Recruitment experts break down popular myths – and offer more grounded advice

Applying for jobs is rarely a stress-free experience and with so many, often contradictory myths around best practice, it can be difficult to create and stick to an application process without second guessing yourself and becoming overwhelmed. Drawing on expert insight and over fifteen years’ experience, Frank Recruitment Group has tackled some of the most common myths that persist around successful job applications.

“Cover letters don’t matter anymore”

This completely depends on the field you’re looking to work in. There are certain industries – often the scientific and technical – where your resumé, particularly your qualifications or certifications, are going to be the focal point for prospective employers. But even in this context, a meaningful cover letter could be what distinguishes you from other candidates and secures you an invitation to interview. And in most other fields, your cover letter is going to be what moves you away from just being a list of credentials and towards being seen as a person, which is what recruiters really want.

“The perfect application always includes…”

There’s no perfect formula for a successful job application, so work with what you have and then tweak it to the specific application at hand. Once you’re in the habit of putting them together, each new application is less and less like starting from scratch. If you’re applying for a number of roles in the same field, for example, you’ll find your resumé will only need minimal re-working and you may even be able to work from an existing cover letter draft, adjusting emphasis for the job at hand. The way you tailor your application can include citing relevant as well as transferable skills, and working in keywords from the job listing, for example.

“If you don’t meet the requirements, don’t bother applying”

There are some fields where this may be generally sound advice, particularly any areas of work that involve applied specialist technical knowledge. But in the vast majority of cases, businesses and recruiters are looking for the right person, rather than the right resumé – and things happen when people meet. So if you don’t meet every requirement but you get to the interview stage, you stand a decent chance. And in a conversation you’ll be able to communicate a willingness to learn and grow. But if you don’t submit an application, they don’t get to meet you. And statistically, we know that women are less likely to apply for a job if they don’t meet 100% of the requirements. It’s a cultural problem, and the responsibility for addressing it lies primarily with recruiters who should be examining the language and tone of their job listings. At the same time, we would always advocate for women submitting applications even where they are less confident about ticking every box.

“Apply for every opportunity you come across”

This is basically the inverse of the previous myth and is equally unhelpful as a piece of advice! Although being able to pass up possible opportunities is obviously relative to your own financial stability, applying for positions you’re truly not interested in is a recipe for burnout. If you’re not feeling any positive energy towards a potential job, you’re likely to become resentful of the application process as a whole – and this can have an impact on your energy for the ones you really do want to go for. So by all means, get some practice and get into the habit of putting together applications but don’t drain yourself by pushing yourself towards things you don’t want to do.

“Job boards will give you a good sense of what’s out there”

Job boards are essential resources, but it’s questionable whether they’re truly representative of market. According to Forbes, some 80% of all jobs are not publicly listed. So while it might not be exemplary of a perfect meritocracy, it’s still a business reality that networking is a crucial part of filling job vacancies. Ultimately, as someone looking for a new job, you need to be pursuing both routes – job boards and networking. Make sure you devote time and energy to checking in and sustaining your personal and professional connections in the same way that you spend time submitting applications.

President of Americas Rowan O’Grady emphasizes flexibility and intuition when it comes to successful job applications: “It’s great to have a baseline process you can turn to when you’re working on an application, but where you run into problems – and what so many of the prevailing myths seem to promote – is where you begin to believe that there’s one repeatable perfect template. There just isn’t. What matters is honing your sense of what’s appropriate for the application you’re working on right now. If you feel like a particular employer might want to see your certifications up top instead of your work history, swap them around on your resumé. Or if you feel like they’re looking for someone with a specific passion, tweak your cover letter to include more personal reflections. There’s no universal formula, so stay flexible and feel it out”.

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