An HR expert shares the real truth about popular job-searching advice

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Applying for a new job can be one of the most tedious — and not to mention confusing — things that every adult has to go through. 

Do you have the right chops for the job? Are you over qualified? Should you oversell yourself?

Undersell yourself to manage expectations? Is there ever a right time to quit? And while the process does get slightly better with age and experience, it’s still nonetheless a stressful task.

In fact, sometimes all that anxiety you go through is enough to convince yourself to stick it out for a longer time at your current position just to avoid the job search.

And between your well-meaning friends and family… and colleagues and industry acquaintances, you’ll be bombarded with advice that they’ll think you’ll need when job hunting.

And while your loved ones and social circle might just be trying to help, remember, not all advice is good advice.

The job market is constantly changing (especially during these Covid-19 times), and sometimes what could be considered a best practice might not be relevant a few years later.

Not to mention, there’s plenty of misinformation out there that could end up being detrimental to your search if you were to apply them.

But that’s where the experts step in. We speak to James Goh, founder and CEO of ACCESS HR & Talents — a by-invitation-only job portal that ensures a minimum pay of $2,800 across the board — to get the truth on some of the most popular job-searching advice out there.

1. You should tailor and personalise your cover letter and resume to every single company you apply to

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“This I personally believe to be true, albeit tedious. At ACCESS, our core belief is that there is more than one way to succeed. Many skill sets are transferable across industries. If someone is charming and does well as a salesperson, she would do equally well as a HR consultant.

If someone is caring and articulate as a manager, she would do as well being a teacher.

Similarly, if companies are from different industries or you are applying for a different type of placement, your resume should boast the qualities of your skill sets that the new placement and company would appreciate.

Some HR departments shortlist candidates only by looking at the candidate’s prior company and work experience, thus I believe it to be important to highlight certain skills which your new potential employer could be on the hunt for.

A sales manager looking to go into teaching for example, could highlight her subordinates’ achievements and how under her guidance led to those.”

2. You need to stay at least two years at a company before you start applying for a new job

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“No. Ignore. This is an old belief system. The current climate has evolved. Staying two years at a company does not boost your chances in any way.”

3. You should accept every single job interview offered to you, even if you don't think you're suitable for the job

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“Yes. Most job descriptions are brief and not in actual fact of how the job would be. An interview offered would be an opportunity for both parties to tango and find out more.

One might find herself being wooed by the actual job.”

4. Never ever bring up gaps in your work history

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“No. Ignore. HR departments and recruitment consultants are human too. If you have gaps for any reason, it is okay to be sincere and honest. It pays.

Gap years are now less uncommon in today’s climate. Many graduates and mid-career switches often have gap years to find out and deliberate over their next step.

Your potential employer might even feel more confident about you after you have deliberated and are certain of the job you are interviewing for.”

5. Only play your strengths in an interview and never bring up your weaknesses

“I agree with this. It might not decrease your chances to bring it up, but it will not increase it. Unless the interviewer brings the topic up, it would be safer to state your strengths primarily.”

6. It's ok to apply for jobs you are under qualified for. You never know

“Crossing industries does sometimes work even if you do not seemingly have the relevant experience. But the basic paper qualifications that the employer will seek are usually set in stone, especially for MNCs.

If you think you qualify for the job even if you are in the opposite spectrum of a potential employee, then go for it! But in terms of required paper qualifications, one should manage their expectations a little.

I know of a candidate looking for a role in a FinTech firm, however he graduated with a history degree from London School of Economics and Political Science.

He aced the interview and is now rising through the ranks in that particular FinTech firm in London.”

7. You should only stick to your chosen field and only accept relevant jobs

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“No. Ignore. Many of my mentors who are industry giants, have worked in different fields and have “irrelevant” jobs in their resume before ending up in their current position.

Senior partners, CEOs, founders, all had non-linear career paths. There are many paths to success, and knowing what you are innately good at and having the intangible skills are the ingredients that will bring one to succeed.”

8. You should follow your passion

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“Yes but only to a certain degree. Passion is a first world privilege. You cannot pursue passion if you are worried about where your next meal is going to come from.

We are in a privileged position where most Millenials and Gen Zers are degree holders, not having to worry about rent or their next meal. In the countries that I have worked in, such freedom of choice comes as a luxury.

Your passion usually is a good indicator of what you will do well in. Passion breeds excellence. Excellence breeds success. And people pay for excellence. As much if possible, chase passion. And let success keep up with you. “

This article was first published in Her World Online.