We came across a post on Buzzfeed in May that was a good example of advice of questionable quality. The post is set up as common advice that job seekers should ignore, but Buzzfeed’s recommendations are wrong and likely doing more harm than good.

What they say you shouldn’t do:

Wear a suit

“The younger the company, the younger the look. Wearing a suit to an interview for a fun startup job is a quick way to get the axe. Business casual should do just fine for most workplaces.”

Why they’re wrong:

Very few people have lost a job because they were slightly overdressed for an interview. Plenty have lost one because they were underdressed. That’s why job candidates should take some time before the interview and research the company where they are interviewing. Learn the culture. Learn how the people dress on a daily basis and then dress a step or two above. This shows that you are taking the process seriously.

What they say you shouldn’t do:

Delete your bad tweets

“When the dust settles, you want a company to accept you for who you are. If they can’t handle your tweets, find a company that will.”

Why they’re wrong:

During a career transition you are your own brand. Everything you say and do online communicates your professional reputation. That includes those tweets from six months or a year ago that you typed in a moment of exuberance during a college football game. Those tweets should be deleted. Those pictures from the same tailgate that you think are funny probably don’t paint you in the best light either. They need to come down too.

But deleting photos and tweets isn’t enough. During a career transition you need to be proactive about managing your online reputation. You should have a standard professional headshot, tag line, professional value proposition, and complete bio that you use across all social media platforms.

What they say you shouldn’t do:

Ask a question

“In theory, yes, this is a good thing to do. Just make sure you ask the right question. Asking them to justify decisions the company has made is only going to make the interviewer uncomfortable. Try a question about the future.”

Why they are wrong:

OK, so they aren’t all wrong here. Your interview isn’t a time to interrogate the interviewer about decisions the company has made. But asking a question about the future is pretty vague advice. You don’t want to simply ask about the future. You want to ask specifics about your place in that future. After all, an interview is a two-way street. Just as the interviewer is trying to determine whether or not you’re a good fit for the company, so you must figure out if the company is a right fit for you.

Your career transition deserves a personal touch

Buzzfeed is a fun site and often has a finger on the pulse of some interesting pop culture. However, this particular post was merely a good example of the kind of job search advice you’ll find online. There are plenty of other posts on plenty of other sites that, no matter how well-intentioned, are doing job seekers more harm than good.

It’s easy to look like an expert these days. A little bit of web design, a little bit of content, and you can call yourself a job search genius. That’s why it’s so critical for those going through a career transition to make sure they take the time to research where this advice is coming from.

Better yet, people looking for a job should really rely on a personal career coach, like those coaches who help participants in RiseSmart’s Transition program. Not only do they understand the landscape of today’s job search, but they also rely on years of experience in recruitment and talent acquisition so they don’t just understand the job search—they understand how to land a job. And that’s the kind of solid advice you need to set you on the right path.

24 June 2014

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