Five Job Search Myths That Might Be Holding You Back

Five Job Search Myths That Might Be Holding You Back

If you want to find a job you love, you need to have high standards. You need to know what you want and what you’re worth, and you can’t be willing to settle for anything lower than that. But that doesn’t mean you can hold the job-hunting process to the same standards. In fact, it’s far too easy for job hunters to go into the job search with unrealistic expectations about how the process will work — expectations that often result in disappointment.

Job search picture from Shutterstock

To get through the job hunt successfully, you have to stop believing in these myths and instead focus on more effective ways to get the attention of — and ultimately impress — the hiring manager

Myth #1: If I’m the Right Candidate, I’ll Get Through the Automated System

Whenever you submit an online job application, you’re submitting your materials to an applicant tracking system (ATS) that’s programmed to screen out candidates based on keywords, dates, and job titles. And it certainly does its job: According to Career Confidential CEO Peggy McKee, only about five of every 1,000 online applications make it through the ATS and onto the hiring manager’s desk. Even if you consider yourself the perfect candidate, those are some pretty dismal odds of getting your resume into the right hands.

And yet, job seekers continue to spend hours and hours slaving over these time-consuming forms, under the assumption that if they’re truly qualified and seem like a good fit for the job, they will make it past the robots and successfully into a human’s hands.

Is it possible to make it through the automated system? Sure. But is it the most effective way to spend your time — and get your resume read? Absolutely not. Instead, invest more time writing your resume and cover letter and tracking down the hiring manager’s email address (here’s how), then send your materials directly to him or her. With an eye-catching cover letter and tailored resume, you’ll have a much better chance of landing an interview than if you let robots determine your fate.

Myth #2: I’ll Get a Response to Every Application

In an ideal world, job seekers would always receive a response to their resume and cover letter — either extending a request for an interview or politely listing the reasons why they were not chosen to move on in the process.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Often, hiring managers only contact those candidates who are being asked to interview with the company. Others send out automated “we received your application” emails, followed by an abyss of nothingness. Some simply hear radio silence.

It’s frustrating, but it’s the truth: You’re not going to receive a prompt response (or a response at all) from every company you apply to.

To improve your chances of hearing back, make sure you’re contacting a real person (see the section above), then follow these tipsfor following up in an appropriate way, within an appropriate timeline. And if you still don’t hear back? Don’t dwell on it. It’s a less-than-ideal part of the process, and it may signal that it’s time to move on to the next opportunity.

Myth #3: The Hiring Manager Will Be Able to Figure Out That I’m a Great Fit

The simple words “figure out” should be a giant red flag. You see, the hiring manager should be able to open your resume and immediately see — clear as day — that you’re an amazing fit for the job. There should be no “figuring out” involved.

If a hiring manager has to really dig into your resume to make the connection between the bullet points on the page and how they qualify you for the open position, chances are he or she will simply move on to the next, more qualified applicant.

The key is to tailor your resume to the job you’re applying for, so there is no question why you are applying for the job. Here’s how to do that.

Myth #4: My Passion for the Job Will Outweigh My Lack of Qualification

When you come across your dream position, there is absolutely nothing that will stop you from getting that position — least of all, the fact that you don’t meet the minimum qualifications. (By a long shot.)

To some extent, this may not be a problem. Job descriptions are often written for the ideal candidate, and some factors may be negotiable — for example, if the job description asks for five years of experience, and you have three and a half. In that case, you simply need to use your application to convey why you should be considered over more qualified candidates (here’s more on how to do that).

“If, on the other hand, the job would be a huge jump up (they’re looking for 10 years of experience, you have two), your energy is probably better spent on positions that are a closer fit,” says Muse writer Kari Reston. Or, she suggests you send a “speculative” application, explaining that the position you had your eye on was geared for a senior-level hire, but you’d be interested in exploring other options.

Myth #5: If It’s Meant to Be, It will Happen

While an optimistic outlook is admirable, you simply can’t rely solely on fate to successfully get you through your job hunt. Most times, job hunting takes a little more persistence.

In order to get your application in front of the hiring manager, you have to do some networking. You have to arrange coffee meetings and informational interviews and send a lot of emails. You have to follow up when those people don’t respond, then follow up again when they do respond, to thank them for their time. You have to research each company you apply to and put time and effort into each and every cover letter and resume you submit.

In the end, you’ll ideally be able to look back and say, “This was meant to be.” But it won’t just happen. You have to make it happen.

Job hunting can be a tough (and sometimes painful) process. But if you let go of these five unrealistic expectations for your search, you’ll be better able to hone in on better ways to get noticed, get interviews, and get the job of your dreams.

This article originally appeared on The Muse.


  • I’ve worked in several places now that will not allow direct applications to managers, if it doesn’t go through HR’s system, it goes in the trash.

    • That’s ok – the HR manager has an intricate knowledge of all parts of the business and is the best gatekeeper /s

      • God I hope you are being sarcastic. I work fairly closely with HR and they seem to have a very poor knowledge of our organisation and the roles of the employees. I have found this to be true everywhere I have worked.

        HR are good at filling out jobs ads (draft prepared by specialist personnel) and completing the paperwork required to hire and fire people. As for who should be employed – they have no fricken clue.

        • You forgot “does not give a shit about the individuals” and “will protect the company at any cost” when dealing with staff complaints.

        • HR is the default job option for anyone with a non-usable Bachelor’s Degree. They come straight from uni into what is essentially an admin position, with no real experience or knowledge of working life.

          Plus, HR is a poorly constructed, badly used concept for a department. You could split it up and outsource their work to a number of teams quite easily, but nobody else wants to do the work. What this results in, is a lot of bad educated guessing and voodoo when it comes to hiring practices.

  • Myth #6: The Hiring Manager Knows What They Need
    Myth #7: Recruiters Will Honour Non-Discrimination Laws

  • I don’t know anyone who’s ever applied to a job who could possibly think Myth 2, so it’s unlikely to be widespread enough to achieve “mythdom”.

    • I think this “myth” comes from many years ago where this was more likely to be true, even if it was just a generic letter, now, it isn’t worth the companies time to send even an email. The lack of a response is considered implied understanding of not being accepted.

  • Yeah, Id agree with most of this list. Ive done hiring for people before and things that were not uncommon:

    – Not willing to read resumes as they are ‘so busy’
    – Not willing to actually write up a job description because they are ‘busy’
    – Not willing to read more than 3 resumes is considered too much (I read through every resume for a job once, about 70, and got looks of horror that I would do that)
    – Not willing to doing more than a handful of interviews (I did 10 first round interviews once, couldnt find the right fit on the short list so I did more. The hiring managers werent willing to do that, but could find time for half a day of coffee)
    – Hiring managers who were given the short list from their corporate HR department (We found the right candidate in the list of people that were filtered out after we asked for it)

    In short, bureaucracy & laziness is the problem in a lot of cases. I managed to cut down an on boarding process from 2-3 months to 10 days at one place just by getting rid of all the ‘putting off’. Employers do not realise this is work you do to help you + there is a factor of not all employers are particularly good at being employers, I’ve sat in interviews (on the recruiting side of the table) and the person leading the interview (not me) was complete rubbish more times than I would of guessed.

    This could be just me and my experience but there are people who want to do the right thing and there are ones which try and save themselves time and end up costing them in other ways…. but they do not learn.

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