When giving advice to jobseekers, remember to keep an open mind

If you are going to advise jobseekers on how to properly conduct a job search, please do them a favor; get over yourself. That’s right, remember it’s not about you; it’s about giving your listeners options and opening their minds to possibilities.

Occasionally I’m told about speakers my jobseekers hear at  networking events who speak from one point of view, their own. One speaker told the audience that he never reads cover letters. Because he’s an eloquent speaker, an accomplished recruiter, I’m willing to bet everyone in the room left thinking, phew, I don’t have to write cover letters anymore.

Recently I heard of a hiring authority who said she prefers one-page résumés. Now, I know she was speaking for herself, but immediately following the presentation, one of my jobseekers rushed to tell me she was changing her résumé to a one-pager. I spoke with her and we agreed that she had enough experience and accomplishments to warrant a two-page résumé. Further, we agreed that she should construct a one-page résumé. I don’t have anything against one-page résumés, but different situations call for different types of résumés.

A job coach once told me that he doesn’t think job candidates should go to interviews prepared; rather they should go in and wing it. Better to be relaxed than all hyped up, he reasoned. Screw the research, right? He also tells jobseekers that cover letters are a waste of time. He never got a job using a cover letter, so what’s the sense for all jobseekers to write them.

We tend to give advice based on our experience, sometimes forgetting there are other points of view, other ways of doing things. I’m guilty of doing the same. In my mind a cover letter is a compliment to one’s résumé—you write one that’s tailored to each job for which you apply. But I also get that that some recruiters don’t read them. To some, cover letters are fluffy narrative that aren’t worth the paper (or bytes) they’re written on. My advice is to send a cover letter unless specifically told not to.

I realize that one-page résumés are preferred by some hiring authorities. Hell, I’d rather read a résumé that tells it all in one page. But some people have significant accomplishments that simply can’t be covered in one page. Nonetheless, I show my Résumé Writing workshop attendees an example of an excellent one-page résumé that consists of one hundred percent quantified accomplishments. I have an open mind.

Some jobseekers can go to an interview having not researched the company or position for which they’re applying and do quite well. They’re loose and confident. They have the gift of gab. I have to admit that I’ve never suggested an alternative to preparing for interviews, but perhaps I should…nah…prepare your ass off.

I cut my jobseekers a little slack when I explain the ways they can write their LinkedIn profiles, particularly when it comes to the summary. I like one that’s lengthy, written in first person, and tells a story. Others suggest summaries written much like a résumé’s. Not for me, but who’s to say what works best in certain situations. I’m sure hiring managers in the technical fields like things short and sweet. I tend to be long-winded. Can’t you tell?

Look, your advice is probably sound, but there’s more than one way to skin a…bad analogy. Just present sound options and let the smart jobseeker decide what’s best given the situation. Let’s face it, if there were only one way to tell people how to find a job, we’d be rich people. Or we’d be out of work.

4 thoughts on “When giving advice to jobseekers, remember to keep an open mind

  1. Laura Smith-Proulx, Executive Resume Writer


    I couldn’t agree more, and I’m glad you posted this article. I’ve worked with numerous job hunters who have tried their best to navigate all the advice out there, and they often become frustrated and disillusioned in doing so.

    The point you make – there is more than one “right” way to land your next job – is important. What also helps is remembering that there is more than one way that will work for YOU. Your career path, skills, and work style are all unique, so why try to squeeze yourself into the wrong mold.

    Therefore, if your cousin secures a job by hunting down the hiring manager and sending a cryptic note and an empty Starbucks cup, (trying to initiate a coffee meeting) great. I

    f your friend in sales gets the CEO on the phone and impresses him or her with a well-crafted pitch that leads to a newly created job, fine.

    But things for YOU might be different: sending a well-crafted cover letter to 10 Operations Directors for an operations management role could make at least 4 of them bite.

    Why? Your industry could be full of detail-focused people who like to read cover letters, and who won’t consider an application complete without one.

    Yet, you’ll still find that your former colleague in IT sent only a resume (no cover letter or bio) to a recruiter, and quickly landed an interview. This is because recruiters hit the bottom line very quickly, scanning your resume for desired skills and industry tenure. They often don’t want to read a cover letter.

    (note: if most engineers send an empty coffee cup to a recruiter, they’ll be shot down faster that you can spell “automated brewing equipment”)

    Different audiences want (and deserve) different ways of learning about you… hence, your point about preparation is key.

    Be ready to meet the hiring audience where they live… and stretch your approach to fit the situation and your value proposition, instead of taking “blanket” job search advice as the gospel that fits all scenarios.



    1. Things Career Related Post author

      Wow, great response, Laura. Especially meaningful coming from someone who has a great command of the job search and understanding of various industries. I just fear that job search experts being adamant about one way to conduct one’s search are doing a disservice to the people they advise because, as you say, different situations call for different action. Thanks, Laura. Hope all is well with you.


  2. Suzanne Gray

    Bob, Thanks for posting this. I co-facilitate Career Transitions of Greater Boston. Our attendees are curious about the “best way to…” fill in the blank. There is no one best way to a successful job search. There is no magic bullet. We do suggest that job seekers prepare; know their true value to that specific organization; and research/think through their audience’s expectation. If they research the audience (hiring manager) through contacts at the company, then they may adjust their presentation to meet that company and manager’s expectations. Suzanne



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