Job Search Rules You Can Break

“Rules” To Break In Your Job Search

By Zach Seybert
In August 14, 2017

Ever since childhood, we have been taught to follow the rules. For this article only, I am advocating that you go ahead and break them, but only the ones related to the job search.

While it sounds crazy to go against advice you’ve been told when searching for a job, bear with me. As technology has changed, many aspects of our lives have followed suit – including looking for a job. If you were searching for a job a few decades ago, a logical place to start would have likely been in the classified ads of your local newspaper. Now, however, with many newspapers limiting their physical publication to a few days a week and shifting towards a digital-only basis, job seekers are also shifting their focus.

When seeking advice during the job search, it is common to ask people who have been through the search before themselves (aka people who currently have jobs). However, if you ask 10 people how they got to their current position it is very possible that you hear 10 different stories. While there is no true blueprint for getting a job, changing up your approach could be helpful.

Our friends at The Muse created an article titled “7 Job Search Rules You Should Be Breaking” which got us thinking about the “traditional” job search tips we’ve all heard and whether or not you can “break the rules.”

Rule #1: Cast the Widest Net Possible

During my own job search, I definitely casted a wide net in terms of geography and types of jobs. I did not want to limit myself and applied to a variety of jobs in which I felt I could achieve success. This rule follows the whole “numbers game” approach to the job hunt as in the more resumes you send out, the better your chances of hearing back from a company become. While I was not sending the same resume and cover letter with each application, I followed this approach.

It is common for people to send the same resume to multiple jobs, but now with applicant tracking systems looking for specific keywords and phrases you could miss out. This emphasizes the importance of tailoring your resume and cover letter to each job that you’re applying to. By breaking this rule and focusing on a smaller number of jobs, it becomes easier to tailor your application materials to meet the specific requirements thus improving your chances.

Rule #2: Call or Stop by to Check on Your Application After a Few Days

This piece of advice was very common when people had to physically drop off applications at the company to which they were applying. However, given today’s digitally-focused application process the hiring managers likely do not even know who you are until they see your resume. The Muse recommends letting your resume and cover letter speak for themselves.

Following up is not discouraged, especially if you applied blindly online and have not heard back in a few weeks. Unless specified, the preferred method of follow up is via email as many job postings have a kind reminder of “NO PHONE CALLS” somewhere on them.

Rule #3: Include an Objective Statement at the Top of Your Resume

When creating or revamping your resume, a common starting point is to Google “resume templates.” These templates are usually in Latin and more often than not have a space at the top for an objective statement. These have become sort of redundant with the use of a cover letter.

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Rule #4: Use a Traditional Letter Format for Your Cover Letter

The common school of thought when drafting cover letters has been to format them exactly how you would a written letter. You would include your contact information, the company and hiring manager’s contact information and then begin with the body of the letter. Given that these are usually attached to an email or via an application system the traditional format can be thrown out the window.

Rule #5: Write Your Resume and Cover Letter in Formal Language

“Dear Hiring Manager,

Please find this as the expression of my interest in XYZ job at ABC company…”

I must admit, I am guilty of the formal opening in my numerous cover letters. However, this rule says that it is best to start with something conversational and polite. Then, after doing your research on the company and the culture, it is okay to get creative in order to stand out in your cover letter.

Rule #6: Always Wear a Suit to an Interview***

The article states that sometimes wearing a suit can be “too dressy” compared to the rest of the office culture. If you’re wearing a suit, while everyone else is casually dressed it could come across as too formal or a mismatch for company culture. In your pre-interview research, find out what the company culture is and take your apparel up one notch for the interview (wearing khakis if everyone wears jeans).

The reason the asterisks are included is because while I can see the argument being made in this rule, I do not necessarily agree. It is better to err on the side of caution and portray yourself in a professional manner, so wearing a suit shows that you are taking the interview seriously. It is better to be overdressed than underdressed.

Rule #7: Always Send a Handwritten Thank You Note***

A handwritten note shows that you took the time to thank those who you interviewed with for their time and the opportunity. However, you can also send a same-day email as you could receive a response from the interviewer.

Another rule that I don’t 100 percent agree with. I understand the argument, but as I have mentioned in previous articles, handwritten thank you’s are an underrated gesture. It is more than okay to send a “thank you” email, but it can be sent in addition to a handwritten note.

Wrap Up

As is the case with many things in life, there are rule followers and there are rule breakers. When it comes to the job search, straying from these rules every so often is encouraged. By deviating from the norm and being unique with application materials, you have a better chance to potentially stand out from the crowd and at least get an interview. However, as mentioned there is no “one size fits all” approach to follow when applying, so if you follow some of the seven rules and break others that is okay too.

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Zach is a Digital Content and Marketing Specialist with NexGoal, who specializes in creating career transition and job search preparation content.