You’re on the hunt for a new job, and your friends have offered you some well-intentioned advice. That’s great—unless you take their suggestions literally.
Read on for six common job-hunting refrains that, if followed too closely, can cost you your dream position.
1. “Take Initiative”
Unfortunately, however, this advice can steer some candidates horribly wrong (like when they interpret the advice to mean that they should doggedly pursue the job like a bloodhound that’s picked up a scent).
An all-too-common example? Applicants who push to schedule their own interview. As an applicant, you should never write in your application that you’ll “be in touch to schedule an interview.” That’s the hiring manager’s job, and asserting that you’ll lead the process not only makes you look aggressive, but also like you’ll end up disempowering your team members. Avoid this impression by taking initiative within the constraints of your role as an applicant—meaning that you can always respond promptly and offer to provide additional information, but stick to closing your letter with “Thank you for your time and consideration.”
2. “It’s Always Better to Meet in Person”
This advice is “take initiative” on steroids. Sure, there are some merits to it, because in person you can make good eye contact, be kind to everyone in the office, take note of your interviewer’s body language, and so forth.
But I actually cringed when I recently read a story of a woman who refused to take her interview over the phone and came to the office instead—despite the hiring manager explaining the process and asking her not to.
This candidate probably thought she’d be seen as someone who would do anything to close a sale. But in reality, she seemed more like a Liam Neeson character (“I will look for you, I will find you…”).
3. “Show Your Love for the Company”
Yes, one way to show you’re absolutely not a fit is to be clueless about an organization. If you can’t answer basic questions about a company, the hiring manager will think you’re unprepared (or don’t care).
However, you don’t want to jump to the opposite side of the spectrum either. Professing your love for a company can actually get a little creepy. As Muse writer April Starcadder discusses in “What Not to Put in the Notes Section of Your Application,” “…it’s better to hit a more balanced tone (think: ‘This company is awesome, and here’s the value I could add…’)…An overwhelming ode to your obsession with the brand can make it appear as though you wouldn’t have a fresh perspective or new ideas to bring to the table.”
Strive to look like a knowledgeable applicant—not an obsessed fan.
4. “Everything Will Work Out as It’s Meant To”
It seems like the antidote to being aggressive would be to step back and let the universe take over. And there are times, when despite how much you want to remind the hiring manager (again) how much you want the job, you need to practice patience.
But that doesn’t mean you should send in your materials and wash your hands of your application altogether. You’re still applying for a job. So, if it’s been a week and you haven’t heard back, go ahead and send an email to confirm that your materials were received. Do some additional research, so if you’re asked to hop on a call tomorrow, you could. Reach out to close contacts at the company and see if there’s anything else you should be doing while you wait.
Following up appropriately just could make all the difference.
5. “Be Yourself”
Authenticity is good—if for no other reason than if you receive an offer, you’ll know that the company likes the real you and you’re actually a fit for its culture. However, sometimes people confuse being authentic with being the laziest, least-groomed version of themselves.
Yes, I’m myself when I first wake up in the morning and review emails in my pajamas over my first cup of coffee. But I don’t stop being myself when I brush my hair and put on a real outfit for the day.
A job interview is not the time to get all, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you don’t deserve me at my best.” This is the time to be your very best, most impressive self!
Think of it this way: If you drop f-bombs all the time around your friends, but watch your language around your grandparents, you’re not being inauthentic, you’re showing awareness of your audience.
6. “No One Reads Cover Letters Anymore”
There is no saving grace to this advice. I honestly don’t care if the person saying it is a hiring manager who never reads cover letters. I don’t care if it’s your BFF whose spouse is a hiring manager who never reads cover letters.
I’ve been in charge of reviewing applications too, and I always read—and carefully considered—an applicant’s cover letter. And as a Staff Writer/Editor at The Muse, I edit articles for people with a lot of experience in hiring, and more often than not, someone will read your cover letter.
And, so what if you do find that legendary hiring manager who doesn’t read your cover letter? That means you won’t get any points for your awesome work. OK, but you also don’t lose any points. But if you take this advice and meet a hiring manager—or anyone else at the company—who does read cover letters, you’re screwed.
It’s not my intention to scare you away from all job search advice. Rather, I hope you see that the secret to using this advice is to strike a balance. So, when you’re putting in extra effort, ask yourself: Might this scare the hiring manager? And when you’re deciding how to present yourself ask: Is this something I think the best candidate would do?