Parents try to be helpful during students’ job searches, but their advice is often outdated, says Allison Green, the human resources expert who runs the popular “Ask a Manager” blog.
In an interview with Quartz, Green identified some of the most common pieces of outdated career advice students hear from their parents and other sources.
1: On resumes
Outdated advice: Print it out on nice paper and hand-deliver it to the office.
A better approach: Nearly all applications are managed electronically these days, so a printed resume makes the applicant appear out-of-touch, Green says. Moreover, circumventing the established system is more likely to make an employer feel hassled than impressed.
2: On cover letters
Outdated advice: Don’t explain your qualifications. Instead, explain how you’ll solve the hiring manager’s problems.
A better approach: As an outsider applying to an organization, it’s nearly impossible to guess what the hiring manager’s biggest problems are, Green notes. So most applicants that attempt to do this will end up “cringingly off base,” she writes. Instead of guessing at specific problems, applicants should explain why they’d excel at the responsibilities outlined in the job posting.
3: On waiting to hear back
Outdated advice: Call to follow up about your application several times to show persistence.
A better approach: Green says she’s heard all manner of suggestions for showing “gumption” to an employer, from calling repeatedly about the status of the position to inviting the hiring manager out for coffee. But, she says, none of these tactics work. Though it’s tough waiting to hear back from a job, it’s much worse if an applicant’s anxiety drives them to do something that could actually hurt their chances, she says.
4: On interviewing
Outdated advice: If the interviewer asks about salary expectations, change the topic by saying you’d prefer to discuss the responsibilities of the role.
A better approach: Applicants should enter every job interview with a salary range in mind, says Green. Online tools can help students research a reasonable salary based on comparable positions in the same local area.
5: On getting your foot in the door
Outdated advice: You can’t pay off your student loans with that salary! You have a degree, you should demand a promotion or find a new job.
A better approach: Green says she’s seen parents underestimate how challenging today’s labor market can be for entry-level workers, then push their children into hasty decisions. But entry-level positions that seem unimpressive now can be the first step to better jobs in the student’s chosen field. The most common first job for the world’s billionaires is salesperson, according to a 2017 report (Green, U.S. News & World Report, 4/3/17; Green, U.S. News & World Report, 8/3/15; Purtill, Quartz, 2/15/18).