Career Advice

Five Job Search Rules You Should Break

The world has changed, but the “rules” of job searching have remained the same for generations. You’ve heard them: keep your resume to one page, don’t ever call to check on your resume, et cetera. While following these rules may work for some people, many of today’s successful job seekers have learned to break the rules to their advantage.

If playing by the rules isn’t quite your style, here are five job search rules to break:

  1. No calls, please. The request for no calls “is for the recruiter’s benefit,” says Darcy Eikenberg, founder of Red Cape Revolution, an HR consultancy that helps professionals make the most of their work. “He or she doesn’t have time to answer calls that come in from every random candidate.” So instead of calling the recruiter, Eikenberg recommends using LinkedIn and other resources to find out who else you know at the company — and call them. “Email can get lost and be ignored, and your short, upbeat message gives someone a great flavor of who you are,” Eikenberg says. “[For instance,] ‘I understand there’s an opening for a marketing assistant at your company, and I’d really like to be of help. I’ve sent my resume through the required process, but if there is a way to connect with the hiring manager directly and help him or her fill the post faster, I’d like to do so. I can be reached at [your number and email]. Thanks!’”
  2. Once you’re passed over for the job, move on. Not so fast, Eikenberg says. “So you didn’t get the job; too bad. But don’t scratch the company off as a bad judge of character. If you were a good fit for the role and would have welcomed the offer, check in with your contacts in a month to see how it is going. You never know what can happen; maybe the new person isn’t working out, or can be working out so well that the company realizes they need two people. Don’t assume they’ll remember you and call you if a need occurs; memories are short and work gets busy. Maintain the relationship and who knows? The next offer may be yours.”
  3. Apply for as many jobs as possible. Rather than blanketing the town with copies of your resume, the best approach is “to have a clear strategy that targets a few positions that you know you are qualified for,” says Ginny Clarke, a career coach and author of Career Mapping: Charting Your Course in the New World of Work. “Have two or three customized résumés for each position and contact selected companies in only one of a few industries, directly. This approach opens you up to non-posted opportunities as well as open positions.”
  4. Contact a recruiter first. Actually, working through a recruiter is a passive approach as recruiters work for the employer, Clarke says. “The better way is to define your job strategy, including industries, functions, companies and roles, refine your elevator pitch, and begin to network strategically, including sending your résumé to some recruiters who should be part of your network.”
  5. Document your entire life. Contrary to popular belief, it’s unnecessary to list on your resume everything you’ve done since you were 18 years old, especially graduating from high school. Career coach Claudia Sampson says there’s no need to list your high school on your resume. “Some people who attended very prestigious private or elite schools are so attached to these institutions that they still feel it’s important to list,” she says. “It’s not! So, let it remain a part of your distant past.” Similarly, don’t feel the need to list the year you graduated from college on your resume, says career coach Michael Coritsidis. “It’s a sure way to let your potential employer know your age,” he says. “The only time to include year of graduation is  if you recently graduated or soon to graduate.”