1. Myth: You need connections in order to get a job.
Fact: Connections are helpful, but plenty of people get jobs by spotting an ad, sending in a resume, and interviewing. Sometimes it might not feel that way, because there are so many job-seekers competing for a limited number of jobs, which means most people are getting fewer interviews (and even fewer job offers). But plenty of jobs still go to people without connections at the company.
[See The 50 Best Careers of 2011.]
2. Myth: No one reads cover letters.
Fact: A well-written cover letter with personality can get you an interview when your resume alone wouldn’t have. Sure, there are some hiring managers out there who don’t bother with cover letters, but there are many who do, and you have no way of knowing which type you’re dealing with. With so many stories of cover letters opening doors that otherwise would have stayed shut, it would be foolish to pass up this incredibly effective way of standing out.
3. Myth: Employers will respond to you right away if they’re interested.
Fact: Some employers take weeks or even months to respond to candidates. Sometimes this is because they’re waiting until the end of the application period before they contact any candidates, and sometimes it’s because higher-priority work gets in the way. (Of course, sometimes it can also be because the company is disorganized.) Regardless of the reasons, job seekers shouldn’t jump to any conclusions if they don’t hear back right away.
4. Myth: In a crowded field, job seekers need to find creative ways to stand out.
Fact: If you want to stand out, write a great cover letter and build a resume that demonstrates a track record of success in the area the employer is hiring for. Fancy designs, having your resume delivered by overnight mail, video resumes, and other gimmicks don’t make up for a lack of qualifications.
5. Myth: Don’t bother job hunting around the holidays.
Fact: Lots of hiring gets done in December! In fact, some hiring managers are scrambling to fill positions before the new year. And you may even have less competition, since other job seekers may have slowed down their search at this time of year.
6. Myth: Your resume should only be one page.
Fact: At some point in the past, resumes were supposed to be limited to one page. But times have changed, and two-page resumes are common now. People with only a few years of experience should still stick to one page, but two pages are fine for everyone else.
7. Myth: Lowering your salary expectations will make you a more attractive candidate.
Fact: Employers are going to hire the best person for the job, within the limits of what they can afford. They aren’t likely to prefer someone else just because he or she comes cheaper.
8. Myth: Your interviewer knows what he or she is doing.
Fact: While interviewers should all be trained in how to interview effectively, the reality is that many are inexperienced, unskilled, or otherwise unable to conduct strong interviews. They may be unprepared, ask bad questions, or simply be rude.
9. Myth: If you want to stand out, you need to call to follow up on your application.
Fact: Most employers will tell you that these calls don’t help and sometimes hurt. These days, with hundreds of applicants for every opening, if every applicant called to follow up, employers would spend all day fielding these calls. Believe me, they don’t want to.
10. Myth: Employers will only call the references on the list you gave them.
Fact: Employers can call anyone you’ve worked for or who might know you, and good reference-checkers won’t limit themselves to the formal list of references you provide. They’ll call former managers, listed or not—and sometimes, especially those not listed, since they know the omission may have been intentional and thus notable. After all, the list you hand over is, of course, the people likely to present you in the most flattering light, and they want to see you in brighter lighting. The only thing typically considered off-limits in reference-checking is calling your current employer. Everyone else is fair game.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader'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. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.