10 pieces of outdated career advice

Job search advice that worked a decade or more ago isn’t always effective today. In fact, some of it can hurt your chances. Here are 10 pieces of job search advice that are now outdated and which you should ignore.

1. You must use a landline for a phone interview. These days, many people don’t even have access to a landline, so this advice has become unrealistic. It’s still better to use a landline if you have one, but if you have to use a cell phone, check first to make sure that you’re somewhere quiet with good reception and strong sound clarity.

2. Your resume can only be one page. At some point in the past, resumes were supposed to be limited to one page. But times have changed, and two-page resumes are common now. People with only a few years of experience should still stick to one page, but two pages are fine for everyone else.

3. Every job has to go on your resume; it should present a complete account of your professional history. Your resume is a marketing document, designed to present your candidacy in the strongest possible light. It doesn’t need to be an exhaustive accounting of every job you’ve held.

4. Include “references available upon request” on the bottom of your resume. This is a convention from another time. These days, it’s assumed that you’ll provide references when asked and you don’t need to explicitly say it. Including that line takes up space unnecessarily and feels dated.

5. Include an objective at the top of your resume. Let’s ring the death knell for resume objectives. Hiring managers just don’t care about them; they care about what you can do for them. Objectives never help, and can often hurt – if they aren’t tailored enough to the position or even have nothing to do with it (which makes it look like you’re blasting your resume out without enough of a focus). Most objectives, though, just waste space. The trend now is to include highlights or a skills summary where the objective used to go.

6. Invest in good resume paper. Don’t invest in any resume paper. You should be submitting your resume electronically. The days of buying heavy stock to print resumes on are over.

7. Overnight your resume get the hiring manager’s attention. If you overnight your resume – or even if you simply mail it — you’ll only stand out as outdated. And as a nuisance because a paper resume is near-impossible to enter into today’s electronic application tracking systems.

8. When your interviewer asks about your weaknesses, offer up a positive framed as a weakness. This has become such an interview cliché that your interviewer will assume you’re being disingenuous. Interviewers have heard hundreds of people claim they’re perfectionists or that they work too hard; try something new.

9. Your resume and cover letter should be written in formal language. These days, the best resumes and cover letters sound like you. Well, the best version of you – not the you lounging on the couch eating chips. But conversational, slightly informal language is completely fine and is generally more compelling than overly stiff, formal language.

10. A few days after you submit your resume, call to “schedule an interview.” Job-seekers don’t get to decide to schedule the interview; employers do, and it’s inappropriately pushy, not “good salesmanship” to pretend otherwise. These days, with hundreds of applicants for every opening, if every applicant called to follow up, employers would spend all day fielding these calls. Believe me, they don’t want to.

{ 10 comments… read them below }

  1. Pam*

    Can you provide some example answers to the “What’s your weakness” questions? In this job market I don’t think anyone wants to market themselves as being weak in any aspect of their job. Or- maybe what you’re saying is that vulnerability is the key?

  2. Anonymous*

    As a recent college graduate who has conducted a (successful!) job search over the last couple of years, all of these things just make me cringe… I wonder how they ever were a good idea, like spandex.

  3. Natalie*

    I was so relieved when I first read your advice to skip the resume objective. Ever since I wrote my first resume at 15 I absolutely hated the “objective” section. They seemed weird and pointless to me then, and still do.

  4. Anonymous*

    FYI – I saw an ad in the paper the other day for a legitimate company asking applicants to mail (snail mail!) their cover letters and resumes. The company provided the mailing address and to whom to address it.

  5. Lynda*

    I’m wondering about deleting jobs from one’s resume. Does that prevent employers from contacting a former employer who might not have nice things to say? And assuming it’s not a large time gap, could it be explained like any other gap (for example, I was volunteering or I was obtaining more professional training)?

    1. Natalie*

      I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that hiring managers don’t expect every single job you’ve ever had to be on your resume. The gap doesn’t necessarily need to be explained on the resume, although you might be asked about it in the interview.

      There’s no foolproof way to make sure a prospective employer won’t find out about and contact all of your previous employers. I certainly wouldn’t lie about the gap – you have a good chance of successfully explaining away a job that was a poor fit or whatever, but not explaining away the lying.

    2. Long Time Admin*

      I never list all my jobs on my resume. Some of them wouldn’t be relevant, and some I don’t want to do ever again. I had a long period of unemployment when I made ends meet by temping, and then took a permanent job which lasted 3 months. I just lopped that time into my temping category.

  6. Tami M*

    This message comes almost a year after the original article was written, but I feel that it’s never too late to take the time to mention when something someone has taken the time to write and share has had a positive impact. So, here it is….

    Allison, I can’t tell you how much your articles are helping me transition into the 21st century. ;) I’m over 50, and have been holding firmly to my old, antiquated beliefs. IE: one page resumes, objectives, and using formal language.

    OMG!!!….I am soooooo excited to learn that I am no longer bound by those old skool approaches! I feel LIBERATED. :D However, it tells me that I’ve got much learning to do, and that I need to find resources that provide current/relevant information on job search, resume and cover letter writing. Arghhhh, that’s going to be an impossible mission!

    With that being said, I must extend my sincerest, most genuine THANK YOU possible!!! I’ll be spending much time here, reading and learning and putting your advice to good use. (I hope)

    Because of your willingess to take time out of your busy day to help those of us who aren’t privey to the ‘inside scoop’ as it pertains to employment related matters, I will now be better equipped to present myself in the best light possible. Thank you very much! :D

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