Little is black and white in recruitment. The process of finding a job or an employee is awash with misconceptions and misperceptions. The following are a selection of recruitment myths as chosen and challenged by professionals from recruitment agencies, HR departments and hiring managers.
A CV needs to be 1, 2, 3 pages maximum
This can be confusing. “Hiring managers and recruiters sift through hundreds of CVs a day, so any longer than two pages and you could quickly lose their interest,” says Matt Weston, a director at recruiters Robert Half.
But if your level of experience can justify a third page, go ahead says Caterina Glenn, Regional Manager across the Thames Valley, Investigo: “As long as it’s succinct, relative to your career and a reflection of your abilities.”
Conclusion: still mythical, but a two page CV is probably ample for most.
I need to send as many job applications as possible
“To a certain extent job hunting is a numbers game,” says Keira Morgan, an executive recruiter at Emerson Howell Nagel & Associates. “But much better to be organised, know what kind of work you want, what you are qualified for and customise your CV for each job, than to take the shotgun approach and blast them out as if they were bullets.”
“The success rate is much greater if you tailor each application to a specific role,” agrees Matt Weston.
Conclusion: myth busted, approach each application separately.
No one reads cover letters anymore
Another grey area. Ann Swain, chief executive of the Association of Professional Staffing Companies, is quite clear: “Employers are interested in skills and competencies – they rarely read cover letters – invest the time in a good CV.”
However, a cover letter is still useful, believes Matt Weston: “Use your cover letter as an opportunity to communicate why you are the best person for the job.”
Conclusion: still mythical, but avoid trying to cram too much into a cover letter, tailor each one for each application and put most effort into your CV.
Interview preparation myths
A quick ‘look’ at the company website will be enough: Not at all, says Giles McIntyre, who believes you need a good feel for the business, its structure and goals, so don’t skim on the research.
I’ll seem more genuine/natural if I’m underprepared: It may seem like hard work, says Matt Weston, but going the extra mile in researching a role and company will make you appear more interested in the job.
But you can’t be over-prepared: Yes you can, according to Elizabeth Santo Domingo, an HR director for GinSing LLC. “I need to see who you truly are, not what you think you should be because you are interviewing,” she says. Elizabeth believes the right preparation is important: “knowing the job, the company, yourself/your strengths and what specifically you would bring to the table to help the company. Be memorable, connect the dots and make the interviewer’s job easier.”
Conclusion: still mythical, do your homework, but be yourself too.
Communication skills are over-rated
Matt Weston confronts this myth time and time again, that communication is not an important skill for accountants who spend most of their time in the back-office staring at spreadsheets. However, as accountants advance into more integrated and senior roles, they’re called upon as advisors and strategists to improve business. “If you aren’t able to offer this insight in a way the rest of the business understands, the value you are providing is lessened,” says Matt.
Conclusion: myth busted, accountants are becoming increasingly integrated across entire businesses, not just in the finance function.
First impressions are everything
Ann Swain is of the belief that, while first impressions are powerful, employers often rely on interview techniques, such as competency or psychometric testing, to score candidates against a measurable benchmark.
On the other hand, Gavin Brown a hiring manager at BDO has this to say: “First impressions are everything and really do count. Like it or not, human beings form an opinion within the very first moments of meeting another person.”
Conclusion: Still mythical, as it really comes down to the preferences and characteristics of individual interviewers.
It’s better to apply for a job directly than through an agency
While it’s often desirable to cut out a middleman, not all vacancies are advertised publicly, as some employers find it more efficient to use an intermediary such as a recruitment consultancy. “Also, if you want to map the job market, have access to the best choice of roles and get some really solid career advice, then a recruiter is your best option,” says Ann Swain.
Conclusion: myth busted, both approaches have their benefits, while a combination is probably best.
Neil Johnson is a freelance business journalist who contributes regularly to trade publications and member organisations, covering employability, recruitment, business trends and industrial analysis.