It’s OK, You’re Just Getting Bad Advice

Posted September 20, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Career Moves

A few weeks ago, I was visiting with a friend while she happened to be reading through some cover letter and resume submissions. She was brutal to these candidates. Address the letter “To Whom It May Concern” and she’ll throw out your application. Forget to PDF your resume and you’re out of the running. Watching this process made me realize two things: #1 — hiring managers are killer judgmental to candidates and #2 — some people are getting really bad advice on how to apply for jobs.

The same notion comes alive in a recent guest post on Lindsey Pollack’s blog called “What Career Services Directors Always Wanted to Tell You.” One career services director tells us that the fact of the matter is, you’re just getting back advice. Or more specifically, college graduates (recent ones, especially) are getting horrendous advice: from professors pushing students into law school when the employment rate among J.D.’s is drastically dropping to new grads going on to get their MBAs and finding themselves competing with a whole new (and highly educated) group of candidates. The advice you receive from professors, parents, and friends isn’t always the best of the best.

I said to my friend reviewing resumes that day — somewhere, some professor or career services person told that candidate that they should always, always, always send their resume in Microsoft Word format. Is it wrong? Yup. Is it their fault that some older (supposedly wiser) person gave them bad advice? Nope.

So how do you tell bad advice from good advice?

  • Consider the source. If the person giving you advice on a job search hasn’t looked for a job in 20 years, chances are you might want to think twice about what they’re saying…even if they’re a so-called expert or academic.
  • Trust, but verify. Every year, there are books and magazines published on every subject under the sun. So if someone says to you, “Hey, lady, guess what? Everyone is doing video resumes these days,” you have more than enough information on your hands to verify that this is not true. No book, no article, no expert will honestly tell you to submit a headshot or video resume to a serious job application.
  • Find people you can trust. Find magazines, websites, and individuals in your life whose advice you really can trust, which are proven to be true and fair and balanced, and go with that.
  • Get a second opinion. If you’re really not sure advice is good, and you’ve verified it and trusted the source, before you go with the advice, get a second opinion from another trusted, verified source. At least they’ll likely agree with the first piece of advice. But if they don’t, they’ll inspire you to keep looking for additional perspectives.

You see, sometimes it’s not your fault that you’re making mistakes in the job search process. Sometimes…you’re just getting bad advice. Just try not to take all of it.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."


    Judy Morris

    I’m starting to form an opinion of recruiters and screeners and capricious and judgmental – which does nothing to help keep my motivation up or to keep up an atmosphere of mutual respect. Recently I sent my resume in pdf format to a recruiter who asked me for it as a Word file, with an air of “why do I even have to ask for such basic courtesies”? I complied of course, without additional comment. But seriously, we job hunters are getting a huge amount of conflicting advice. It comes with justification so it isn’t necessarily “bad advice” – it’s simply different from what the recruiter of the moment prefers.

    Just recently I have seen several authors insisting “use industry standard titles” (my preferred approach) while some others say “use the titles your company used, because that is what we will be checking”. Using both makes a mess out of a clean, well-formatted, easy-to-read resume.

    And here’s a new twist I have been seeing which is driving me crazy – no opportunity to send a cover letter. Just resume and only resume. So now all the “here are the things I can do for you, the special things about me that make me great for this job” have to go into the career summary section, further cutting down on the actual content of the resume. And if you want to apply for more than one position at the same company – fuggeddaboudit. You can emphasize the relevant experience and ability for only one position per resume. Tweaking your letter to emphasize management or technical or customer service depending on the requirements posted for the job is out of the question.


      Judy! All of your comments seriously hit home. Most recruiters would be pissed if you sent anything other than a PDF, but that one…nope. It’s all a difference of opinion, but universally, each individual person thinks their opinion is the ONLY one.

      Thanks for weighing in! Such amazing perspective.

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