[See our Best Jobs of 2012.]
Here are 10 job search rules that you should go ahead and break:
1. Limit your resume to one page. You might have heard the one-page resume rule, but times have changed and two-page resumes are common now. If you only have a few years of experience, you should still stick to one page, but two are fine for everyone else.
2. Write in formal language. The most compelling resumes are written in real language, without jargon or stiffness. Write your resume in normal language, like the way you would describe your achievements to a friend. Don't suck the life out of it with stuffy corporate-speak.
3. Include an objective. Hiring managers don't really care about your objective; they care about what you can do for them. Resume objectives never help, and they can actually hurt if they aren't tailored enough to the position or, even worse, if they have nothing to do with the position. Most objectives, though, simply waste space. Instead, include highlights or a skills summary.
4. Lead with your education. While your college career center might have convinced you that your degree is your best-selling point, employers care more about what you've achieved in the work world. Most resumes should list your education beneath your work experience, because the latter will be more relevant to employers.
5. Include "references available upon request" on the bottom of your resume. Like the one-page rule, this is a convention from another time. Employers these days assume that you'll provide references when asked, so you don't need to say it explicitly.
[In Pictures: 10 Ways Your Email Could Kill Your Job Chances.]
6. After you submit your resume, wait a few days and then call to schedule an interview. Job-seekers don't get to decide on scheduling an interview; employers do, and it's overly pushy to pretend otherwise. Employers would spend all day fielding calls if the hundreds of applicants who apply for any given position were to call to follow up. It might be hard to accept, but once you apply, the ball is in the employer's court.
7. Arrive early for interviews. It's smart to give yourself a buffer against being late, but don't walk into the company's reception area early. Most interviewers are annoyed when candidates show up more than five or 10 minutes early, since they may feel obligated to interrupt what they're doing and greet the person, or feel guilty leaving a candidate sitting in their reception area for too long. Instead, if you're early, kill that time in a nearby coffee shop, or even in your car if you need to.
8. When an interviewer asks about your weaknesses, answer with a positive framed as a weakness. It's disingenuous to claim that your biggest weakness is perfectionism or that you work too hard. And those weaknesses have become such interview clichés that your interviewer will assume you're avoiding a real answer to the question. Instead, talk about an area you've truly struggled with and what you've done to overcome it.
9. Don't name a salary number first. Job-seekers used to be advised to avoid naming a salary figure first when the topic comes up in order to avoid accidentally under-selling themselves. But these days it's often impossible to avoid doing so. Since employers increasingly use online application processes that require candidates to input a desired salary before they can proceed, job-seekers need to be ready to talk money—which means being prepared with a salary range based on research about what comparable positions pay in your particular geographic area.
10. Ask for the job. While this kind of hard-sell tactic might have worked in the past, these days employers don't want to feel they're being sold. Hard-sell tactics put your interviewer on the spot and can come across as desperate. Interviewers like to think they're hiring the best person for the job, not the most aggressive. Instead, what works better is to treat the interview as a collaborative process where you're both concerned with finding the right fit.
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.