by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
How much of a job-hunting expert are you? Read over these 15 myths and misconceptions about job-hunting and see how many of them you believed in and how many you knew were incorrect. Once you know the truths about job-hunting, you should have more job search success — and less stress.
Myth 1: Registering at Several Internet Job Boards Will Result in Multiple Job Offers
One of the most prevalent misconceptions in job-hunting is that job-hunting on the Web is some magic elixir that will result in employers lining up to interview you. While job-hunting on the Web should be one component of a job search for most job-seekers, it should not be viewed as having any higher success rates than applying to help-wanted ads in the newspaper or trade magazines. Only about 5 percent of job-seekers obtain jobs through ads. Read more about job boards and job-hunting on the Internet.
Myth 2: Want Ads and Other Job Postings Represent the Majority of Jobs Available
At the very most — and some say this number is too high — only about 15-20 percent of all available jobs are ever publicly advertised in any medium. The vast majority of job openings are part of the “hidden” or “closed” job market. And the higher the position and salary, the less likely the position will be advertised at all. How can job-seekers discover these jobs? Through networking. Networking is by far the most effective job search tool you can use. Networking is all about building relationships with people who can help you in your job search; it doesn’t mean that you need to ask everyone you know if they have a job for you. Read more about networking.
Myth 3: Job-Seekers Who Change Jobs Often are Frowned Upon by Employers
The notion of “job-hoppers,” those job-seekers who had multiple jobs with short stays listed on their resumes, has been disappearing for years. Ever since the great “downsizing” and “rightsizing” of companies during the 1980s and 1990s, employers have recognized that there rarely is any logical progression — or corporate ladder — within any one company anymore. To get ahead and gain new skill sets, job-seekers often need to make multiple moves. Avoid really short stints — under a year — but otherwise don’t be too concerned with moving around. And if you are concerned, focus on your transferable skills with a functional rather than chronological resume. Read more about transferable skills.
Myth 4: A Cover Letter is Not as Important as Other Job-Hunting Materials
Every time you apply for a job, you should send a cover letter written specifically for the position and company you are applying to. The only exception to this rule is when the employer explicitly states that it does not want a cover letter. A cover letter, also known as a letter of introduction or letter of application, must be an integral part of your job-search strategy. A resume is useless to an employer if s/he doesn’t know what kind of job you are seeking. A cover letter tells the employer exactly what job you are seeking — and how you are uniquely qualified for that position. Read more about writing cover letters.
Myth 5: A Resume Must Show a Logical Progression of Jobs and Increased Responsibility
The most important part of a resume is showing that you have the skills, education (or training), and experience that the employer seeks. Most employers will spend less than 20 seconds reviewing your resume, which means you need to focus on the key components of your resume that will result in getting a job interview. Read more about writing and developing resumes.
Myth 6: As Long as You’re Sending out Cover Letters and Resumes, You’ll Get Interviews
Maybe in the tightest of job markets, or maybe if you are only applying to specific positions for which you are perfectly qualified, will this kind of passive job-search strategy produce any job interviews. Job-seekers must be proactive in your job search. You must follow-up every job lead. Call employers and request an interview. If you are under-qualified for a position or changing careers, request an interview anyway. You may not be qualified for that specific position, but the employer may have other openings (or know of other openings). Read other key follow-up tips and suggestions.
Myth 7: Lowering Your Salary Demands Will Make You a More Attractive Job Candidate
Job-seekers should never lower reasonable salary demands because doing so will just make you appear desperate for the job — and will likely result in your not getting the job offer. And even if you got the offer and accepted it, you would most likely never be happy in your job or with your employer because you would feel you were cheated out of the salary you deserved. As long as your salary demands are within acceptable range for the job you’re seeking as well as the industry and location of the employer, stick to them. And never be the first to bring up salary; let the employer raise the issue. Read more about salary negotiation.
Myth 8: If You Can’t Schedule Job Interviews Between 9 am and 5 pm You’re Out of Luck
While it’s certainly true that a majority of job interviews are conducted during traditional business hours, employers will certainly find time during “off-hours” to interview desirable job-seekers. And it’s often better to interview during these times because there are fewer distractions. Read more about job interviews.
Myth 9: The Most Qualified Job-Seekers Get the Best Jobs
Probably the biggest misconception about interviewing, it is not always the best qualified person who gets the job, but the job-seeker with the best mix of qualifications, interviewing skills, and rapport with his or her interviewer(s). So, don’t be too cocky if you feel you are the most qualified person for the job – and don’t be too discouraged if you don’t feel you exactly match up with the job. If you get a job interview, it’s because the employer thinks there is a strong enough match of your skills, education, and experience to do the job — and at the interview, you need to prove why you are the best person to fill the job. Read more about interviewing strategies.
Myth 10: Headhunters and Executive Recruiters Have Your Best Interests at Heart
Headhunters and executive recruiters get paid by the companies that hire them to fill their open positions, so where exactly is their loyalty? With their client companies, of course. Recruiters will not market job-seekers to companies; instead, they try to fit job-seekers into well-defined positions with the companies that employ their services. Read more dealing with headhunters and recruiters.
Myth 11: Changing Careers is Nearly Impossible
As the workplace continues to change and evolve, more and more people will change careers in their lifetimes — and many will change careers multiple times. As long as you have a plan and do your best to stick with it, you should be able to switch careers. That said, switching careers is not easy. It takes much effort to switch careers and may involve getting more education (or training), getting experience in the new career field, and focusing on how the skills you currently possess transfer to the new career field. Read more about changing careers.
Myth 12: Job-Seekers Should Not Have to Sell Themselves to Employers
For better or worse, job-hunting is all about marketing yourself to employers — which often means using some key selling skills to close the deal and get the job offer. You are the product, and you need to show the employer why you are the best product for the job. In today’s job-hunting environment, the most successful job-seekers are those who understand the value of marketing and apply to themselves those principles that companies have used for years to successfully sell their products. Read more about using marketing concepts in job-hunting.
Myth 13: If You’re Over 50, You Will Have a Hard Time Finding a Job
The baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) are completely redefining the meaning of age and older works, and thus older workers should theoretically have a lot fewer problems finding new jobs than in the past. The critical issues are whether you have the skills, education, and experience that the employer seeks — and whether all those are current. You also have to have the proper attitude — that you are a team player, not a seasoned professional who knows all the answers and is unwilling to change. And, of course, if you are employed in an industry that focuses more on youth, then it may still be harder for you to find a new job. Read more about older worker job search strategies.
Myth 14: It Takes One Month of Job Searching for Every $10,000 of Current Salary
No one seems to know where this calculation comes from — and no one has ever substantiated it. The fact is that every job search is different. And external factors such as the economy and demand for your particular set of skills and experiences will impact your search time. Noted career expert Richard Bolles (of What Color is Your Parachute?) states in a Q&A we conducted with him: “I think people adopt unrealistic guesstimates about how long their job hunt is going to take. We should expect that our job-hunt may take months, but if we persevere, we will find a job.”
Myth 15: When Times are Tough, Take the First Job Offer You Get
In all my years of experience, the one truth is that job-hunting is streaky. You’ll have weeks where you interview for positions and you are sure you’ll get an offer and no offer ever comes, and then there will be weeks when you get multiple interviews and perhaps multiple offers. Should you take the first job offer that comes along? Only if you are sure that the job and the compensation represent the right career move. If not, a better offer will come along — and as long as you are not about to lose your house or suffer other financial or emotional consequences, you should hold out for the job offer that best fits the direction you want to move in.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
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