod and smile in the future.

    1. Anon

      Good luck actually getting something like that from your supervisor in the first place. Most are too busy to do it. I would be concerned if they did, that they didn’t knock it out of the park.

    2. Rana

      I’m rather fond of Captain Awkward’s response to bad advice: “Thanks! I’ll think about it!”

      Because, as she says, you will think about it, even if only to dismiss it, right? ;)

      1. JT

        I was in an economics class that had some fairly high-level and highly opinionated students in it (mid-career grad students). And when the professor completely disagreed with something one of them said he’d go “Right. Right. Right.” and then just talk about whatever he wanted. Not sure they got it. Not the best teaching method. But slightly funny.

  5. VictoriaHR

    My Dad always insisted that I should pound the pavement and walk into all of the businesses downtown and ask if they were hiring, then hand out my resume in person. Yes, Dad, in 1952…

    1. Jamie

      We get a couple of those a week still. And I’ve yet to see one who was looking for a job that had anything to do with our industry – it’s just to drop off a resume and get a signature on a form that proves to UI you were out looking for work.

      They go from business to business to meet the criteria.

      1. Anonymous

        @ Jamie…I can see that. It does make sense. At least it gets you out of the house for a bit, fresh air and exercise and all that. Better than sitting at home and trolling Monster or Craigslist every 15 minutes waiting for job postings to list.

      2. Jane Doe

        Ugh. That annoys me so much that some states handle UI like that, because all those applicants are doing is possibly annoying someone they’ve already filled out a job application for.

        Or they’re just annoying the receptionist who thinks it’s odd that someone would try to apply in person instead of online.

      3. khilde

        Do you have the option as an employer to refuse to sign the form that proves they are looking for work? I’m just curious more than anything. Like if the person clearly, clearly is not a serious candidate. Could you refuse them? Have you? My instinct would be yes.

        1. Jamie

          I’ve refused when it was blatant that they had no intention of looking for work. Drunk, in groups of 3-5 like a party, refusal to fill out applicantion beyond name. Or when I asked what kind of work they were looking for and they said they just needed a signature.

          Not everyone, but that happened more than you’d think.

          When it was clear they scamming I refused to sign.

      4. Ellie H.

        Hearing about that practice always makes me think of that scene in Trainspotting when Spud and Rent Boy are going on interviews trying not to get hired so that they can get public assistance.

    2. AnotherAlison

      The exception would be a position as stable boy & manure shoveler. My 15 yo son just got a job this way. : )

      I highly, highly doubt any AAM readers are looking for that kind of job, though, and I agree it’s not for professional jobs. Who even answers that question at an office? I’m assuming the receptionist just refers people to the website, but it’s not like the person you talk to is likely involved in hiring.

    3. Anonymous

      I got the same advice from my dad who hasn’t had to look for a job since 1957, when he started his union job. :)

      My dad is a lovely, lovely man but acts like he is an authority on all matters. Job hunting is something I know much, much more about than he does.

      1. EM

        “My dad is a lovely, lovely man but acts like he is an authority on all matters.”

        This reminds me of so many of my older male relatives it made me smile. This is when you kiss his cheek and say, “Thanks for your help, Daddy”. :)

    4. Anonymous

      I’m so glad I have a big girl job now so my parents don’t give me this terrible advice anymore.

  6. Jamie

    I would like to post a special message to my kids, all of whom have been sent links to AAM posts (by me) when they were interviewing:

    You three should always listen to your mother. If I don’t know for sure, or it’s out of my wheelhouse, I’ll direct you to the archives here. If it’s not a topic already covered then ask Alison. And use your spell check if you’re going to write to her – let’s not embarrass the family.

    Thank you.

  7. Chris O.

    I would like to vouch for the second piece of advice being pretty good. When I graduated college and started looking around (granted, I had a lot of internship experience so I had a decent resume), I searched for jobs based on two categories – 1) What I wanted to do, and 2) Where I wanted to live. If I couldn’t find any jobs through my search of what job I wanted to do, I would search for companies in a given city or metro area, and just do the email equivalent of a cold-call.

    I’d write up a cover letter explaining how I found them and how my education and skills were relevant in their specific area of expertise. I’d throw in my introduction that I was aware they didn’t have any openings I was aware of but that I wanted to live and work in the area and was excited to be finished with college so I was just trying to get my name out there. I got a few responses and ended up with an interview that turned into the job I have now. It’s not perfect but I LOVE where I live and am planning my future moves.

    1. AnotherAlison

      Who did you address your letters to? If emailing, you must have had an email address, but I’m curious if you were sending it to recruiting@company.com or if you hunted down the name/email of the right department manager.

      1. Jane Doe

        I noticed that a lot of companies encouraged people to send in resumes and cover letters (usually to a recruiting@company email address) even if there were no posted positions or if there weren’t any positions posted that you were interested in.

  8. businesslady

    quick caveat re: bond paper–if you’re in academia & the first page of your hard-copy cover letter is on a bond-weight letterhead, it’s going to seem weird if the second page isn’t on bond or another paper that’s thicker than usual copy paper.

    (but of course, outside of academia your cover letter shouldn’t be more than one page–or on letterhead for that matter, in most instances–so this is only going to apply to a very narrow group of people.)

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      This is true in other contexts where you’re printing on bond-weight letterhead, and I’m always surprised by how many people don’t know it! I’ve lost count of the number of interns or entry-level staffers who (probably never having had to print on letterhead before in their lives) would bring me letters to sign where the second page was on different weight paper than the first.

      1. businesslady

        …& if you’re a former entry(ish)-level staffer whose job it once was to prepare those sorts of letters, it’s something you’re never going to forget for the rest of your life. :)

      2. Anonymous

        And here I thought it was a ‘convention’ to receive nice letterhead first page and copy-paper “other pages”, after receiving my last couple of job offers prepared in that fashion!

  9. Oxford Comma

    If you are applying for an academic position that requires you to snail mail in a number of documents (there are still institutions who do this, although their numbers are dwindling), you WOULD want to use a large envelope.

    1. Rana

      No kidding. When I was first on the market, those things could get huge, especially since you couldn’t count on the members of the search committee being computer-savvy enough to cope with attachments or online materials. There’s a lot of upfront cost in applying for academic positions, that’s for sure.

  10. Chocolate Teapot

    It’s ages since I printed off a hard copy of my CV to send as an application, but I did buy a pack of 90g paper instead of the 80g I would normally use. It did give a slightly more “robust” feel.

  11. Kay

    First letter writer here.

    Thanks for the input. Regarding the company itself, a friend who used to work with some of the staffers at the company tells me that their reasoning for having mailed-in resumes is to avoid the inevitable email blast from every job seeker in the area. They only want people who are willing to follow the directions in the job posting, which I totally understand.

    1. Anonymous

      That makes sense. I interviewed for a job and I asked why they pulled the listing after a weekend. They got over 300 applicants in 2 days. Wow

  12. girlreading

    It took me a while to get my mom to believe that you can’t just go “knock on doors” anymore to get a job. Many places don’t want you to come in and require you to apply through their online system and only there. I’ve even come across many staffing agencies in my job search that say on their website that they don’t accept walk ins. She has the best of intentions though.

    @Kay, that makes sense I guess, but I can imagine it would turn some people away from the posting thinking that company’s hiring processes (and by extension, many other things) are outdated.

    1. birdgirl

      My Dad will just tell me the name of a company and ask if I sent them a resume. I’ll look and see if they have an opening, and when they don’t, he gets all huffy because I didn’t spam the hiring manager with my resume.

      And my Mom told me today if she had two applicants who were exactly the same in every way, except one had been unemployed for a while and one had a job, she’d pick the unemployed one because she’d feel bad for them. This is why I come to AAM for advice! :)

  13. Cimorene

    May I ask a related question about informational interviews? A friend from college–not a very close one, but she knows me well enough–sent me some info about a job opening that would be a GREAT fit for me (the job posting hasn’t been made public yet). I’m in grad school right now, but am looking to leave academia ASAP (sans PhD), and this is in an academia-adjacent non-profit. She knows the hiring manager, and says we’d get along, and suggested I get in touch for an informational interview, to find out more about the position, etc. The job description is that weird vague-specific thing, where the requirements/qualifications section describes precise attributes rather than specific skills (“project managing,” “strategic decision-making,” etc, though admittedly somewhat more specific than that).

    So I want to email the hiring manager (I have her email because my friend forwarded the letter from me, and gave me the go-ahead to say she recommended the job to me) and ask for an informational interview, because I do want to know more about this job, what they’re looking for, what it involves, etc, before I send in a cover letter and resume. But this does appear to be somewhere between “informational interview” and “leveraging your connections to increase your chances of being considered for a particular job” (as Alison described it here. Any advice about how to approach this interview–or, more immediately, how to word the email I should send her, introducing myself and asking for an interview?

    PS. Thank god for this website, which is seriously helping me manage the transition from weirdo-academia-rules to normal-person-not-antiquated-rules. Or, at least, begin that transition.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yeah, that’s not really an informational interview in the sense that the term is usually used, but don’t be thrown off by the way your friend is using it. I’d send the hiring manager an email saying that X recommended that you reach out about the job, and that you’d love to talk with her about it if she thinks you might be a possible match for it. Add a little bit about your background and the fact that you’re looking to move out of academia. Include your resume too. (Because otherwise she can’t say if she’ll want to talk to you or not.)

      This actually isn’t that much different than actually applying for a job through a connection — your friend is just telling you to make it a little less formal/official than that.

      1. Josh S

        Treat your email almost like a cover letter. Tell the hiring manager that your friend recommended you for the position, why you’re excited about the position, and a bit about why you think you’d be a strong fit. Then ask to talk further.

        Because really, you’re asking for a preliminary job interview.

    2. Cimorene

      Oh my god I am filled with self-loathing at my failure to close that parenthetical phrase. I am so, so sorry. Ugh.

    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      Oh, and I should add: I’m not a fan of just asking her to meet to tell you more about the job so you can decide if you want to apply or not, at least not without including info about you and a resume. When I’m on the receiving end of that, my reaction is always that I can’t possibly know if I want to spend time meeting with someone to discuss the job until I see their resume and determine if they’re someone I’d want to potentially pursue for the role. If they’re not, then I want them to just go ahead and apply like everyone else; it wouldn’t be a good use of my time to talk them through the job before they do. Does that make sense?

      1. Cimorene

        Thanks. Yeah, I was torn because it felt really presumptuous to be like, “please tell me more about this job please,” like I deserved special treatment. And I was originally planning to just send in a cover letter and resume, but when I told my friend that, she suggested that I get in touch with her friend before I sent in my information. I trust my friend, and would like to follow her advice, but I also don’t want to come across as that person who, uninvited and unexpected, pretends to be having an informal conversation while actually attempting to convince someone to hire me.

        But I feel much better about how to go forward, so thank you so much for your (extremely prompt, I might add) advice.

        1. Anonymous

          Re: the promptness. Although I’ve never wrote in, by the way some letter writers come in with a comment about the resolution of some situation, I can only imagine that Alison responds to letters within hours!

          1. Kathryn T.

            I’ve written to her a couple of times — she does. Even when she doesn’t post them here, she gives great advice within the day.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Not always :)

              Depends on when you happen to get me and whether the question can be answered quickly. (I don’t want to give anyone false hope of a fast answer — I try to get to as many as I can, but I don’t always get to everything, and some end up going unanswered, just for lack of time.)

              But thank you!

  14. Anonymous

    Geberally, If your parents have not searched for a job or hired anyone in the past 5 years, they probably shouldn’t give advice, as well meaning as it may be. Smile, say thank you, and move on.

  15. Elizabeth West

    It’s so rare that I’m wondering if you came across this ad in an old newspaper from 1989 that your parents have lying around?

    This made me laugh out loud. Nice one, Alison!

  16. XT

    Should you follow your parents’ job search advice???

    Eeeeeek, my mom would call me to remind me to “call back” on a job, or write a thank you letter every time you have an interview. When I actually entered the work-force, every manager that I’ve had including myself has found that creepy and annoying. This isn’t 1975.

    Parentals tend to give great advice about so many things- unfortunately job searching hasn’t been one of them…at least for me!

  17. Luis Zach

    Not only should you ditch parents’ job search advice (ex: my mom and dad are in their 60s and retired and Dad just learned Windows last year), but it’s good to avoid job search advice from people who’ve been out of school a while too. I’m turning 40 next weekend and my wife is 36. We wouldn’t know the first thing about the expectations for new grads other than a general awareness that times are rough and the job search takes a while. The best advice I got was to get a mentor a couple levels ahead of me who was about 5-6 years older. It served me well when I was young and I hope it helps you too.

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