Breaking The Job Search Rules Better Than Anyone Else

Apr 20 2010 in Featured, Job Search Strategy, reCareered Blog by Phil Rosenberg

Recently, a reader made an amazingly insightful comment about job search in my Linkedin group for job seekers – Career Central (

Success in job search is ” … about breaking the rules better than anyone else.”
— S.C.

S.C.’s comment is a great summary of today’s successful job search strategies – approaching your job search differently, in order to stand out. I talk to so many frustrated candidates, some who have been searching for well over a year. Many blame the system, the economy, employers … few will break the rules, mainly because no one taught them how to break the rules of job search.

We’re all agreed that we’re in the worst job market of our lifetimes, right?

Do you think that the tactics that work in a good market are the same ones that work in a bad job market? Of course not.

Then why do so many people use the same “rules of thumb” that worked during good employment markets? Many of these candidates don’t see that using those same rules is one of the big reasons they are still frustrated in their search.

I find through conversations with a great number of these frustrated candidates that there’s a central reason they use the same “rules of thumb” that no longer work. It’s what they’ve been taught, and no one has taught them otherwise. It’s comfortable for them, like Mac & Cheese (See:

The good news about “Breaking The Rules”:

  • Few of your competitors have figured it out: Most job seekers are using the “common knowledge” advice – the stuff that all sounds the same, that you used in your last job search. This is great news for the few people who can break the rules effectively. It makes it easier for you to stand out.
  • Most of your competitors’ resumes basically look the same: Ask recruiters – the resumes that stand out are the ones they notice. Hiring managers, HR reps, and recruiters spend an average 15 seconds reviewing an average resume – almost all of them look the same. The few that stand out get noticed (See:

So if you’re still reading, you must “get” that being the same doesn’t help your job search today. You may be ready to consider breaking the rules, but it may push candidates past your comfort zone. Because it’s not just breaking the rules that helps your search – it’s breaking them “better than anyone else” – breaking the right rules, in the right way.

How can you break the rules better than anyone else? Here are 6 common “rules” to break for starters:

  1. Cover letters: I’ve written about this research extensively. To summarize, 96% of hiring mangers, HR reps, and recruiters make their interview decision based on your resume, not your cover letter. Read the details of this study here:
  2. Objective statements and skills important to you: Most of your competition uses WIFM (What’s In it For Me). Your audience doesn’t care about WIFM, they care about What’s In it For Them (WIFT – See:
  3. Coffee meetings to learn about openings: Most of your competition drastically under utilizes connections and networks by asking to pass along a resume or to find out who’s hiring – rather than using these opportunities for much more valuable information. Better information = more opportunities and better odds (See
  4. Make sure your audience hears why you’re perfect for the job – over and over: Most of your competitors spend more time talking than listening. You’ll be surprised how much you’ve been talking in your job search, as many “common knowledge” activities stress talking over listening – you’ll also be surprised at how much you can learn about what the hiring manager’s problems are and what they really want (See:
  5. Be a generalist: Most of your competitors brand themselves as generalists, when most hiring managers look for someone who has experience in solving specific problems. Even managers and executives who spend most of their time as generalists are likely to be hired based on specific skills (See:
  6. Use standardized resumes and messaging: Most of your competitors use a static resume, using the same (or one with minor tweaks) for all opportunities. Most companies and hiring managers use processes that give huge advantages to heavily customized resumes, and penalize static resumes (See:

Do you recognize any of these rules in your current search efforts? Which ones can you break first?


Want to do more than just complain about a bad economy?

To attend our next complimentary live webinar featuring action items to double your resume response rate and number of interviews, plus live career Q&A with Phil Rosenberg of reCareered, register at .

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Phil shows you why your current job search strategies work against you and how to replace them with strategies that improve your odds. Phil provides you with research - cold, hard statistics provided by job boards and hiring managers themselves, to show you what works for you and against you in the worst job market in our lifetimes.

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Author: Phil Rosenberg

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