11 Job Search Myths, Debunked By A Recruiter


Navigating the job search process can seem like blindly throwing a handful of darts at a dart board. While there are there are a great deal of resources available to help with your search, candidates still have dozens of common misconceptions about the process that can impact employment chances. We’ve highlighted eleven job search myths applicants commonly mistake as truths about the job search process – and provide tips on what you should be doing instead.

Job Search Myth #1: Your resume should be a set length based on your years of experience

Truth: It’s about quality, not quantity.

HR Insider Tip: Include the information most relevant to the duties you performed in each role, and the duties that are most relevant to the job you’re applying for now. There’s no set rule on how long a resume should be – but there are some general guidelines on what not to do. If your resume is inappropriately long, it’s unlikely the recruiter will see your most important qualifications on their quick scan of your resume – for those later in their career, this means you may want to omit or shorten the descriptions of jobs that aren’t relevant. If your resume is too short, the recruiter won’t know what you bring to the table – and it’s not likely they’ll take the time to contact you to find out more.

Job Search Myth #2: Your application materials will be read in full

Truth: You have six seconds to impress the recruiter before they move on to the next candidate.

HR Insider Tip: The research all agrees – and I can concur – that a recruiter will give your resume just a quick scan before they make a decision. If they’re interested, they’ll read more. To catch their eye, make sure all of the important information you want the recruiter to see is presented on the first page of your resume, and is organized in an easy-to-read way. Break up sections, ensure your job titles are accurate, and make sure you’ve fully read the job posting to make sure you’ve submitted what they asked for. And make sure that there are no typos – nothing sends a recruiter running faster than a cover letter tailored to someone else’s job posting, or inconsistent and incorrect spelling and grammar.

Job Search Myth #3: A cover letter isn’t necessary unless requested

Truth: A cover letter is a huge asset in your job search, and should always be included.

HR Insider Tip: While it’s true that recruiters likely won’t read them, a cover letter should always be included in your application. A cover letter is generally read after a recruiter has either a) decided that you’re qualified, and will use the cover letter to confirm their decision, or b) saw something interesting in your resume, but hasn’t quite made a decision yet. Either way, it’s a supplement to your application, and will help sway the recruiter’s decision one way or another. Without a cover letter, they’re just left to guess about the questions they have after viewing your resume. (And this should go without saying, but always tailor your cover letter to the opening you’re applying for!)

Job Search Myth #4: One resume can be used to apply to multiple jobs

Truth: A resume needs to be tailored to the role you’re applying for.

HR Insider Tip: Sure, you can theoretically use the same resume to apply for each role – and most people do. But if you want your application to stand out, you’ll need to do some research, and target your resume to the position and the company. Many companies today use an applicant tracking system to do an initial filter of resumes before they even get to the recruiter. Tailor your resume to the opening by using the same key words as the job description, highlighting specific accomplishments and skills relevant to the role, and ensure that you’ve met all of the requirements listed in the posting. You’ll be more likely to pass that initial screen and get a chance to show the recruiter what you can do.

Job Search Myth #5: Contacting a recruiter to “follow up on an application” will show that you’re interested in the role.

Truth: If you’re a good candidate, the recruiter will contact you.

HR Insider Tip: Your application materials should be strong enough to speak for themselves and identify you as a strong candidate. Reaching out to “show your interest” in a role will not change a recruiter’s mind about whether you’re qualified, which is generally what happens in the initial screening round. Instead of reaching out to the recruiter to “follow up”, start following the recruiter and other employees on Twitter (if it’s a professional account) and LinkedIn, or follow the company’s social media outlets – it shows your interest without requiring a reciprocal action from the recruiter. While some recruiters will get back to you right away, others could take weeks to contact you, depending on their application process – so no news is not always bad news in an application situation. Be patient, and if you’re really the right candidate, the recruiter will contact you.

Job Search Myth #6: There is a set list of questions you should ask in an interview.

Truth: Ask questions that address your concerns.

HR Insider Tip: You get one, maybe two hours of an interviewer’s time before you may need to make a decision about working for them – make the time count! Ask questions that pertain to the job you’re interviewing for and questions that will further your understanding of the position’s role within the organization. Asking stock questions or asking questions just to kill time looks can come across as a lack of understanding of the role or the organization, and will be a waste of time for both you and the interviewer. 

Job Search Myth #7: All questions should be saved for the end of the interview.

Truth: Interviews should be a two-way conversation, and you should ask questions as they’re appropriate.

HR Insider Tip: Some interviewers may tell you that they’ll answer all of your questions at the end. but in general, the interview should flow as a natural conversation. If the interviewer asks a question about your experience, tell them what they need to know, and ask a related question back. By intertwining your questions in the conversation, you’ll be able to ask questions to more direct pieces of the role, and dig deep to find out what you need to know – as opposed to leaving all of your concerns until the end and forgetting what you meant to ask.

Job Search Myth #8: The best way to get a job is to apply online via a job board.

Truth: Networking and social media are your biggest assets in a job search.

HR Insider Tip: Companies used to pay thousands of dollars per year to post their jobs on the biggest job search boards. Today, that’s all changed. While you’ll still find postings on Monster and Careerbuilder, many employers are taking their candidate search elsewhere. Check out their social media pages – especially Twitter, which is rapidly becoming one of the largest outlets for job postings. And network, network, network. If there’s a company you’re interested in working for, don’t wait until there’s a job posted to reach out – they may have an unposted opportunity that’s just perfect for you. Connect with recruiters and decision makers for that organization on LinkedIn, join groups relevant to your industry and role, and use your network to find your next role.

Job Search Myth #9: Don’t discuss salary until you’ve been offered a job.

Truth: Do your research.

HR Insider Tip: Compensation is always a touchy subject, and you’ll find that most advice suggests leaving this conversation until you’re further along in the interview process. It’s difficult to navigate this dance, as if you ask for too much, you may take yourself out of the running, but if you ask for too little, you may miss the opportunity for a raise. Yet, for some people, there really is a set number they’d need to see in order to consider accepting a role – and if you wait until your third interview to find out that they can’t offer that salary, you’ve just wasted your and the company’s time. If that’s the case, make it known early on in the interview process – but include it as part of a range you’d like to be within. Otherwise, do your research, budget an appropriate raise for yourself, and have a number in mind as you interview with the organization. That way if you are asked what you’d need to make, you’ll have a smart, likely attainable number in mind.

Job Search Myth #10: Promote yourself in any way possible to get the recruiter’s attention.

Truth: Your qualifications are what will get you a job – not your gimmicks.

HR Insider Tip: Recruiters are bombarded daily with hundreds of candidates all applying for the same role. And while gimmicks can make you stand out from the pack, it’s generally in a less-than-positive way. When it all boils down, it’s your qualifications that are the most important piece of your application. If the skills and experience aren’t there, it won’t matter that you’ve included in your cover letter that you’re the “perfect candidate for the job” or that you’ve dropped your resume off in person, or sent the recruiter a box of chocolates (hint: don’t do any of those things). 

Job Search Myth #11: If you follow the rules, you’ll find a job in no time.

Truth: There’s no secret recipe to land a job.

HR Insider Tip: Every job is different, every company is different, and most importantly, every recruiter is different. There are some rules of thumb that just about every recruiter looks for, but in reality, everyone is looking for something particular, and you either have it or you don’t. If you’re not receiving responses from your application, adjust your job search system until you find a strategy that works for you. Assess the situation before you blindly follow job search advice, and create a job search strategy that works for you. As we mentioned above, the days of just blindly submitting applications are over – you have a plethora of resources at your fingertips, and you’ll need to use them in order to get your resume in front of the right people.

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