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Monday, August 4, 2008

5 bad pieces of career advice

I'm sometimes unnerved by some of the bad career advice that gets repeated over and over in job-hunting guides and career columns. At U.S. News & World Report today, I talk about five particularly bad pieces of advice that I cringe every time I see. Head on over and leave your own additions in the comments.


Philip Duhe said...

Regarding Bad Advice #3, in the perfect world, showing months not years is right. However, how do you avoid not having your resume canned before you get a chance in the interview to explain short stints or gaps? There may be logical and legitimate explanations, but I won't have a chance to explain if I am screened out ahead of time.

Anonymous said...


That, my dear, is the purpose of a cover letter. Without a cover letter, I'm not even bothering to read your resume. In all my ads, it says "submissions without cover letters will not be considered." If you have a glaring gap, take a moment to address it. If you're currently unemployed, address it, instead of assuming I don't notice you haven't worked in over a year. The number one piece of advice I give friends is to create a sensational cover'll really grab a recruiter's attention.

HR Godess said...

I agree with anonymous. If you got laid off, put it on there. If you were out for personal reasons, say that. If you put nothing and do not explain it either in the cover letter or resume body, I don't take the time to find out. It's not because I'm not interested, it's because there are 500 other resumes I have to read. Unfortunately, it's a time issue.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post! Worst I see in interviews is the 'rehearsed answer.' I know that candidates but NOT to the point that it's forced.

When I have a candidate give a canned answer (and trust me, we can hear it) I ask for more. And many candidates freeze.

So practice but not to the point of robotic.

Alison said...

Philip: Yeah, I think there are times when it's the best of several bad options, and when you probably should. However, I hate it when people do it as a default.

Anonymous and HR Godess: That's a good point. I really believe the cover letter may be the cure for all ills.

HR Maven: Ugh, the canned answer! I totally agree. You can always tell when it's canned. Sometimes the wording even sounds like it's straight out of a template from a job-hunting guide.

Anonymous said...

Agh. This makes my head spin because I had the experience of having a very long period of time when I was underemployed. I guess there is no masking gaps if your employment history does have gaps. But still I see no reason to say a functional format is a piece of bad advice when in cases like a long stretch of unemployment or underemployment this is the best way one can put one's best face forward. Should one, in cases like this, immediately address that period of unemployment or underemployment in the cover letter and therefore, call more attention to something that you'd rather downplay?

Alison said...

Anonymous, I think I'd say the same thing I said to to Philip -- sometimes a functional resume may be the best of several imperfect options. If the candidate is good, I'm not going to reject them just because they used a resume format I don't like. But it still aggravates me :)

Rebecca said...

Full disclosure: I've done all 5 of these things at some point. But I'm going to argue about #5, which assumes you have a competent manager. A good manager will address the problem correctly, but good managers are rare. Adequate managers will do nothing, and poor managers will do anything except address the problem, including shooting the messenger and/or rewarding the bad employee (I've seen both happen more than once!).

So why is this bad career advice perpetuated, anyway? Who's out there thinking that these are all good ideas?

Wendy said...

I need some help, I'm interested in a position that my company has posted, because it will give me a variety of field experience I can use later on since it will be working with different department, but money is what will motivate me to change but I don't want to be upfront about that, might make me look bad when I ask my boss about it. How should I approach this? Any advice is appreciated, thanks.