The 6 Worst Pieces of Job Search Advice

By Gerald Walsh ©

Parents, teachers, friends, co-workers – they all share one thing in common. Whether asked or not, they are more than happy to give you advice on your career. Even though they are well-intentioned, sometimes it’s better for you to just say “thank you” and ignore that advice.

Here are six examples of job search advice you should discount.

Bad advice #1:

Find something that you’re passionate about.

At one of the spectrum, you have people telling you to find something that you love and “follow your passion.” At the other end, you have people telling you that you have to make a good living – a practical view of the world. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. If you are like most people, your passions will come and go throughout your lifetime, and there can be quite a number of things that will make you happy.

But seriously, how are you supposed to know if you will be happy as a graphic designer, financial analyst or banker if you haven’t actually tried any of these careers yet? Start off by setting your bar low. Rule out things you already know you will hate. What’s left is a large pool of possibilities. Then start trying them – even if it’s by volunteering. In all likelihood, you will discover that you like a lot of things. And you will also learn that as you master your trade and become more successful at it, the more passionate you will become.

Bad advice #2:

Talk to a recruiter – they will find you a job.

Lots of people believe that a recruitment firm will find you a job. That is wrong, and you shouldn’t be misled into thinking that a recruiter is working for you. While you should establish a good professional working relationship with one or more recruiters, you must remember their primary obligation is to their client – the employer – who has hired them. You will only be recommended to one of their clients if the recruiter believes you have the necessary background and qualifications their client is seeking.

Bad advice #3:

Your resume should be limited to one page.

A one-page resume is fine if your experience is so senior and you are so well-established that just a line or two for each job you’ve held is all that is necessary. But most people will need more than a page to properly explain their background. A two-page resume is perfectly acceptable, although no one will object if it even goes to a third page, if warranted.

Bad advice #4:

Never turn down a job interview – you can always think of it as practice.

If you are “on the fence” about a job, I see nothing wrong with going to the interview to learn more. You might be pleasantly surprised.

However, if you are absolutely certain you would not take the job if it was offered to you, you should decline the interview. Taking interviews just for the practice is unethical and it will become quite obvious to the interviewer. Your reputation could be impacted and harm your long-term relationship in the market. Practice is important but do it on your own time.

Bad advice #5

Make sure you use the right words on your resume.

Irritating buzzwords and phrases are used all the time in business and are creeping into resumes. How many times have we heard (or read) words like: lean in, synergize, deep dive, guesstimate, circle back, bandwidth, traction, and – my personal favourite – disruptive. Most readers of resumes prefer clarity – precise words and short sentences that say what you mean. Stick to that principle.

Bad advice #6:

You’ll have to start going to networking events.

For most people, going to a networking event invokes thoughts of walking into a crowded room of strangers and trying to make small talk. That’s pretty scary for most people. It’s also ineffective as a job search tool because at many of these events, almost everyone is trying to get something from someone else. It feels slick and insincere.

Having said that, you do need to get out there and make connections. If you do attend a networking event, make it a goal to only meet one person and spend your time really getting to know that person. Beyond that, you will have to start tapping into your personal connections including family, friends, neighbours, co-workers, business contact and other associates. And you will have to start connecting with employers directly to introduce yourself, learn about possible careers, seek referrals, and uncover potential opportunities.

Question: What bad (or ineffective) career advice have you received? I’d like to hear about it. Send me a note and let me know. My email is


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Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. 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.