Ask a Recruiter – Answers to our Job Seekers’ FAQs
As recruiters, we get a lot of questions from job seekers–questions about how to optimize their resumes, find the best companies, answer interview questions, and basically get the most out of their job hunt. And luckily, after 20 years in the business, we have the answers!
1. How Can I Look For a New Job (Discreetly) While I’m Still Employed?
This is the most frequently asked question we get as recruiters. People are unhappy in their current jobs, but they can’t afford to quit without an exit strategy. That makes looking for a job difficult, especially if you’re part of a suspicious, surveilled, or close-knit company culture. HR managers and nosy co-workers may notice when employees suddenly update their LinkedIn or come back from a long “lunch” especially dressed up.
While some of this is unavoidable, there are certainly steps you can take to help you (discreetly) seek out and secure a new job.
The first rule of the job search is that we don’t talk about the job search. Obviously, you can talk to your family and close friends, but please don’t tell your co-workers–even if you consider them friends.
Whether or not you’re close, you’re still in a professional environment. They may start resenting you for leaving during a busy time, think about taking over your position, or–worst case scenario–tell your manager. Keep it on the safe side by keeping your job search to yourself until you’re ready to announce your departure.
Job Search On Your Own Time (and Devices)
We assume you’re looking for a new job because you are unhappy with your current one. That’s okay, it happens to all of us. But since you need that job until you find a new one, you should not be job searching on company time. Do your work to the best of your ability until it’s time to go.
This also limits the possibility of coworkers and managers looking over your shoulder and realizing that you’re thinking about leaving. Same goes for company devices. Do not search for a new job on a company computer or phone. In today’s digital world, your company devices (which are company property) are almost certainly monitored. This could leave you in danger of policy violation and being fired before you’re ready.
Don’t Schedule Interviews During Work Hours
This is incredibly difficult for people who work full time, but if possible, schedule your interviews outside of normal work hours. Most hiring managers will understand your circumstances and be willing to work with you. Morning coffee, lunch breaks, right after work–there are many options.
If it’s not possible, consider taking the whole day off if you can afford it. This gives you time to prepare and keeps people from noticing your snazzy interview outfit and drawing the correct conclusion.
2. Do I Really Need to Write a Cover Letter?
The short answer is, “Yes.” In fact, you should write a custom cover letter for every job you apply for. Your resume is an outline of your skills, but it doesn’t leave a personal impression. A cover letter is your chance to really capture the recruiter’s attention and introduce yourself to the company. Between two equal resumes, the recruiter will pick the candidate with the best cover letter for an interview.
A cover letter is also your opportunity to explain any gaps or red flags in your resume. For instance, if you have been unemployed for 5 years, you might explain that you were home with children or caring for a sick relative. If all of your jobs are one year or less, briefly explain why. Maybe you moved several times or you were simply headhunted multiple times, which is a testament to your skills.
So write your cover letters, even if they’re “optional”!
3. I Don’t Meet the “Minimum Experience Requirements”, Should I Still Apply?
This is a slightly trickier question. While many job requirements are in fact necessary to effectively fill a role, a job description can also be seen as a “wish list” from the employer. Many companies break up job descriptions into “Requirements” and “Preferences”. If they don’t highlight the difference between these two, you may have to use your common sense and discretion to decide whether you should apply.
Some things are non-negotiable. For instance, if you are applying for a web developer position and it says “must code in Java”, do not apply if you don’t code in Java! That’s a waste of your time and theirs. And even if you were hired, you would then quickly be let go when they discovered you cannot code in their primary language.
On the other hand, experience ranges are often more negotiable. So when it says “Master’s Degree” or “15+ years of experience”, but you have a Bachelors and 9 years of experience… you might want to take the risk and apply. Often, when requirements are too high for a position, they severely limit the candidate pool. If you have the skills required to do well and stand out in the interview process, you might land your dream job!
If you’re switching career paths entirely, pay very close attention to the requirements and expectations. Please don’t apply for a medical staffing position if you’ve been a truck driver for 10 years–or vice versa! Don’t just apply for a job because of the salary range–you have to be qualified for the position’s basics before your resume will be accepted.
When it comes down to it, you’ll never get a job you don’t apply for. But as recruiters, we’re begging you, please read the job description closely and make a measured decision about whether or not you are capable of filling it. When in doubt, ask close friends and family or a trusted mentor. Or ask a recruiter!