If you're like most job seekers, you approach your job search with a set of beliefs about how the hiring process works, what responses from employers are good signs and what responses are bad. But in many cases, those beliefs are flat-out wrong and some of them can hinder your search.
Here are seven of the most common things job seekers often get wrong about their searches.
1. "I'm qualified for this job, so I should definitely get an interview." If you see a job description that looks like it could have been written with you in mind, it's easy to fall into this way of thinking -- you have everything they're looking for, after all, so why wouldn't you get a call to interview? But employers often have numerous perfectly qualified candidates, and they can't interview all of them, which means plenty of well-qualified people will end up getting rejected without even an interview.
2. "The interview went well, so I'm likely to get a job offer." A good interview doesn't equate to a job offer. Other candidates might have interviewed as well as you or better. Or the job requirements might end up getting tweaked post-interview, and now you're no longer as qualified as someone else. Or the employer might have an internal candidate they prefer, decide to hire the CEO's nephew or put the position on hold altogether. There's just no way to know from the outside, so it's dangerous to let a good interview convince you that it's in the bag.
3. "They said I'd hear back soon, so I expect to hear from them in about a week." Employers and job candidates tend to be in different time zones when it comes to how quickly hiring moves. Hiring managers often juggle their hiring work on top of all their regular work, and it can become their lowest priority -- whereas for candidates it's often the top thing on their minds. What's the best thing to do? Whenever an employer gives you an anticipated timeline, assume it will be at least double and possibly triple that.
4. "I haven't heard back yet, so I probably didn't get the job." Maybe, but unless months have gone by, there's no reason to assume that yet. As in No. 3 above, hiring usually takes longer than people assume it will. But much worse than that is...
5. "This job is a sure thing, so I'm not going to keep searching." Slowing down your search or stopping it altogether because you think you're likely to get a job offer is one of the worst mistakes you can make. Some people even turn down interviews with other companies because they're so sure an offer is forthcoming, and are left kicking themselves when the offer never materializes.
6. "I need to find a creative way to stand out to employers." Job seekers sometimes resort to gimmicks to stand out, like using a fancy résumé design, sending gifts to an interviewer or having their résumé delivered by overnight mail. But gimmicks don't make up for lacking qualifications and will turn off many hiring managers. The way to stand out to a good manager is simple: Write a great cover letter and create a résumé that demonstrates a track record of success in the area the employer is hiring for.
7. "My graduate degree should make me a more desirable candidate." Grad school will make you more marketable if you're in a field that requires or rewards it, but if you're in one of the many fields that doesn't, employers may find it irrelevant. In fact, it can even make you less competitive if you apply for jobs that have nothing to do with your graduate degree, since some employers will think you don't really want jobs outside your field.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.
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