When you’re looking for a job, finding ways to stand out and make a great impression can be everything. But, sometimes, the very “rules” that are supposed to help you do that can hold you back.
Career and leadership coach Kathy Caprino, author of The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss, sees such “bad” information come from her clients regularly. “I don’t know where they’ve gotten it,” she says. “But we have to be braver, and we have to be more powerful and more confident.” Caprino says that when we’re braver about our job search efforts, we feel more comfortable ignoring conventional wisdom that doesn’t work and focusing on carving our own path—which probably means getting to our destination faster.
To help you be more effective in the hunt for your next job, ignore this tired and, sometimes, just plain wrong advice:
1) Head to the job boards to look for openings
Yes, job boards have loads of positions listed. But while they yield roughly 50% of applications to companies, less than 1% of those individuals land the job, according to the 2019 Jobvite Recruiting Benchmark Report. In fact, by the time many jobs are posted, the company may already have leads on great candidates or have made a decision about their next hire, says career coach Terry McDougall, author of Winning the Game of Work: Career Happiness and Success on Your Own Terms.
When she was a hiring manager, she would begin putting the word out on her network about an opening before she could get it posted. “In a big company, it would usually take at least two or three weeks for the job to be posted. And by that point, the person that resigned is already gone, so I’m in a hurry to fill the role,” she says. So, spend more time focused on your contacts than scouring job boards.
The team at Hatchit, an IT recruiting firm, says that more companies and recruiters are using creative sourcing and posting jobs in subreddits, Slack channels, and specialized platforms to get more targeted responses.
5) Don’t bother with a cover letter
Cover letters are often an afterthought, and there’s even debate over whether you really need one. But, as Fast Company recently reported, ResumeLab’s research found that a great cover letter can land you an interview even if your résumé isn’t strong enough to do so. So, be sure to craft a short, strong intro to go along with your résumé.
6) Résumé format doesn’t matter
“While certain résumé-writing guidelines appear to remain steadfast, many other elements have continued to evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of hiring professionals and to adapt to the latest recruitment tools and processes,” says Amanda Augustine, career expert at TopResume. You need to create your résumé to be picked up by applicant tracking systems. That means clear text and a simple, clean layout with clearly marked sections and white space, she says.
Typically a “hybrid” or combination résumé format is best, as it includes some upfront narrative that gives insight into the candidate. TopResume’s research has also found that résumés with a left-hand rail or column offer a fresher look that catches recruiters’ eyes but that also successfully passes through the ATS, whereas a résumé with a right-hand rail or column does not. Including the phrase “references available upon request” at the bottom of the résumé, using two spaces after each period, or including an upfront objective will all make your résumé look dated, she says.