Starting a job hunt is a confusing time for a lot of reasons. One of them is that all manner of people will offer you advice you didn’t ask for, on how best to go about it.
This would be fantastic if there was just one single way to get a job, but of course that’s not the case. People find jobs in all sorts of places using lots of different strategies, which they may then become convinced are the ‘best’ or ‘only’ ways to find a job. While some strategies are certainly better than others, the sheer range of ways in which people have found a job means that a lot of the tips you receive might actually conflict.
What should you do when nobody can agree on whether you should send thank-you notes, or include a photo with your CV? Here’s what you need to know about some of the most common contradictory tips.
1) What length should your CV be?
You’ll hear all kinds of different estimates of how long a CV should be – what’s the right length? It used to be fashionable to reduce it to a single page, but today two pages (or slightly less) is generally a good length to aim for. This applies whether you have decades of experience or whether it’s your first job you’re applying for.
Any more than two pages and recruiters’ attention tends to wane; much less, and they’ll be wondering where the rest of the CV is.
2) Calling every day: annoying or impressive?
This one truly mystifies us. There’s a school of thought out there that says an application should be followed up with daily phone calls to the employer to check if they want to hire you yet. But before you pick up the phone, take a few minutes to see the situation from the recruiter’s side: Would you want a job applicant always calling up and asking for an interview? Chances are you’d see that person as a nuisance rather than an ultra-committed candidate.
Since many job adverts will get hundreds of candidates, imagine if each one of them called up daily to enquire about their application. Do a favour for yourself and employers everywhere, and disregard all advice encouraging you to pester hiring managers. Only if you have heard nothing back for some time should you consider putting in a call for an update.
3) You should (not) write a personal statement
Some job seekers and recruiters swear by the inclusion of a personal statement…sometimes also known as a mission statement or profile. Others think it’s a weak way to lead into the document. Opinion is divided, but it generally makes some sense to include it if you’re changing career path, if you’re new to the working world or if other special circumstances apply.
Detractors also say that the statement rarely tells the reader anything they wouldn’t know from reading on – so consider if that’s the case before proceeding.
4) (Don’t) ask if you’ve got the job
Confidence goes a long way in a job interview. It’s for that reason that many people advise asking ‘Have I got the job?’ as the interview closes. Yes, just like that.
It’s direct, and probably crosses the line from confidence into cockiness. You should also know that it’s rare for even the best candidates to get an offer right away as the decision to hire usually involves more time and multiple people.
But then again, many workplaces favour blunt communication and might be impressed at the commitment to the job this question shows. We can’t advise the technique, but we can also believe it sometimes garners a ‘When can you start?’ in return.
5) Stand out or stay in line?
Every candidate wants to be memorable, but it should be for the right reasons. A lot of mainstream sources, including Forbes and the Guardian, recommend including a small or not-so-small gift with your application, ranging from wine and chocolates to vouchers for a spa day. Other candidates include framed photos of themselves…or a single shoe. Should you aim to make the recruiter’s day? Or should you just make their day easier?
The idea is to impress. But the counter-argument states that actually it’s generally best to follow the stated application criteria, not to resort to gimmicks, and to stand out by submitting the best CV and letter you possibly can. There are definitely recruiters who will be swayed by funny gifts, but the best companies don’t hand out jobs in return for a box of chocolates – so save your cash and keep the attention-grabbing ploys to yourself.
What should you do about conflicting advice in future? A good rule of thumb, boring as it may sound, is to pick a relevant job at the right level, write the most competent CV and cover letter you can, and remain polite and professional throughout the application process!