your interviewer knows what she’s doing and other job searching myths

Here are 10 myths about job-searching:

1. Myth: You need connections in order to get a job, because managers generally hire people they know.

 Fact: Connections are helpful, but plenty of people get jobs by spotting an ad, sending in a resume, and interviewing. Sometimes it might not feel that way, because there are so many job-seekers competing for a limited number of jobs, which means most people are getting fewer interviews (and even fewer job offers). But plenty of jobs still go to people without connections at the company.

2. Myth: No one reads cover letters.

Fact: A well-written cover letter with personality can get you an interview when your resume alone wouldn’t have. Sure, there are some hiring managers out there who don’t bother with cover letters – but there are many who do, and you have no way of knowing which type you’re dealing with. With so many stories of cover letters opening doors that otherwise would have stayed shut, it would be foolish to pass up this incredibly effective way of standing out.

3. Myth: Employers will respond to you right away if they’re interested.

Fact: Some employers take weeks or even months to respond to candidates. Sometimes this is because they’re waiting until the end of the application period before they contact any candidates, and sometimes it’s because higher-priority work gets in the way. (Of course, sometimes it can also be because the company is disorganized.) Regardless of the reasons, job-seekers shouldn’t jump to any conclusions if they don’t hear back right away.

4. Myth: In a crowded field, job-seekers need to find creative ways to stand out.

Fact: If you want to stand out, write a great cover letter and have a resume that demonstrates a track record of success in the area the employer is hiring for. Fancy designs, having your resume delivered by overnight mail, video resumes, and other gimmicks don’t make up for a lack of qualifications and can put off some hiring managers.

5. Myth: Don’t bother job hunting around the holidays, since hiring managers are away or otherwise not focused on hiring.

Fact: Lots of hiring gets done in December!  In fact, some hiring managers are scrambling to fill positions before the new year. And you may even have less competition, since other job-seekers may have slowed down their search at this time of year.

6. Myth: Your resume should only be one page.

Fact: 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.

7. Myth: Lowering your salary expectations will make you a more attractive candidate.

Fact: Employers are going to hire the best person for the job, within the limits of what they can afford. They aren’t likely to prefer someone else just because he or she comes cheaper.

8. Myth: Your interviewer knows what he or she is doing.

Fact: While interviewers should all be trained in how to interview effectively, the reality is that many are inexperienced, unskilled, or otherwise unable to conduct strong interviews. They may be unprepared, ask bad questions, or simply be rude.

9. Myth: If you want to stand out, you need to call to follow up on your application and push for an interview.

Fact: Most employers will tell you that these calls don’t help and sometimes hurt. 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. Myth: Employers will only call the references on the list you gave them.

Employers can call anyone you’ve worked for or who might know you, and good reference-checkers won’t limit themselves to the formal list of references you provide. They’ll call former managers, listed or not — and sometimes, especially those not listed, since they know the omission may have been intentional and thus notable. After all, the list you hand over is, of course, the people likely to present you in the most flattering light, and they want to see you in brighter lighting. The only thing typically considered off-limits in reference-checking is calling your current employer; all else is all fair game.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 10 comments… read them below }

  1. JT*

    I have the impression that connections can help make sure a letter/resume is looked if a lot of applications are received, but not so much about actually getting a job.

  2. Katya*

    I like your point about how not all interviewers know what they are doing. These last few weeks I’ve been conducting the first interviews of my life (alumni interviews for my alma mater) and I am painfully aware of the steep learning curve involved in becoming a good interviewer. I have tried to adopt your interview tips for this application, too, even though it’s a little different from a regular job interview.

  3. Gillian*

    I like your “mythbusters” posts. The “no one reads cover letters” point definitely resonated with me. A good cover letter has helped me get jobs in the past and, when hiring, I ALWAYS read the letter. It gives insight into a candidate’s personality in ways the resume doesn’t.

  4. Anonymous*

    #7 : as a corollary, in case you ask for a higher than their ‘limit’ but if you seem like a good fit, would the company try to negotiate? or would they walk away? Or wait untill the company gives a number?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It depends on how far apart you are. If you’re really far apart, that’s probably the end of that. But if you’re within a reasonable amount, they’ll usually negotiate.

      1. Chris Walker*

        Anonymous–The only honest answers to questions like yours are Yes, No & Maybe. Employers/recruiters/hiring managers are just people. As diverse a group of interesting, nice, weird, creative, creepy etc. people that you encounter in the rest of your life, well those people are employers/recruiters/hiring managers. If you have read this blog for any length of time, you have seen plenty of examples of bizarre behavior in the questions.

        Job seekers need to get over the notion that there are very many hard and fast answers in this process. There is a lot of play it by ear. A simple example: ‘How long do I have to accept or reject a job offer?’ You can find a general rule of thumb, but the question remains, does that general rule apply in your specific situation. You’re the one who has been involved in the process up to that point. You should have an idea of the employer’s urgency to fill the position by that point, and you should act accordingly. As I said in the response below, Pay Attention.

  5. Chris Walker*

    2. A cover letter is especially important when it may not be obvious from the resume that the candidate is quakified. You want to avoid the ‘Why is he applying for this job?’ reaction. You have to make the connection for them.

    3. I once received a call 11 months after submitting a resume at a job fair.

    5. Amen.

    6. Just make sure that the one thing that will trip the trigger of the reviewer isn’t buried at the bottom of page 2; they may never get there.

    7. When I was District Manager for 5 stores in a small retail chain, no one gave me any training or guidance in screening or interviewing. It was all seat of the pants. Generally, I was more nervous than the candidates.

    9. Pay attention, follow directions don’t be a stalker. In the interview it is imperative that you determine and agree on appropriate follow up. When they say ‘We hope to have a decision by next Wednesday’, you say ‘If I haven’t heard from you by Friday, is it OK if I call, or would you prefer an e-mail?’

  6. Revanche*

    Not that this is a competition but your list is way better than Forbes’s list. I disagreed with 4/10 of their list. I mean, seriously, one of their items focused on physical characteristics being more important than skills which some hiring managers may choose to hire based on, but the recommendation was to consider plastic surgery or some such. ??

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