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Let’s Debunk Some Job Search Myths

Everywhere you turn, someone is offering you advice. Don’t look for a job over the holidays or during the summer. You do not need to write a cover letter. Always wear a suit to an interview.

So let’s separate the fact from the fiction and debunk some major job search myths.

Myth: All you need to do is apply online.  Everything is done online these days, even looking for a new job.

Job boards are a strong temptation. It’s easy to convince yourself that you’re being productive when you sit at your computer all day and simply apply for the positions you find.

Unfortunately, your chances of landing a position through an online job board are small.  In a recent survey conducted by the Adler Group and LinkedIn, 85% of respondents claimed that they got their last job through networking  – not through a job board.

Employers receive hundreds of submissions for every job they post online. Many of those come from unqualified job seekers, because job boards have significantly lowered the barriers for applying to almost nothing. Therefore, the unqualified figure they have nothing to lose by hitting “send”…and in many cases they are right.

But you need to ask yourself if you are pursuing all avenues in your job search. Are you networking (both offline and online)? Attending job fairs? Working with a staffing firm? Researching and visiting companies’ career sites? Using social media? Reaching out to family members? Job boards are not going to cause a job offer to fall into your lap. Your networking and determination will. So give some thought to what tools you have in your arsenal and how you can leverage them all in your job search.

Myth: Changing jobs regularly is frowned upon by employers.

It is true that job hoppers are scrutinized, but it is at a different level than just a decade ago. Today, people switch jobs, with most changing jobs anywhere between 10 to 15 times during their career. The average tenure is now only 4.6 years. Employers have recognized this. They know that to “climb the ladder” and get a better salary / benefits, employees often have to change job regularly.

However, you should avoid very short job durations lasting less than six months. Multiple 3 month stints are very hard to explain as anything but job hopping.

Myth: Cover letters are not important.

Cover letters are still an integral part of your job-search strategy. A resume just gives an account of your work experience, skill sets and core competencies. A cover letter humanizes you. However, it is not a silver bullet; nothing in the job search is. But, if it is well written, a hiring manager may spend more than the typical 6 seconds reviewing it. So every time you apply for a position, send a customized, well-written cover letter. It can still make a difference, if you are creative enough to position yourself properly.  Make it compelling, fun to read and succinct.

Myth: You will have a tough time looking for a job if you are over a certain age.

No one is saying that ageism has been eradicated. However, people over 50 are no longer universally seen as old. They are seen as seasoned, experienced and strategically-minded. And this is what a great many employers are looking for.

The key is to always work to hone your skills. The workplace has changed drastically in 30 years. There is now an emphasis on self-service.  An employee (of any age) needs to have tactical skills as well as a strategic mind. So focus on bringing those two things to the table. In addition, the right attitude and temperament goes a long way. If you are viewed as a team player who is willing to embrace change, your age will not matter one bit.

Myth: Your resume needs to be one page.

Almost everyone has heard this myth. This one statement has caused many job seekers to use 8 point fonts, apply 1/8 inch margins, and leave off vital information just to squeeze everything onto one page.

One page resumes are fine for students or recent graduates with little or no experience, but candidates with work experience need room to highlight their skills and accomplishments.

Presenting a 2 page resume is a better rule of thumb, unless you work in the technology (or some other highly specialized field) where having up-to-date certifications and relevant work experience is extremely necessary.

Remember, brevity does not equal quality, and length does not equal quality. What does scream “quality” is a persuasive and compelling resume that highlights your skills, talents and achievements. It is just a matter of picking the right type of resume to do just that.

Myth: Don’t search for a job over the holidays. Employers stop hiring in December.

Whatever you do, do not stop your job search over the holidays.

It is true, many hiring managers are on vacation, but if you use the holidays as an excuse to take a break, you may be missing a huge opportunity. The need to hire quality people does not go away simply because a holiday appears on the calendar. After all, many employers are keen on hiring to ensure that they are fully staffed at the beginning of the year. They want to be ready to “hit the ground” running in the new year, so they will schedule interviews and make job offers in November and December.  They leverage the natural slowdowns around the holidays to get their ducks all in a row.

So take advantage of the fact that people believe this myth. With everyone taking a break, there will be much less competition, and you will have an easier time standing out from the crowd.

Suspending your job search could leave you struggling to make up for lost time in January.

Myth: You must always disclose your salary requirements up front.

It is true that many online applications force you to fill in “required salary” or “salary history” before you can submit. Sometimes giving this number is unavoidable, but not always. You should always try to delay it.

Try to enter “TBD” (to be determined) or “negotiable” in the box asking you for the information. The key is to make the employer want to hire you before you get to the point of talking about salary. If you are viewed as a great talent, then employers are more willing to negotiate. If you discuss salary too soon, that number can be used as part of the vetting process. You want to do all you can to keep the upper hand regarding salary negotiation.

Myth: Do not follow up after the interview. You will be viewed as a badgering nag.

It is perfectly acceptable to ask about the hiring timeline at the end of an interview. You can even proactively ask to contact the hiring manager after a certain period of time.

If your nerves got the best of you, and you forgot to ask that question, it is OK to send an email or call, with one caveat. Do not blatantly ask for a decision. Think of something pertinent to the interview and expand on it, like “I know you’re probably still interviewing candidates but I was thinking back to our conversation about ___________, and I realized I forgot to tell you about _________________.”

This way it’s less badgering and more informative.