misconceptions about job searching

Forget everything anyone has ever told you about job searching. Well, OK… not everything. But realize that what you’ve been told isn’t an absolute. You’re probably holding onto a lot of misconceptions about job searching that can be let go. You cannot know for certain how an interviewer will react to certain things.

For example, you’ve probably heard that if your cover letter is longer than two paragraphs, it’s too long. That’s generally true. However, if your cover letter is dynamic, engaging, makes a connection with the reader and happens to be a full page, then that’s OK. If it works, it’s right! So, stop looking for the right way to do something and instead focus on the right way for you to do it.

Misconception #1: Don’t Contact the Employer

This is one of the oldest myths. It used to be true in the days before the internet and social networks when contacting an employer was more difficult. These days, the job poster is often visible on LinkedIn Job postings, so you can easily connect with the correct contact. What’s important is knowing what to say when you contact them.

You shouldn’t contact the job poster with a generic message like, “Hi, I just applied to your post online and wanted to be sure you were aware of my interest for the job,” or ” I look forward to hearing from you and hope you’ll keep me in mind.” On the other hand, a personalized response like this just may get you noticed: “Hi, I’ve been a huge fan of your company since Sam Jones took over the organization. It’s been incredible to see the innovative growth he’s brought to the company. I’ve applied to your post for a marketing manager but I just couldn’t resist reaching out to you personally. I know you’re busy so I’ll leave it at that and hope to hear from you soon. All my best.”

Misconception #2: I Need to Convince Them to Hire Me

Often, the approach many job seekers take is that of selling themselves in an interview. That can make qualified candidates look desperate or seem pushy. People confident in their abilities don’t sell themselves. They have open discussions and enjoy the process of sharing authentic information about their experience. Harness the opportunity to learn more about the company’s needs.

Misconception #3: If I’m Not Working I Should Take the First Job I Get Offered

If you’ve been job searching for awhile, this may seem like the right thing to do. Taking the first job you are offered is not always in your best interest. There’s something to be said for being able to conduct your search from a place of strength. Telling an employer that you’ve turned down other opportunities because you want to focus on finding the right role for the long-term can benefit the conversation. It gives you the opportunity to elevate your status from being out of work to being a discerning candidate with depth and dimension. This is your chance to tell the employer what roles you’ve been offered, what roles are better suited for you and why. Understanding the role and work environment that is best suited for you will make you happier in the end.

Misconception #4: Quote a Lower Asking Salary Then Ask for More LaterSalary is an important component of any job search, and not being honest with your actual salary expectations from the beginning will backfire. While there is some wiggle room with extended offers, companies have set budgets for each open position. If you’re not honest from the beginning, you’ll likely be wasting your time and theirs. Candidates who are confident about the salaries they command are more likely to be compensated as requested (or at least reasonably close to it). Salary negotiation starts the minute you talk about your salary expectations. Be transparent and direct.

Misconception #5: Recruiters Only Care About Their Clients Not Their Candidates

It’s a common misconception that recruiters only care about placing you in a job and have no regard for your actual interests and goals. It’s not in a recruiter’s best interest to push you into a job you don’t really want. In fact, if you quickly realize it’s not the right job for you and leave the company within a few months, the recruiter won’t get paid. Also, recruiters depend on referrals to build their candidate pool, and if they treat you poorly, you’re certainly not going to refer anyone to them.

Of course, in any profession, there are people who are great at what they do and those that leave you feeling misled. You must do your due diligence. A great recruiter will develop a relationship with you, be interested in your professional goals and be transparent about your strengths and weaknesses in the marketplace. If you’re dealing with a recruiter who doesn’t operate in this way, run! But don’t forego working with a recruiter altogether. The right recruiter can be a great resource that offers insight and advice which would otherwise be unavailable. Recruiters can be your best advocate to potential employers.

Misconception #6: Apply to Anything That Looks Interesting

While casting a wide net may come with some advantages, it’s not the best strategy on a few levels. There is a difference between being in control of your job search and being controlled by it. You don’t want to be a victim of having your career just happen to you rather than actively seeking what you want. There is a balance of luck and timing, but your intention needs to be clearly set.  Otherwise, you won’t be able to confidently sit across from an interviewer.

Job searching can be a draining and exhausting process. If you’re going to go through it, be sure you know what you want before you move forward. Submitting an application to everything and anything may have you spinning your wheels just to stand still. Interviewing for positions you’re not even sure you’d accept is a waste of valuable time. For a more successful job search, focus your energy on the specific positions that interest you, be honest with yourself and your potential employer. It’s important to understand your needs so you can find a work environment and position that meets them, or you could find yourself job searching again soon.

This article updated January 23rd 2023, originally posted November 19th, 2017.