Asking for advice is a dicey proposition, especially when it comes to the job-search process, and especially when you’re asking people who haven’t searched for a job in a really long time.
In a terrific post titled “Is Your Job-Search Advice Wildly Outdated?” U.S. News & World Report writer Alison Green calls out six bogus tips you’re likely to get from folks harboring super-old-school ideas about the professional world. Friends and relatives who tell you these things likely mean well, but that doesn’t mean you should listen to them.
The first piece of lousy advice Green cites is the idea that employers will be impressed if you simply show up unannounced at their offices and ask for a job. It’s called “pounding the pavement,” and unless you’re applying for a retail or food-service job, it’s probably completely unacceptable.
“Most employers provide specific instructions about how they accept applications, and it’s nearly always limited to electronic submissions, often through a specific online application system they’ve set up,” Green says.
The next two bad strategies on Green’s list are similar: calling to follow up on your application and saying in your cover letter that you’ll give a ring in a week to schedule an interview. You should never do either of these things, Green says, because they show you don’t know how hiring works (in the case of the first) and make you look pushy (the second). Even if you think you’re really qualified for the gig, you don’t get to schedule an interview — the hiring manager does!
Green’s fourth example of horrible advice: “Inflate your current salary — everyone does!” In fact, not everyone does this, and if you think employers don’t check to see what you’re making, think again. Inflating your salary — unlike inflating footballs in an NFL playoff game — yields negative repercussions. It might cost you the job.
Green’s fifth bit of terrible advice seems good on the surface, but it can be problematic: “The best jobs aren’t advertised, so you need to network your way into them.” While it’s true that networking is extremely important, it doesn’t mean you should give up on traditional job-search practices, and more importantly, it doesn’t mean you should send off resumes to people you’re barely connected with and start asking them for recommendations. Why should your wife’s cousin’s ex-girlfriend’s brother-in-law help you get a job at his company?
Lastly, Green pokes holes in the idea you need to separate yourself from the back by sending a gimmicky resume — i.e. one that’s been condensed into an infographic and/or packaged with chocolates and/or mailed overnight in some zany envelope that’s sure to catch people’s eyes. You’ll risk coming across as pushy or corny or perhaps even desperate, and even if you’ve dreamed up a really creative package, the better way to stand out, Green says, is to simply write a great cover letter and demonstrate on your resume (and in person, should you land an interview) that you’ve got the skills and personality needed to do the job.