If it's been awhile since your last job search, you may be making some mistakes that are based on outdated, old-fashioned practices. Holding on to the old way of doing things can make you look unprepared and out-of-touch. According to career experts, here are some of the most common outdated job search beliefs and how to avoid them.
Outdated job search belief No. 1
l The power suit is the only suit. The conservative navy blue suit used to be the gold standard of job interview attire. Experts say it's still a good choice - if that's what everyone in the company wears.
"I find that with today's corporate focus on how employees will fit with the company, appearance can play a role," says Diane K. Danielson, co-author of "Table Talk: The Savvy Girl's Alternative to Networking" ($17.50, Authorhouse). "I'm still a fan of wearing suits to interviews, but if the firm is more creative, they could look at a navy blue suit and say 'Whoa. He or she would never fit in here.' No one outfit will necessarily be appropriate for every interview. Err on the formal side, but do your homework so that you can appear to fit with the firm."
Outdated job search belief No. 2
l Computer skills belong in the "Other skills" portion at the bottom of your resume. Almost every job today requires some technical skill. Use the top-third portion of your resume - the portion that entices recruiters into reading the rest of your resume - to highlight your computer skills.
"Don't expect someone to read your resume word for word and expect them to figure out if you know how to use Word or Excel or Powerpoint," says Penny Morey, a human resources executive and consultant based in Boca Raton. "Tell them at the top third of your resume, and be honest with your skill level - do you have intermediate, expert or entry level skills?"
Outdated job search belief No. 3
l The best way to submit a resume is on paper. It used to be that job hunters spent as much time picking out paper for their resumes as they did writing them. Nowadays, experts agree the rules of presentation have changed.
"While a few [job hunters] are still inclined to want to respond in the more formal, written way to job opportunities, they have to realize that they are competing in today's highly dynamic, instant-messaging world," says Joyce K. Reynolds, an executive business coach based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "Even though a written document may make them a standout in the search process, it's also possible that it is no longer even anticipated that people will respond in that way. They may get lost in the process unless they also respond electronically."
To make sure your resume arrives in good shape in a recruiter's inbox, Morey suggests e-mailing it to several people and asking for feedback.
"Send it to a couple of friends and ask 'Would you open it up, print it out and see how it looks?'" Morey says. "Prepare your document so it comes out beautiful on the other end."
Outdated job search belief No. 4
l Cover letters should be addressed to "Dear Sir or Madam." It's never been easier to customize your search. By spending a few minutes on a corporate Web site, you can find the specific names of the hiring managers who will receive your resume.
"With all the information available on the Internet, there is no way you should can't customize your approach," Danielson says.
Outdated job search belief No. 5
l Networking should only be done during special times and events set aside for networking. Successful networkers today see the possibilities for making connections at all times and with all people.
"It's outdated to think of networking as bad or not fun or more work," Danielson says.
"Generation Y blends their social and professional networks. I think the gender divide or generation divide is old-fashioned - where the men talk business and the women talk kids at a cocktail parties, or where younger people are dismissed as inconsequential. These days, you never know who your next boss or client might be."