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The 12 worst pieces of career advice you’ll read

No double-fisted handshake, really?

There's an assumption that most generic career advice books are mostly full of obvious fluff that panders to and possibly takes advantage of the unemployed. One book confirms this.

Last week, one showed up at the office in the mail. “Knock ‘Em Dead: The Ultimate Job Search Guide 2015.” Over five million copies have been sold, with the Financial Times calling it the “best book on job hunting.” The advice is, quite frankly, amazing. Its granularity is almost insulting.

Here are the types of things you’ll learn on your way to becoming a job hunting robot with little independent thought of your own.

Customized email addresses

“I recommend you set up a separate e-mail account devoted exclusively to job search and career management affairs. You’ll need an e-mail address that reflects the professional you.” Examples include: top10accountant@, greataccountant@, smartfinanceguy@ and moneycounts@. Good luck with those.

Quadrupling submissions

The book suggests you attack a job posting with a four-pronged, blitzkrieg-style approach: apply online, email your resume and cover letter to the hiring manager, physically mail your resume and cover letter to the hiring manager with a note saying you “wanted to increase [your] chances of getting [their] attention,” and then make a follow-up phone call to the manager first thing in the morning.

(Then wait for the restraining order to kick in.)

Never shake horizontally with two hands

“Match the pressure extended by the interviewer – never exceed it. A typical professional handshake lasts for between two and five seconds, just two of three reasonably firm up-and-down pumps accompanied by a smile…Use only one hand and shake vertically.” Got that - no horizontal double-fist shake?

Hand deodorant

The book recommends you put deodorant on your hands before an interview to mitigate against any potential perspiration.

No Daffy Duck ties

“Do not wear ties with large polka dots, pictures of animals such as leaping trout or soaring mallards.”

Bob and weave

“Nodding your head slowly shows interest, validates your interviewer’s comments, and subtly encourages her to continue. Tilting the head slightly, when combined with eye contact and a natural smile, demonstrates friendliness and approachability.”


“One guiding principle of good body language is to turn your mouth upward rather than downward.” What is that called again?

Pockets terrify people

“Hands-in-pockets, hands-on-hips, or thumbs-in-belt postures are all to be avoided. These send messages that you are aggressive and dominating.”

Laugh, strategically

“Perhaps the interviewer leans back and laughs; you ‘laugh beneath’ the interviewer’s laughter, taking care not to overwhelm you partner by using an appropriate volume level.”

Don’t let the food fall out

“Never speak with your mouth full.”

Don’t get drunk

“If there is a bottle of wine on the table, and the waiter offers you another glass, place your hand over the top of the glass. It is a polite way of signifying no.”

Don’t mail them porn

“Don’t send anything of a sexual, political, or religious nature, as it constitutes a breach of professional values.”

There you have it. Concentrate on these 12 tips, along with around 1,200 others, and you’re sure to ace your job search.

AUTHORBeecher Tuttle US Editor
  • Ca
    22 February 2015

    My professional experience in all 3 industries relevant here (finance, publishing AND career advice) brings to mind several useful parallels.

    1. Google the string "Jessica Mitford" AND Dove And Vulture. The ancient New Yorker story that should bring up may give you some insight into the affiliation and motivation of the anon author of the February 12 at 4:20 am GMT comment.

    2. As Beecher indicates early on in this piece, career advice so suicidal it's worth recycling as humor (like the "Knock Em Dead" job search guide) can be found everywhere - even blue-chip venues like the FT... and BusinessWeek: . Among the unwittingly ironic gems in that BW article by widely syndicated career advice guru Liz Ryan, is this: 3) You're sent a questionnaire (not a job application) or online test to complete before you've had any human contact with the employer, including a phone call. [According to Ryan, that's supposed to make you "run away" from the interview. However, some of the best-paying employers on planet Earth - D.E. Shaw, for one - use pre-interview questionnaires as a routine part of their hiring process. So, Ryan's advice indicates to me that she comes from, or is at least writing about, someplace other than planet Earth.]

    3. Several years ago I had an experience similar to what Beecher is writing about here: A newly published career advice book was sent to me by a publicist in hopes I'd publish a (presumably favorable) review. Two things stopped me from doing that: Beecher's predecessor had little use for calling out BAD advice; he felt eFC should spend its space spotlighting useful advice, rather than taking others to task for purveying bad advice. (My opinion differs.) And, since I'd previously met the author, Vicki Salemi, to publish an honest review of her mind-blowingly idiotic book would have made me feel slimy. All you need know about Salemi's book is this: Every 10th word in it is, "FANTABULOUS". Yes, "fantabulous." That's a word? Well, I guess if you're writing for an audience you view as comprised of 100% bimbos. The funny thing is, I know from experience that Salemi herself is not a bimbo. So it's a shame she, or the editor at her publishing house, seems to view the female millennials career-advice-book market that way.

  • Yo
    19 February 2015

    I had to talk to the Feds as a potential witness on a securities fraud trial. I think the Snoopy tie that the Special Agent wore added a nice balance to the firearm he was carrying.

  • an
    12 February 2015

    I am quite familiar with the *Knock 'Em Dead* series of books. The Financial Times is right. It is one of the best job hunting books out there.

    It must be nice to have a job, where you are relatively unknown (deservedly, I'd have to say after reading your drivel) and be able to take pot shots by very selectively taking quotes out of context and omitting the larger whole, just so you can somehow feel like you're doing something useful for your paycheck.

    What rubbish! Yes, some of those things may be a tad obvious, but let me assure your readers as one who has perused this author's books that he offers a lot of pithy and spot on advice that many job seekers would be wise to adopt for their own.

    If you spent any time to look around and see how well this series is received, you might realize that you have something to learn form his, but NOO-OO, not know-it-all like you. You'd rather take the low road and shoot snidely from the lip. Shame on you and your pee-poor brand of journalism!

  • ge
    11 February 2015

    one thing is for certain.....the "how to ace an interview / land a job" industry is B O O M I N G

  • Se
    11 February 2015

    I guess the upshot of crappy books is great articles! Nice work - I still can't stop laughing.

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