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Timeless -- and tired -- job-search tactics

Robert Half International

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Unless you're looking for work at a medieval-themed restaurant, the last impression you want to give an employer is of being behind the times. That's one reason many job seekers become preoccupied with using only the latest tools and techniques to find a job. As a result, they often neglect some successful time-tested methods.

Of course, plenty of traditional techniques have gone extinct for good reason. Before you go retro, distinguish the do's from the don'ts. Here are some low-tech methods worth reviving. They can help you stand out and make a positive impression no matter the era.


  • Take cover. Some vintage tactics, such as writing a cover letter, aren't as passé as you might think. In a recent Robert Half survey of senior managers, 91 percent of respondents said cover letters are valuable when evaluating job candidates. Don't skip the cover letter just because a company's online application system doesn't request one. If there's no field designated for a cover letter, you can often attach extra documentation. In fact, 79 percent of employers said it's common to receive cover letters even when applicants submit résumés electronically.

  • Stock up on stamps. The vast majority of résumés are submitted online or via email. That's why mailing yours as a hard copy can be effective. Once the hiring manager recovers from the shock of receiving a piece of mail, he might open it out of sheer curiosity. That alone puts you ahead of the dozens or even hundreds of other résumés waiting in the person's inbox. However, you shouldn't rely on regular mail alone; use it as a follow up to an online résumé. Just be aware of the employer's preferences. Some make it clear in the job posting that they will consider only electronic submissions.

  • Use your phone's 'phone' feature. Follow up after submitting your résumé by calling the hiring manager. A phone call may require more nerve than an email, but the results justify the effort. A voicemail beats an email in at least three key ways: it demonstrates your assertiveness, reaffirms your interest in the opportunity and comes across as more personal than words on the screen. If the hiring manager answers the call, that's even better. You've already established a direct personal connection.

  • Take the time to say thanks. Since even the most tech-savvy job seeker knows to follow up after an interview, why not do so in a way that conveys genuine gratitude and a personal touch? Reinforce your thank-you email with a handwritten note mailed within a day or two of the meeting.


Borrowing from the past won't strengthen your job search if you're not selective about the tactics you choose. The following bygone techniques and assumptions have earned their place in the job-search dustbin:


  • The all-purpose résumé. It's been 20 years since altering your résumé meant typing up a new document from scratch, or at least using an ancient substance known as whiteout. Now, there's no excuse for not tailoring every résumé you send to each specific opportunity.

  • Résumé relics. The traditional objective statement on a résumé has seen better days. By focusing on your wishes, not on what you can provide the employer, you may start off on the wrong foot. It's much more useful to provide a targeted professional summary instead. Similarly, an exhaustive résumé that lists every job you've ever had makes it hard for a time-strapped hiring manager to find the most relevant material.

  • Formality for its own sake. Good manners never go out of style, but that doesn't mean your correspondence should read like something out of Downton Abbey." Phrases like "To whom it may concern" and "Dear sir or madam" can distance you from the reader. Instead, try to find the hiring manager's name. Calling the company is usually enough to reveal this nugget of information. If you have no luck, use the person's title.


Today's most successful job seekers combine an awareness of modern technology with a desire to establish old-fashioned personal contact whenever possible. Not by coincidence, that's the kind of versatility most employers -- even medieval restaurants -- are looking for.

Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, visit www.roberthalf.com. For additional career advice, view our career bloopers video series at www.roberthalf.com/dont-let-this-happen-to-you or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/roberthalf.



Last Updated: 30/04/2012 - 5:35 PM


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