By Gerald Walsh ©
Every day I see intelligent people make serious mistakes when they look for a job. And this doesn’t just apply to young people entering the job market for the first time. I see candidates for very senior-level jobs write inadequate resumes, prepare poorly for interviews and present themselves badly in front of prospective employers.
Frankly, it puzzled me for years why smart people kept making the same mistakes when it came to looking for jobs. But then it finally struck me: there are certain well-kept secrets about the real way people get jobs. Yet it is also true that many job-seekers fall into the trap of what I call “job hunting myths” that restrict their ability to find a meaningful job.
Here are the ten biggest job-hunting myths I hear most often followed by the job market reality:
Myth #1 – If I apply for all kinds of different jobs, it will increase my chances of getting one.
Wrong! Employers can easily spot a general, mass application and they don’t like them. You should be selective and apply only for those jobs for which you meet the qualifications and criteria. Employers appreciate applicants who have taken the time to research their organization and who have demonstrated why they would be good in the particular role.
Myth #2 – I’ve sent my resume to a number of recruiting firms – one of them will find me a job.
Wrong! While you could find a job through a recruiter, you must remember that recruiters are hired by employers to fill their job openings. The employer is the client, not you. Recruiters will only recommend you to an employer if they think you are a strong fit for that employer’s needs.
Myth #3 – I am over 50 and worried that my age will be a problem.
Wrong! Age is much less of a factor than it used to be as the younger population shrinks and older folks stay healthier and work longer. The important question is whether you have the skills, education and experience the employer is seeking. Also, many employers like to hire older workers because they believe they will stay longer and are more reliable. So unless you are looking for a career as a supermodel or firefighter, don’t be obsessed with your age.
Myth #4 – I can’t network because I don’t have many contacts.
Wrong! While it is true that it easier to find a job if you know a lot of people, you can easily approach people you don’t know and ask them for advice on their career, company and industry. And if you have the right background for roles in their company, they will almost certainly consider you even if they don’t already know you.
Myth #5 – It’s a lot easier looking for a job if I have a job.
Wrong! Almost everyone has been downsized at one time or another so there is no longer a stigma attached to being unemployed. Think of how many of your friends, relatives and former co-workers have lost their job through no fault of their own. In fact, if you can afford it, it could even be worthwhile to leave a job that you are not happy in so that you can work full time trying to find the right job.
Myth #6 – The best-skilled candidate will always get the job.
Wrong! Just because you have all the skills an employer is seeking, it doesn’t mean you will get a job offer. Employers also look for “fit” and the ability to learn. The truth is many employers will choose someone with fewer skills and a great attitude over someone with all the skills, but who seems hard to get along with. Read more about how to leave a lasting impression in an interview.
Myth #7 – I am having trouble finding a job – something is wrong with my resume.
Wrong! People spend far too much time fussing over their resume by continually updating and modifying it. No question – you need a well-written resume and should invest time at the beginning of your search ensuring that it is accurate, thorough and professional. But you will see your greatest return by reaching out to your personal connections and meeting as many people as possible. Here is a blog I wrote about what to include and not include on your resume.
Myth #8 – I have changed jobs a lot. That will work against me.
Wrong! This hasn’t been a problem since the so-called “loyalty bond” between employers and employees was broken during the recession of the early 1990s. Employers understand that a traditional career path with one employer is a thing of the past and that people have to change jobs a lot to advance their careers. You might want to avoid really short stays in a job, say, under a year, but otherwise don’t worry about moving around.
Myth #9 – Nothing happens over the summer and the holidays.
Wrong! People think that all hiring ceases in July, August and December and that job searching during these periods is a waste of time. The truth is that people leave their jobs at all times of the year, so always stay active in the job hunt. In fact, try stepping up your activity during slow times – it may be easier to see the people you want.
Myth #10 – I won’t bother sending a cover letter. No one reads it anyway.
Wrong! You don’t know what value the employer places in the cover letter. Some will read it carefully; others will ignore it. Many overlook this step. A well-written cover letter gives you an opportunity to explain why you are interested in and qualified for the job, and shows the hiring manager that you have taken the time to research their organization. Just for fun, take a look at the worst cover letter ever.
Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and writer. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. 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 and LinkedIn