job search rules you should break

There are a bunch of job search rules out there that you should break with impunity, from always opening your resume with your education, to arriving really early for an interview, to refusing to name a salary number first, and more.

Over at U.S. News & World Report today, I talk about 10 job search rules that you can scoff at and then ignore. You can read it here.

{ 9 comments… read them below }

  1. Greg

    I think the most important rule to break is the one that says you should slavishly follow rules. With very few exceptions (eg, you should always send a thank-you note), I can’t think of very many absolutes to the job-search process. Sometimes you should state your salary, other times you should bob and weave. Sometimes you should dress up for the interview, other times dress down.

    How do you know what to do? Ah, that’s the tricky part. You have to use your own judgment. Scary, I know. Sometimes, as with appropriate dress, you can just ask. But mostly, it comes down to things like context and reading clues from your interviewer. For example, if you’re doing an HR phone screen for a well-defined role with a large company, odds are very good that dodging the salary question could kill your chances. But if you’re talking with the CEO of a startup about a newly created role, she may not have a number in mind, and may not press you if you decline to name a number. Or maybe she will; you have to pay close attention to her reaction.

    It’s unsettling to realize there’s not always a well-defined path. But it is essential to be flexible, and to be able to assess a situation and make a decision on the fly. Actually, that’s true outside of the job-search process, too.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I agree with this 100%. The problem is that most people don’t have a baseline of information about how hiring works on the employer’s side and often find the whole thing stressful and mysterious. So having the basics is useful, and then they can make judgment calls from there.

  2. J

    Any comments on this – I just got a second master’s degree. My previous degrees were in 1991 and 1987. I’ve been working at the same organization for 20 years. The new degree is part of a possible career shift, and is relevant to jobs I’m looking for. So I’m thinking about leading with education. The earlier degrees were from famous schools (Yale, Harvard) so it’s almost embarrassing to put them up front since they were so long ago. But I want to have my most recent degree highly visible for both the content of the degree and to imply that I’m keeping current. Does that make sense? The basic order of text would be as below:

    Education
    2011 masters degree, relevant to jobs I’m interested in
    MA 1991 famous university
    BA 1987 famous university

    Work experience
    20 years at one organization, split into about 4 job titles
    Recent part-time internship, relevant to jobs I’m looking for Another recent part-time internship, relevant to jobs I’m looking for

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I think that’s reasonable, because you have a very specific reason for why you’d lead with the education (unlike people who start with it because they just think they’re supposed to).

    2. Greg

      Without knowing all the details, my initial reaction is to say you shouldn’t list education first. Two reasons:

      1. The explanation you give is reasonable. However, you won’t be there to make that explanation when the hiring manager looks at your application. Absent that info, the HM might just assume you’re clueless.
      2. In this case, Harvard and Yale may work against you if the HM thinks that you’re listing education first in order to drop the “H-bomb”.

      I would suggest communicating the info you’re trying to get across differently, such as by explaining it in your summary. Listing education first is too easily misunderstood.

  3. J

    Thanks. One other question. I just (a few minutes ago) got my diploma in the mail. It’s dated this February but the my last class ended in December.

    I was in school part-time starting in 2009. Do you think I should list the degree as 12/2011 or 2/2012?

    I’ve been doing a range for school dates, ie 9/2009-12/2011.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Probably doesn’t really matter, but if you want to be exact, call the school and ask what they have recorded as your graduation date. That way, if an employer verifies, it’ll match up.

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