If you want to find a job you love, you have to have high standards. You have 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.
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’ll 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 tips for 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’ll 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.