Everyone has questions about job searching, whether you’ve done it a lot or never before. Each employer is different, and hiring practices change over time. This makes it hard to nail down one generic answer for every question that you can apply to any situation. However, among the most common job search questions, the answers that you get will generally be along the same lines.

1. “Can I get hired without knowing someone on the inside?”

Yes! Many people think this is not true but it is still possible. You can apply to a job online and be invited for an interview and receive an offer, and you can be contacted by a recruiter which can lead to a job offer. However, you should narrow your targets to concentrate on those you are most qualified for and interested in to save your time. In other words, be strategic about where you apply. If you don’t meet the minimum qualifications, you are probably wasting your time.

2. “Do I have to make a new resume for every application?”

You should tweak your resume for each application, but it won’t take a lot of time if you start with a solid resume. Build a solid resume with a concise career summary and bullets that reflect specific work you’ve done, plus the result or end goal of each task. From there, tweaks will be minimal. Use key terms that apply to your background from the job announcement. This may mean simply changing words here and there throughout your resume, and highlighting the qualifications requested up front in your career summary.

3. “At what point do I mention my set vacation plans?”

If you are asked during an interview if you’ll be able to work in that timeframe because of a big event, you should be honest. Otherwise, time off does not need to be discussed during the interview. You can raise it if you receive a job offer and plan to accept.

4. “Do I need to write a cover letter if not asked for one, or if it says it’s optional?”

There is more disagreement over cover letters than any other part of the job search. But the fact remains: if an employer likes your resume, they may read your cover letter. If you’re the only person who wrote one, and it’s well written, you’ll probably get called for an interview. Taking that chance is worth it. Disclaimer: if the posting tells you to only submit a resume and no cover letter, do not send a cover letter!

5. “Why am I not hearing back about my applications?”

There are many reasons for this. The position may have already been filled; you may not meet the minimum qualifications for the position according to the Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) or person reviewing your resume; you had mistakes in your resume; and/or the recruiter or hiring manager is on vacation. What does all this tell you? Do not assume anything. The best thing you can do from the start is to send your application not only to the general HR email or through the online portal, but find an HR or specific department contact on the company website or career site and send your application to them as well. Address your cover letter and email to that person by name. If you can’t find someone, that’s okay, but make sure you follow up with the person you sent your application to. If it says ‘no calls,’ do not call, but email after one week. Otherwise, call in a week and then follow up a few days later with an email. Be persistent, but not a pain.

While this is not an exhaustive list of the most common job search questions, it should give you some clarity as you slog through the process. It can be discouraging spending countless hours trying to get your resume and materials in shape, networking and then trying to figure out the whole job search dance, but with the basic principles in mind, you’ll be ahead of the game.


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Marcelle Yeager helps people land jobs that get them to the next level of their career. Through her company Career Valet, she works with mid- to senior-level professionals on their branding strategy and job search materials to secure new roles. She co-founded a second business in 2015 called ServingTalent, where she finds jobs for talented military and Foreign Service spouses. Marcelle has spent over six years living and working abroad. She can be reached at myeager@careervalet.com.