9 of the Biggest Job Search Myths

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: September 11, 2013

Separate Myth from Good Advice

Fishermen have nothing on the world of jobseekers when it comes to tall tales and nebulous information passed on from person to person over the years.

Everyone has a job-hunting strategy they swear by, along with a list of things people should never do while searching for a job. Some of it is good advice, other parts are well-intentioned but slightly misguided tidbits passed down from friends and relatives, and the rest is just downright wrong. Very, very wrong.

But which well known myths should you avoid? We lay them out in this article, and then replace the myths with some useful advice to take their place.

9. Looking on Job Boards & Sites is Enough

I had a friend once who claimed she was “job hunting” five days a week for hours on end. I assumed she was out beating the street, targeting specific companies, and mining her personal network for leads. But I was wrong.

She informed me she spent hours a day perusing job openings online and submitting her resume when appropriate. Sorry, but this isn’t enough.

The job market still favors employers, which means with the exception of niche jobs that require very specific skills, there are a lot of people vying for the same position. Yet some of the best job openings are never posted publicly, which means you need an in. Comb your network and see if you know anyone with any inside tips. An unposted opening with an internal referral gives you much better odds than the online job boards accessible to everyone. And even if your network is nil, pop into the company in person and inquire about job openings to make a face-to-face impression and gain a potential advantage.

8. Take What You Can Get

We know times are tough and jobs are still fairly scarce. But that alone is not a good enough reason to accept whatever offer is thrown your way.

If you receive a job offer, perform due diligence. Don’t just consider the salary, take into account the benefits, the atmosphere, and whether or not you’re a cultural fit there. Also, even if you’re going to accept it, don’t accept the first offer. Companies expect you to negotiate a little bit and they usually build that into their offer. Failure to negotiate will actually raise more eyebrows than counteroffering.

7. Apply to as Many Jobs as Possible

Some people think the best course of action is sending out the same resume to as many companies as possible wherever there’s a job opening, as some sort of numbers game. It’s known as the shotgun approach, and basically it’s akin to fishing with dynamite.

You could get lucky this way, but we advocate a much different approach.

Instead of scattering your resume all over creation, target your job search. Find a handful of companies you like or narrow your search to the job titles that most closely resemble what you want to be doing. Then, tweak your resume where applicable to tailor it toward that job. Hiring managers can sniff out a cookie cutter resume that’s likely been sent out hundreds of times, so don’t be generic. Job hunt with a sniper rifle instead of a shotgun.

6. No One Reads Cover Letters

Resumes contain all the important stuff, right? And with all the resumes received by hiring managers, most people assume cover letters are just outdated accessories that go ignored.


A quality cover letter can do wonders for your chances. Generally speaking, employers only spend about 20 seconds reading it so you have to grab their attention quickly. But by customizing your cover letter for each company to which you’re applying, you show you pay more attention to detail than the hordes of people who send out the same form letter no matter where they’re applying.

5. You Must ALWAYS Disclose Your Salary Requirements Up Front

Yes, the trend lately has been filling out online applications that make “required salary” or “salary history” a required field before you can submit. Sometimes giving this number is unavoidable, but not always. And you should always try to delay it.

Try to enter “TBD” (to be determined) or “negotiable” in the box asking you for the information. If pressed, say something to the effect of “I’m sure your company pays a fair salary, and we can talk about that once we tackle other things like whether I’m a good fit for this position.” Do all you can to keep the upper hand regarding salary negotiation.

4. It's Enough to Have My Resume Online

You’re on LinkedIn? Awesome. So are millions of other people all looking for jobs.

My point here is not to criticize you for using LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to help in your job search. You absolutely should be utilizing these tools in this day and age. They’re a vital and important way to connect directly with companies and hiring managers. But if you’re expecting to activate a social media profile, post your resume, and wait for the job offers to come rolling in, you’re about to swallow a bitter pill because that’s just not going to happen.

Being active on social media is not enough. If you want the job you have to combine online and traditional job search methods to land the gig you truly want.

3. The Person with the Best Skills Gets Hired

Yes, top-notch skills are important. Vital even. Having the necessary skills and training to do a job is absolutely essential to your chances of impressing your interviewer and beating out other jobseekers. But it’s not always enough, nor is it always the most important thing for which employers are looking.

If you’re not familiar with the term “cultural fit,” you need to be. It’s a term that describes how well your personality meshes with the general attitude and atmosphere of the company to which you’re applying. And more employers than ever are using cultural fit as a litmus test, because while skills can be taught and developed through training, no employer wants to risk good morale by hiring a candidate who isn’t a good fit with the company culture.

If your skills are slightly below par for the job to which you’re applying, really try to play up the ways in which you’re a great match for the company on a personal level.

2. Following Up is Nagging & Negative

You know the scenario. You just went on an interview and you think it went well. They told you they’d call you “soon.” But 10 minutes later in your car you’re wondering what soon means. A few days go by, then a week, and suddenly you’re teetering on the edge of insanity wondering whether or not you’re going to tick them off by calling them to see if a decision has been made.

First of all, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask about the timeframe of a decision at the end of an interview. Also, you can even go so far as to say “Is it OK if I contact you if I haven’t heard from you by (fill in the time period)?” But if you didn’t do that during the interview and you want to check in, try sending an e-mail or calling the person – but with a caveat. Don’t just ask if a decision has been made. Think of something pertinent to your interview and expand on it, like “I know you’re probably still interviewing candidates but I was thinking back to our conversation about sales and I realized I forgot to tell you about (fill in the blank).”

This way it’s less badgering and more informative.

1. Stand Out in Any Way Possible

Making a big splash and being memorable isn’t always a good thing. Just ask Miley Cyrus.

Look, we know there are sometimes hundreds of people going for the same job. Perhaps that’s why people get a little absurd sometimes and do things like use brightly colored paper for resumes, include pictures of themselves working out (yes, this does happen), or try something gimmicky and over-the-top for attention. And while something small and understated might make you stand out in the inteviewer’s memory in a positive way, most of the time these gimmicks will hurt instead of help.

Being confident, well-spoken, and prepared will be of a much greater benefit to you than anything else, so focus on that.

Salary.com Can Help with Your Job Search

One thing that is decidedly not a myth is the need to negotiate effectively after you're offered a job. Luckily Salary.com can help.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.