Common Job Search Questions

by Candice White

At Ignite Career Center, each client we serve is unique. We work with people from all different backgrounds, yet they often ask similar questions about the job search process. We thought it would be helpful to share these frequently asked questions as you might have them too. Read on for our best advice on the common concerns we hear about.

Shouldn’t my resume be one page long?

So many people think their resume needs to be no longer than one page and will go to any lengths (pardon the pun!) to achieve this, including using tiny margins and a font size so small that it is barely legible. Rest assured it is perfectly acceptable for resumes to be two pages long, so long as all the content is relevant to the positions you are applying for. Make sure the most essential information is on the first page. Generally, aim for a one-page resume if you are a recent graduate or have five to ten years of work experience. Once you have more than 10 years of experience, you can comfortably use two pages.

Why isn’t my resume getting results?

There could be any number of reasons why your resume isn’t leading to interviews. We suggest targeting your resume for each position to make it easy for the hiring manager to see why they should interview you. Understandably, people don’t like hearing this — it seems tedious and laborious to customize your resume for each submission, but it doesn’t have to be that hard. Emphasize the parts of your experience that match and consider leaving out the parts that don’t. The goal is to showcase relevant skills and experiences and effectively convey your value to potential employers. Resumes also need to be easy for people to scan quickly so they can pick up information at a glance. Format your resume neatly with clear sections, easy-to-read font, and conventional headings.

Do I really need a cover letter?

Not everyone reads cover letters, but they are important to those who do. Of course, if the job application requires a cover letter, always submit one. Surveys show that most recruiters prefer candidates who include cover letters. We recommend if you’re going to include a cover letter, make sure it’s a good one — concise, cordial, and connects you to the position. Personalize it for the job you are applying to, by researching the company and its values, and explain how you are aligned with both the role and the organization. (This will also help you during the interview process.)

Why do online applications automatically reject so many candidates?

Actually, online application systems don’t automatically reject candidates. There are many misconceptions about how they work, but it is really simple: these applicant tracking systems (also known as ATS) are tools to manage the hiring process to make it easier to track candidates. Think of them as being virtual filing cabinets rather than resume-eating monsters! The same tips we’ve already mentioned apply here, too: target your resumes and format them cleanly and simply. Read “Five Tips For Navigating Applicant Tracking Systems.”

 Why can’t I get past the first round of interviews?

We’ll never know all the reasons why candidates don’t progress in the interview process. There are so many factors out of our control; however, you can control how well you prepare. Practice and re-practice your interview answers, and then practice some more. They should be succinct, include specific examples, and show self-awareness. There are many online resources for common interview questions, and you should also research questions for the particular role, company and industry to which you are applying.

Something else to remember is to show enthusiasm and engagement during the interview — don’t play hard to get! Try to make it conversational by asking the interviewer appropriate questions, too. This is your chance to learn if the job or environment suits you, and asking questions is another way to show your interest and create rapport with the interviewer.

This may sound a little old fashioned, but we recommend that you dress appropriately, even if the interview is virtual. Dress a little smarter than you would for a typical day at work in that organization’s environment. This is another way to show you are excited about the opportunity.

How soon can I bring up my salary requirements?

Talking about the salary and benefits of a potential role needs to be carefully and tactfully timed. Do it too early and you can talk yourself out of the job. We know no one wants to invest time in an extended interview process if the job won’t pay enough to meet your needs. However, part of showing interest in the job means you don’t want the employer to think you’re just there for the paycheck. Wait until at least the second interview to ask those questions, and then make it a collaborative during the salary negotiation. Don’t forget to weigh company benefits into your equation too!

The Ignite Career Center‘s coaches stay up to date with the latest job search trends to help you with your concerns and support you during your job search. If you have any questions that we didn’t answer here, call 410-466-9200 to schedule an appointment with one of our coaches.

photo of Candice White

Candice White, CARW, is the Manager of Ignite Career Services.


Whether you are new to the job market or a seasoned professional, the Ignite Career Center, a program of Jewish Community Services, can help you go further and get there faster. Our highly experienced Career Coaches provide individuals of all backgrounds and abilities with the customized services and tools they need to stand out from the competition. To learn more, visit ignitecareercenter.com or 410-466-9200.


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