Do companies only hire overqualified candidates? Are cover letters really that important? Separate the facts from the fiction with these clarifications.
By Tina Jindal
Every individual has a job-hunting strategy that they are proud of, along with a list of things a job seeker must never do. Some of it is good advice, and some of it is downright blasphemous. While certain myths of the trade are harmless, others are disastrous to the success of a job seeker. So how do you know which advice to disregard and which to embrace? Let’s expose 10 of the most common myths of the job hunt and offer some useful advice in its place.
Myth: Registering on several online job portals will result in maximum call-backs
This is one of the biggest myths of this industry. Although online portals are accessible and increase visibility, they should not be viewed as having a higher success rate than any of the traditional counterparts like ads in newspapers and magazines. Thousands of people register on these portals on a daily basis and it could take days just for the screening process to end.
Advice: Register on two or three good job boards, and update your resume regularly to stay on top of the results lists.
Myth: A majority of vacancies are posted online or in the newspapers
It’s common practice for job openings to be “closed” or “hidden,” meaning recruiters will search for candidates or get references without ever posting the job online. The higher the title or salary, the less likely it is that the position will be advertised at all.
Advice: Start networking. It is the one and only fool-proof method of knowing what’s happening in the current job market. You have a better chance of finding what you seek if you make connections with others in your desired industry. For example, if you want to work as a freelance writer, building relationships with other writers and editors is your most critical resource in finding a position of your own.
Myth: Changing jobs regularly is frowned upon by employers
People who change jobs frequently, also called job hoppers, have always been scrutinized. However, since the great downsizing of companies and increase of limited-term positions, employers have recognized the need for frequent change. To climb the corporate ladder and get a better salary, job seekers often need to change jobs regularly. It’s not only logical, but necessary for professional development.
Advice: Avoid the really short stints lasting three to six months. Stick to one job profile for at least a year if possible. When writing or updating your resume, focus more on your transferable skills rather than your time duration at a given position.
Myth: Cover letters are not that important
Cover letters must be an integral part of your job-search strategy. A resume just gives an account of your work experience, skill set, and core competencies. It is all but useless if not accompanied with a document that gives a detailed description of why you are uniquely qualified for the particular job profile.
Advice: Every time you apply for a position, send a customized cover letter written specifically for the company that you are applying to. The only exception to this rule is when the employer explicitly states that he does NOT need one.
Myth: A resume and cover letter is sufficient enough to be called for an interview
This ideology is so not true. Maybe if the job market is very tight, or if you are applying to niche positions for which you are specifically qualified, you might land an interview instantly. For all other intents and purposes, this job-search strategy almost never works.
Advice: Shake a leg and be proactive when job hunting. Follow up with every job lead and call employers requesting for an interview, if required. Chances are that you may not be exceptionally qualified for a particular job position, but the employer – impressed by your initiative – might grant you higher consideration, or have leads to other openings.
Myth: Asking for less salary will make you a more attractive candidate
Lowering your salary expectations will only make you look weak. Worst-case scenario, you will be frustrated for the rest of your tenure because you will feel that you were cheated out of the money that you deserved.
Advice: Never initiate the salary topic. Let the employer go through their motions and then set your demands accordingly. As long as they are within the acceptable range of the job profile, the employer, and the organization – you should be good to go.
Myth: You need to be overqualified to get the job
The truth is that the most qualified individual does not always get the job. Employers seek candidates with the mix of interviewing skills, confidence, qualifications, and overall personality that fit with the company.
Advice: Do not be arrogant if you feel you are the most qualified for the job, and don’t be discouraged if you feel that you know a little less than the other applicants. The employer saw something to call you for an interview. Be confident and prove why you are the best contender for the job.
Myth: You will have a tough time looking for a job if you are over a certain age
Gone are the days when people over 50 were considered old. Employers look for education, skills, and experience over superficial, uncontrollable attributes. Your experiences will only add value to your potential candidacy at a new organization.
Advice: Have the right attitude and temperament regardless of your age. If you are a team player and not just a seasoned professional who is unwilling to embrace change, your age will not matter one bit.
Myth: Accept the first job offer you get
Though this may occasionally be true for first-timers, seasoned professionals should refrain from accepting the first job offer they receive. With experience and enhanced qualifications you might get multiple job offers at a time or within close proximity of each other. It is always wise to analyze your options before committing to a position or company. Of course, if the first offer is for your dream job, or the salary package and location is perfect, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
Advice: Weigh your options rationally before you make a career move. If it’s not a perfect fit, hold out for the job offer that makes the most sense for your career.
Myth: Your resume needs to be one page
The length of your resume should be determined by your amount of experience. Resumes should be anywhere between one and three pages. Anything less might deem you inexperienced, anything more is simply unnecessary information that won’t be read.
Advice: A resume should highlight and emphasize on your education, experience, and transferable skills. If you are newer to the workforce (with less than 10 years of experience under your belt), you should probably stick to one page. The more experience you have, the more you can include, so long as it’s highly relevant and unique to you. Do not leave out important information like your achievements and project experience just to limit the length of the document to one page.