Shred These Outdated Career & Job Search Practices – Part 2 of 3

Two dozen job search and career experts offer fresh guidance on all the things job seekers should quit doing if they want to find and keep a great job

Don’t be the Prisoner of Outdated Approaches

If you haven’t conducted a job search in a few years, much of what you did to get your last job won’t be a good use of your time and resources this time around. Never before has job search methodology changed so rapidly in such a short period of time. We asked a panel of more than two dozen professionals from the recruitment, career services, career counseling, and human resources functions this question:

What traditional career beliefs and practices are outdated and should be shredded?

In Part 1 of this 3-part series, we examined the first four practices that you should purge and shred from your job search and career development toolbox (see Part 1 here):

1. Spray & Pray ain’t no way (to find a job today)! Job seekers must conduct a targeted search and leverage the current and emerging tools and technologies of an effective search.

2. The career ladder has been replaced with a matrix. Climbing the career ladder used to be the appropriate way to advance your career. Today progress in your career will look more like a matrix than a ladder.

3. Build the narrative of your successes. Employers no longer accept claims that you can do the job. They want proof in the form of the examples of how you applied your skills and expertise to get the job done.

4. Résumés and job applications are just a fraction of a successful search. They are still a necessary part of your strategy, albeit a small part. It’s what you surround them with that delivers success.

The Next Four Practices to Shred:

Shred #5 – The Best Way to Find Your Next Job is the Way You Found Your Current Job. Job seeking methods and strategies are changing rapidly, with new approaches replacing old approaches every day. Cyndy Trivella (@CyndyTrivella), Marketing manager for SmartSearch in Cincinnati sums it up well: “There are so many different ways of hiring today that it’s mind boggling to the job seeker.” That is why the job seeker of today must rewrite his or her own search plan in light of emerging search methods that allow him or her to break through all the clutter. @MyHumera, an administrative and professional staffing agency in Minneapolis MN, points out that, “a job search doesn’t take place in the classified ads anymore. It’s important to network online to find job openings.”

A.J. Borowsky (@AskWhatNext) of AskWhatNext says today’s job search is not an event but a state of perpetual readiness. “Shred the old way of only updating and posting résumés when you are looking to change your job. These days you must be ‘out there.’” Martin Kral, Career Services Director at Western Illinois University reminds us that, “there is more to an effective job search than looking at and sending out résumés. This approach could be used, but not be your primary or only approach.” Edythe Richards adds, ”The majority of job seekers still use online job boards as their primary job search tool, however, few of them have much of a return-on-investment, as shown in CareerXroads’ 2014 study.” Long story short, your next job may well come from doing something completely different than what you did in your last search. You’ve got to keep your finger on the pulse of the current and emerging best practices of conducting an effective job search.

Tom Bolt (@TomBolt), CEO of Danbury CT-based Leute Management Services sums up this point: “Shred anything that cannot be used to plot a new direction or offer any basis for improvement.”

Shred #6 – I don’t have to network, do I? You don’t have to if you’re OK with reducing your chances of getting hired. Source of hire studies consistently rank jobs found as a result of direct or indirect networking as the Number One or Two method. “Though the definition of networking has changed over the past 20 years with the advent of social media, the fact is that we trust people we know or people whose opinions matter to us. Networking always has been and always will be the best job search strategy. And face-to-face networking isn’t dead,” says Edythe Richards. And she’s right; “online networking should be supplemented with face-to-face networking and networking by telephone,” as Annette Richmond suggests.

Mary F. Sweeny illustrates how informal networking can open up interview opportunities. “You never know who you may meet at the salon or coffee shop.” Let people know what types of jobs or employer might be ideal for you. “Don’t just ask people to keep an eye out for you, ask for introductions and insights on specific employers,” says Jon Thurmond. Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman), Content Marketing and Media Strategy Manager for Meteorix in Boston MA, says networking success can be the right timing. “You never know when an opportunity will come along and who might be looking for someone just like you.” Martin Kral sums up networking with this advice: “Too often job searchers will only use LinkedIn to network in the Internet and forget to go out, join a professional organization, press the flesh, and actually talk to a human being about potential job information. Purple squirrel whisperer Steve Levy @LevyRecruits once told me, ‘machines don’t recruit people, people do!’”

There is a fine balance between network quantity and network quality. The power of a network is not just in your first level connection, but in who your first level connections know. For example, a network of 100 people, each of whom have 100 people in their network gives you a reach of 10,000 people. But a network of 500 people, each of whom have 500 people in their networks, expands your reach to 250,000 people.

The other network element is quality. Edythe Richards points out that quantity should be balanced with quality, but made effective as a result of quality relationships. “It’s not just the sheer number of people in one’s network who are important, but the relationship we have with them. Joining a group (or attending one meeting) isn’t enough.” Relationships have to be built and maintained.

Shred #7 – It’s All About the Big (Job) Boards. Gone is the era of and CareerBuilders and little else. There are specialty boards for almost every industry… for technical roles, HCareers for hospitality, YouTern for internships, HealthcareJobsite for positions in healthcare, to name a few. Google specialty job boards and follow the links. Craig Donnelly (@donnellyct), who works for Nebraska’s Department of Labor, advises job seekers to limit job boards to “no more than one-third of their time. Focus the other two-thirds on networking and professional development.” Bonnie Natko (@bondidwhat) talent acquisition specialist for NYC tech consultancy Infusion, echoes this sentiment. “Don’t go straight to the boards. That’s just one tool in your toolbox. You need to engage and connect (in other words, network).” Tom Bolt agrees, “If you are exclusively on job boards, cut back and use your other tools.”

Even your mother would agree with using multiple tools in your job search. How many times did she tell you not to put all your eggs in one basket?

Shred 8: I must send a résumé and cover letter in response to every opening. Not so fast! That was true ‘back in the day, but the rules have been changing over the past 10 years. Job seekers have to do the research ahead of time to figure out what the best approach will be. Technology recruiter Steve Levy (@LevyRecruits) has a strong opinion on this: “Enough with the cover letters! If you cannot excite me with your résumé, do you really think your cover letter will? They are pretty much useless for me, so I just don’t read them when I get them.” “Some employers have eliminated cover letters altogether in designing their ATS (applicant tracking systems),” says Craig Donnelly (@donnellyct). “Instead, these employers use an info box in the ATS to capture the data they want.”

Yet other employers still value them. Chaim Shapiro (@ChaimShapiro) counters the forget the cover letter argument with, “and yet, MANY online applications require them.” Mary Boyer, VP of Human Resources for the last 12 years at Cairn University outside Philadelphia, learns a lot about the university’s candidates from their cover letters. “The résumé tells me about the what of the candidate; his or her cover letter tells me about the who and why of the candidate.”

A.J. Borowsky sees both sides of the argument. “A cover letter is useless if it simply a form letter and doesn’t provide any new information.” That new information might include why you’re looking to make a change, your availability for interviews, and the name of someone employed there who suggested you apply. “I want to know why the candidate is seeking employment here,” says Mary Boyer. “What they say in their cover letter can convince me whether or not I should interview them.”

A job search best practices to learn what a particular recruiter’s résumé and cover letter preferences are, then adapt your job approach to fit the recruiter’s ideal.

Thanks! My sincere thanks to each person who responded to my question with guidance and advice. You do the rest of us a great service by so willingly sharing your expertise.

Bottom Line: Finding a terrific job and moving forward in your career is an ever-changing progression of strategies and tactics. What worked well in 2014 may be completely counterproductive in 2016 – or may just need a tweak here and there to make it effective. Don’t make the assumption that the things you did during your last search should be dusted off and put to use during your next search.

Next Time: In the final installment of this series we’ll examine the last group of outdated career and job search practices that should be shredded. Until next week, happy shredding!

Boyer Management Group works with employers, organizations, and job seekers alike to help them become more successful. For employers, we offer world-class talent management, acquisition and onboarding tools and programs to help employees and volunteers achieve consistent, optimal performance. For job seekers and universities, we offer tools, assessments, books, and curricula to help connect people with careers. To find out more, please visit us at, or call us a 215-942-0982.


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