10 Job-Search Rules You Can Break

By Gerald Walsh ©

I generally like to follow rules. It makes life easier. But sometimes rules become out of date and no longer make sense.

This is certainly the case in job search. At one time, the employer held all the power. They set the rules and ultimately decided which candidate was going to be “lucky” enough to work for them.

As a result, a number of standard job-search practices emerged. If you violated these ‘rules’ you were often eliminated from consideration.

Those times are long gone. Here are ten rules you can now break.

1. You missed the application date and decide not to apply, thinking they won’t consider your resume.

If a well-qualified candidate applies a few days after the deadline, most employers will still consider that candidate, especially if the original pool of candidates is not strong. You should try to meet deadlines, of course, but never let this hold you back from applying for a job you want.

2. You cannot bring notes into the interview.

There might be the odd employer who prohibits them, but in almost all cases you can bring notes along. But don’t bring sheaths of paper. A couple of pages – containing points you want to make and questions you want to ask – will do.

3. You must include a career objective at the top of your resume.

This is nothing but a waste of space and often ignored by the person reading the resume. You will never be penalized for leaving this out.

4. Resumes should never be written in the first person.

I have never understood why you should not say “I” in your resume. After all, it is your experience and qualifications you are speaking about. Relax and write more personally. It will make your resume easier to read.

5. The best-qualified person will always get the job.

Not always. Assuming the minimum job requirements are met, it’s often the most likeable person who gets hired – the one the employer believes will be the best fit and will help them solve their problems.

6. Cast a wide net by sending out resumes to a large number of companies.

The theory was that by sending a generic resume to as many employers as possible, some were bound to stick. But a generic resume points to a generic candidate, not someone employers are looking for. Each of your resumes (and cover letters) should be carefully tailored to the job. It will increase your chances of being called for an interview.

7. You have to follow the application instructions precisely.

For the most part you should, but there is no harm in bending the rules. For example, some ads ask you to state your salary expectations. But salary discussions are best left to the end of the hiring process, after you know more about the job. If you’re well qualified, and leave your salary expectations out, you should still be called for an interview.

8. The employer is in control of the hiring process.

Interviewing – especially if your skills are in high demand – is very much a two-way process. You should come prepared to interview the employer as well. It will actually impress them.

9. Even if you are not interested in the job, attend the interview anyway just for the practice.

This is disrespectful to the employer and a complete waste of their time and yours. Your lack of interest will be obvious. If you need to practise your interviewing skills, do it with a friend.

10. Keep looking until you find a job you’re passionate about.

If you are one of the lucky few who can find your “dream job” and make a decent living – go for it! But for most people, the best way to discover your passion is to try many things, build your skills, and become proficient at your craft. You will find that as you become better and better at something, your passion for it will grow.


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Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career. You can follow Gerry on Twitter @@Gerald_Walsh