Job Hunting Rules to Bend, Break and Ignore

1. Perfect your resume and use it to apply to as many jobs as possible

It’s no longer enough to have just one resume, no matter how polished. Your resume needs to be customized for each job you apply for.

Jobseekers should make “their resume reflect the job they want, not necessarily the job they’ve had,” says Teri Cullen, career services manager at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, Ill.

But won’t that take more time, thus reducing the number of resumes you can send out? Yes–and that’s not a bad thing.

“Everybody always thought, ‘OK, I did this one resume, I send it out to 500 employers, and it works,’” says Pat Nash, associate dean of career and advising support at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, N.C.

But it doesn’t work anymore. Instead, you need a resume that clearly shows your interest in and qualifications for a specific job.

“Instead of doing this shotgun approach–send your resume to everyone and it will stick somewhere–in this job market what you really need to be doing is targeting your resume to the companies who would hire you,” says Kathryn Ullrich, who runs alumni career services at the UCLA Anderson School of Management and is the author of Getting to the Top: Strategies for Career Success.

2. Make sure your resume has one full page for every 10 years of work experience

Although your resume may turn out this length, it should be because you included all the relevant information–no more, no less.

“I love seeing something end without being filled with fluff,” Ullrich says. If you include everything you need and your resume is one-and-a-half pages, don’t feel obligated to fill the second page.

It needs to have white space so it’s readable. This may mean going over one page even if you haven’t reached the 10-year mark.

“Trying to cram everything onto one page is not the answer,” says career expert and strategist Mary Jeanne Vincent.

3. Write a cover letter that discusses your career in detail

You do need a cover letter, Ullrich says, “But make it short.” Explain how you heard about the job opening, then use bullet points to list the ways in which you match the job description. Finish by explaining how you’ll follow up.

4. Don’t bother people for informational interviews–they’re too busy

Do your research so you know what to ask–and then don’t be afraid to call. Yes, it’s true that some people feel so overworked that they can’t spare a few minutes to help a job hunter. But if you show a genuine interest in their work (as opposed to simply asking for a job), many will be glad to help.

“I’m finding across the board that people are willing to help,” says Marianne Adoradio, a career counselor in Silicon Valley. “It could be that people feel badly that it’s so hard to get jobs right now.”

5. When your phone rings, be prepared to set up an interview

That phone call may actually be the first interview. “Employers are screening people more by telephone,” Nash says. “If you don’t make it past that initial screening, you don’t get offered the opportunity to come in and interview.”

So make sure your voice mail has a professional-sounding message on it. And if an interviewer catches you on your cell phone in a noisy, distracting place, don’t be afraid to ask if you can call right back from a quieter location.

6. Take any job you’re offered

Depending on how badly you need the money, you may end up having to take a job that’s not your ideal. But don’t start out with that attitude.

“It’s a mistake to say that you’ll take anything,” Vincent says. “You’re setting your sights too low.”

If you end up settling for less than your dream job, try to find one that could offer a path to where you want to go. “If you do need to take a step back, try to do that at a company where you can work on making a transition to a new job,” Ullrich says.

Originally published in CareerFocus Magazine


About Career Services at Piedmont Tech:

Piedmont Technical College offers a full suite of career services, including planning, counseling, resume assistance, and a wide variety of job search resources. Employers: If you're searching for employees, please consider listing your job opening with us.