Over the years I have encountered several misconceptions about the job search process. Each, in its own way, causes stress. These misconceptions have been compiled into the “Dirty Dozen” list below. Each offers a link providing more information, targeted to your specific questions.
Companies are working hard to create more applicant-friendly processes, but for now, candidates can still experience periods without updates. Grab a cup of coffee, take a deep breath, and understand what is happening in the background during the quiet periods of your search.
If the job was posted, it is an urgent need for the company.
Jobs are posted because there is a need for talent and the budget exists to support the addition of staff, or the replacement of staff. Unfortunately, sometimes hiring managers have other things going on operationally that limit their time to review resumes, conduct interviews or participate in decision-making. Sometimes hires must be made in a certain order to ensure proper onboarding for less departmental disruption. Other things can happen too, like leave or illness of one of the members of the selection team. There are times that a recruiter gets a high number of new jobs, which can slow down processing just like when you go to a restaurant at the lunch rush, and there are many people who have to be served in a short period of time.
Posting a job indicates a need, but not an urgent need. Maybe the need is extremely urgent, but it doesn’t change the set of variables that are prolonging the selection process. Be prepared for delays. Keep your activity level high with networking and applications. Take on a volunteer project to build on certain skills, or a computer class. Being busy makes the time go by faster.
I should network before applying for jobs.
Some jobs have a date where the posting closes. Jobs with the government or with academic institutions tend to have these. Once the job closes, the recruiter will sort through all applications to select the best. In the business world, applications can be collected during the entire recruiting process.
Recruiters usually try to fill jobs in 30-45 days, ideally. When you consider the time to find candidates, review resumes, conduct multiple rounds of interviews, background checks and complete the notice period, the pace is quick. If your application arrives after they are well into the interview process, it may never be viewed unless the first round of candidates are turned down, or an offer is not accepted.
There are also jobs that recruiters know will have a high number of quality applicants. Just because it may take 45 days to fill the job, does not mean the job posting will be open for application submission the entire time. Sometimes they close the posting for additional applications after a week or two so that they do not have 500 applications to review.
I often hear that people wait until they thoroughly network with a company before applying, but this could mean you are applying too late. Apply as soon as you see a job of interest, then network quickly.
All resumes are read thoughtfully.
When writing a resume, we agonize over every word. We want the reader to feel like they were right there with us in every job. It may surprise you to hear that recruiters only spend a few seconds on your resume. We see so many of them, we can usually tell in a glance if someone generally has what we need, or doesn’t have what we need. If they don’t have what we need, we pass.
If you seem to have the right background, we take more time to read the resume, scanning to see if there are any red flags or contrary evidence, or to see if you have any big wins that make you more compelling.
It’s important that you put your biggest selling points in the top half of the first page on your resume. Since recruiters don’t do your job all day in most cases, it’s important that you make it clear. If you aren’t sure if your resume is clear, give it to three friends who aren’t in your field, and who will be completely honest with you. Ask them to take a few seconds to glance at it, and ask them what they think you do for a living. If they don’t understand, you need to rework your resume.
Make your successes quantifiable and easy to find. As a rule of thumb, the further down you go on a page, the fewer bullets you should have associated with that role, and don’t include anything that someone would assume as a given in your job. For example, if you sell cars, don’t say you meet with customers on the lot.
If you work in sales, and the only numbers on your resume are your address and phone number, don’t expect to get a call. Quantifiable successes are the best way to get noticed.
There are those who believe that they do not work in sales, and therefore do not need to quantify their successes. You may not work in sales, but if your job is selling your skills in the job market, you work in sales. If quantifying your success is something you have not done in the past, do your best to estimate with the data you have today. Once you start in your next job, make it a habit to keep a file of your wins. It’s not egotistical to understand your value, and it can be a great pick-me-up on days where everything seems to go wrong.
The recruiter is avoiding me.
Recruiters do not usually call you unless they have something positive and productive to say. That’s actually more thoughtful than you realize. It’s also why we turn people down in writing, but make job offers by phone. Think about it. When your phone rings, you assume it’s good news, right? If the call really had no point but to say that there is no news, you would feel disappointed. Informed, yes, but disappointed.
When you are turned down by phone, it is awkward, and you aren’t sure what to say next. Should I advocate for myself? Should I just say, “thank you?”
When you find yourself thinking, “What is going on that I haven’t heard from anyone?,” keep in mind that your recruiter is likely in back-to-back interviews most of the day. When they aren’t doing that, they have a host of other meetings to attend, reports to compile, offers to make and interview days to plan. It is almost impossible to get them on the phone. Some tips to offer when contacting your recruiter are listed below.
- Always be positive, live or on voice mail. Add joy to their day, don’t drain it.
- Don’t complain. Recruiters are sales people. They like closing things as much as you like being hired. If you’re frustrated at how long it’s taking, they probably are too.
- Do not use the above tidbit of information to try to forge a bond with the recruiter by speaking ill of the hiring manager. They have more of a relationship with the hiring manager than they do with you, and it still comes across as a complaint.
- Do not return their calls without listening to the voicemail they left with detailed information.
- If they left specific questions for you on your voicemail or information they need to move forward, leave it on their voicemail, or email it to them. Don’t just leave a message saying that you are returning their call. Phone tag is the main reason jobs take so long to fill.
Transferrable skills are equally relevant.
When you bought your last car, I bet you had a list of things you had to have. Other features were fine, but you could deal with it if you didn’t have them. I bet you left with a car that had most of your “must have” items, or if you didn’t, perhaps you still resent the fact that you settled for a car that didn’t really meet your needs. If you settled, it was probably because you either couldn’t find a car that had all the options you wanted, or you found it but couldn’t afford it.
The same applies to hiring decisions. Managers want to get the very best talent they can to help them be successful. The better the fit, the faster the person is successfully contributing to the team. Does this mean that you shouldn’t apply for jobs that are a stretch for you? Absolutely not. It could be that the manager cannot find all that they want, or can’t afford what they need.
To increase your chances of being selected, consider these steps.
- Network with people who can advocate for you. For this to be effective, they must be people who are familiar with your work as a manager, teammate, client or partner. Being in the same social group or networking group with a stranger does not carry much weight with recruiters.
- Try applying to smaller companies. The larger the company, the more money they have to attract candidates who are ideally suited for jobs. Smaller, up-and-coming companies may be more flexible.
No news is good news, or no news is bad news.
No news is no news. Period. It is human nature to read into it many different things, but it boils down to these points.
- Until you are turned down, you aren’t turned down.
- Lots of things are happening in the background that you can’t possibly predict.
You may be screened out but haven’t been notified yet. Perhaps you don’t have all the skills needed. Perhaps you don’t have the industry experience. Perhaps your salary is way too high. There are hundreds of factors, and the statistical truth is that you will be screened out of more jobs than you will be screened into.
That sounds really bad, right? It’s not bad, it’s just a fact. You want a job you are well-suited to, and you want to be successful. Consider all the job postings you saw in your “job agent” feed, but you didn’t apply for because it was close to what you wanted, but not close enough. All those recruiters are good people who have open jobs in solid companies. But you didn’t even apply. You read the posting until you saw enough that didn’t appeal to you, then you stopped reading. You want the best match, and to use your application time wisely. So does the employer.
A word about salary. Legislation now makes it illegal to ask about salary. I’m not a lawyer, but I know it will take a while to fix all applicant tracking systems, and even longer to un-train recruiters in a well-established habit. It may still come up for quite some time. You can point out the faux pas, or you can be gracious. I always recommend gracious.
Whether you are asked about it or not, you should know what you need to earn so you spend your time effectively in your search. You have your household budget you must maintain, and companies have a salary budget they must maintain. Sites like Glassdoor allow you to research salaries in your target companies.
Applying to lots of jobs at the same company shows that I am very interested, and increases my chances of being hired.
Many applicant tracking systems have an overview of the applicant’s history. If you have applied for 150 jobs that are mostly unrelated to each other, the recruiter may be able to see that, and it will decrease your chances of being hired. It makes you look like you don’t know what your skills are, and it makes you look like you aren’t selective about how you spend your time. Chances are, if you do this your resume is also very general, which keeps you from standing out as a good fit. Know your strengths, and apply for those roles.
If your skills can direct you down more than one path, create more than one resume. Make sure you upload the correct resume for your online applications.
The recruiter liked me, and that’s all that counts.
Recruiters are friendly. We like everybody. While you do have to do well enough with the recruiter to be advanced in the process, it’s the hiring managers and other members of the hiring team you must convince.
Follow up is good, or follow up is bad.
Follow up, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad. It is the approach you take, the frequency of the contacts and the goal of the feedback that make it good or bad.
- Approach: Always add joy to people’s day. Anyone you encounter, but especially when following up about a job. Do not complain about anything, not even the weather. When people hear your voice, one of two things happens, they smile, or they try to figure out how to get off the phone. Make them smile.
- Frequency: No more than every two weeks. Three is better.
- Goal: Don’t reach out more than twice with a general, “Have you heard anything?” If it’s been more than month, likely there is nothing the recruiter can do. Send a work sample. Send a link to an interesting article relevant to your discussion, the company or the industry. Always thank them for the first interview and for coordinating any subsequent interviews. Make these messages meaningful, but brief.
I don’t know what the company is looking for in this role.
If you spend time with the job description, you can usually identify the competencies the company is seeking, the required skills and the preferred skills. Take time to make a list before your first interview, and be prepared with examples showing these skills.
All information obtained by networking is equally valuable.
Information is accurate in direct ratio to how close the source is to the hiring decision. Information obtained from the recruiter, hiring manager, interview panel or any member of the work team is reliable. Good information can be obtained from people in the same division. Beyond that, do not look for specific information about the culture of the team, job requirements or hiring process. Connections beyond this inner circle of influence are good resources to learn the names of people in the inner circle. They can also speak to the overall company culture, growth and development opportunities (in a general sense) and benefits.
I must be completely honest.
You must be completely factual, and accurate. You should never lie about why you left a company, or inflate the results you produced in your jobs. If the hiring team finds out along the way you’ve not been factual, that is a debt of trust you cannot repay.
That doesn’t mean you are obligated to share everything. In fact, it will give the appearance that you are too trusting, and cannot synthesize the most important points when you overshare. Keep your information factual, and don’t share dramatic stories. The recruiter has no context for these stories, and cannot easily determine if you were justified to feel the way you felt, if you were the cause of the drama, or if you overreacted to the situation.
Melissa Jones is a Talent and Leadership Consultant in Richmond, Virginia. Using her 25 years of experience in Talent Acquisition, she provides personal coaching for job seekers. Sessions are designed help discuss emotionally-charged topics in the interview process, and reduce job search stress.
For more information, use this form to contact her directly.