By Alison Green
Not every piece of job search advice you hear is worth following. In fact, some of it is downright bad and will hurt your chances. Here are 10 pieces of advice that you should ignore every time:
1. Collect letters of recommendation from previous managers before you start your job hunt.
Reality: You can skip this step entirely. Employers know that those letters don't count for much since no one puts critical information in them. Plus, when hiring managers reach the reference-checking stage of the hiring process, they want to talk to your references—on the phone, where they can ask questions and probe for more information. Managers want to hear your references' tone of voice, hear where they hesitate before answering, and hear what they say when asked about potential problem areas.
2. You need to track down the hiring manager's name so that you can address your cover letter to him or her.
Reality: This is another unnecessary step. If the hiring manager's name is easily available, go ahead and use it. But you don't need to call to track it down or do other sleuthing. Hiring managers rarely think, "Wow, this person took the trouble to call and find out my name. What amazing initiative!" It just doesn't matter that much, so instead put that time into writing a great cover letter. Speaking of which…
3. Employers don't really read cover letters.
Reality: A well-written cover letter with personality can get you an interview when your resume alone wouldn't have. Sure, not every hiring manager cares about cover letters, but many do and you have no way of knowing which type you're dealing with. With so many stories of cover letters opening doors that otherwise would have stayed shut, it would be foolish to pass up this incredibly effective way of standing out.
4. Don't leave the ball in the employer's court—say you'll call to schedule an interview.
Reality: Too many job seekers end their cover letters with a statement like, "I'll call in a week to schedule an interview." This is pushy and overly aggressive. Job seekers don't get to decide to schedule an interview; employers do. And employers would spend all day fielding calls if the hundreds of applicants who apply for any given position were to call to follow up. It might be hard to accept, but once you apply, the ball is in the employer's court.
5. Stop by the business you want to work for and apply in person.
Reality: This isn't good salesmanship; it's annoying. Most companies include specific instructions about how they want you to apply, and unless "in person" is included, they don't want you stopping by. Plus, many companies only accept resumes electronically because they use electronic screening systems. (Retail and food service are exceptions to this; in-person applications tend to be more common in those industries.)
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