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Quintessential Careers Reports on the State of Internet Job-Hunting
The Long, Slow Death March of Job Boards -- and What Will Replace Them:
A Quintessential Careers Annual Report 2009
by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
In 2001, as a service to our readers, the staff of Quintessential Careers began to conduct an annual review of the state of job-hunting on the Web. Because so much is written about the use of the Internet in job-searching (job boards, social media, resume posting, networking), and because job-hunting and networking online has become the norm for finding a new job, we developed these job-hunting annual reports for job-seekers. As we update our content, we intend to let these annual reports stand as historical snapshots of Internet job search at the time of publication; thus, updating is limited to removing non-functioning links and outdated advice.
In every QuintCareers annual report on the state of job-hunting on the Web, job boards have played a prominent role. We've talked about job-seeker and employer frustrations with job boards, strategies for choosing and leveraging job boards, and data security (or lack thereof) on job boards. What is striking in this year's research is the marginal role job boards play. Hiring decision-makers are talking less and less about job boards and more about new strategies for sourcing candidates.
To make the most of the trends we report on in this annual report, we recommend that readers learn or relearn as much as possible about personal branding. Your ability to distinguish yourself through personal branding will make you more effective in capitalizing on the information in this report. Review our section, Personal Branding & Career Self-Marketing Articles and Tools. In addition, as a sidebar to this article, we offer a rich collection of examples of people who have effectively branded themselves online and a sidebar on how job-seekers can increase their chances of being ""found" online through Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
And now, we present trends in Internet job-hunting over the last year. Embedded in these trends are improved methods that are emerging for researching and connecting with employers:
1. Job boards will be gone in 10 years or sooner.We have encountered no one in the last year who believes job boards are here to stay. Most experts predict they will be gone within 10 years, while some foresee their demise as soon as three years from now. Blogger Jason Buss noted on The Talent Buzz that "job board traffic has been on a continuous decline for years."
Job boards revolutionalized both job-seeking and recruiting some 15 years ago, but today users find more shortcomings than advantages. Job-seekers lament the lack of relevant jobs that turn up in searches, vague job descriptions that don't identify the employer, a user-unfriendly process, and the black-hole experience of posting a resume or applying to a job board's job posting. They also worry about the security of sensitive information they submit -- with good reason. Big job boards like Monster have been hacked, and Monster, even after an early-2009 major site overhaul, was hacked again just before this report went to press, according to ZDNet. Meanwhile, hiring decision-makers fume over bombardment with vast numbers of resumes from unqualified candidates. One of the job-board features that initially made them so attractive -- ease of applying for jobs -- has made them a significant nightmare for employers.
Certainly the initial incarnation of job boards is on the way out. Job-board expert Peter Weddle writes, "We are now coming to the end of the reign of first-generation job boards." The two key characteristics of these first-generation boards, Weddle notes, are a searchable job database and usually a resume database.
While job boards are losing steam, the job-search "aggregators" or search engines we mentioned in last year's annual report, Indeed, JobSniper, and Simply Hired, remain popular, as does the "aggregator of aggregators," Google (Buss notes that more than 4 million job-related searches are conducted on Google daily). Some experts still mention niche, industry-specific job boards, and professional-association boards as effective.
So what will replace job boards? One answer is "talent hubs," which recruiting guru Lou Adler defines as:
... micro career sites that are designed to attract people to a class of jobs, such as marketing, rather than a specific job, such as a senior product manager. These are warm-up pages. Their purpose is to get people to consider opportunities with the company. If designed properly using SEO (search engine optimized) techniques, they are far easier to find using a standard Google, Yahoo, or Live search. From these sites candidates are then driven to specific jobs or to sign up to hear about future opportunities.
Weddle notes that the second-generation boards replacing the legacy sites will offer such features as "forums and bulletin boards for professional networking; games, polls and other features that teach career self-management principles; educational programs, conference schedules, and other information that will help visitors advance themselves in their profession, craft, or trade."
Recruiting experts cite venues that are moving beyond the standard experience that job boards have offered. Extensive job-seeker profiles are a hallmark of many of these sites, as is anonymity in which neither job-seeker nor employer know each other's identity until there is mutual interest:
- Jobfox, which offers a "Mutual Suitability System," using an in-depth question-and-answer format to learn about job-seekers' experience, wants, and needs. Jobfox then presents candidates with only the opportunities that match. "Since employers using Jobfox participate in this same process," the Jobfox site states, "you can be assured that they know you are well qualified for their position.
- Climber.com, the goal of which is "to introduce the active job seeker to hiring managers and recruiters who control the job market." Fee-based.
- OneWire, a site for finance professionals that "allows individuals to quickly and precisely map their experiences -- education, work, and life -- and distinguish themselves from their peers." The site goes on to note that "firms use the same system to create a search for their ideal candidate. This mirroring of profile and search criteria allows for the precise matching of individual to opportunity."
Talent gurus are encouraging employers to enhance their company career portals. Still, Buss cites the statistic that 90 percent of visitors to corporate career sites don't apply, and even among those who start applying, at least half don't finish. Job-seekers have become savvier about finding the quality "candidate experience."
Job boards have long offered job-seekers the option of setting up an e-mail alert based on a set of search terms, but a newer twist on that technique is to set up an RSS feed. If you search for jobs on Indeed.com, for example, you have the option once you get the search results of setting up either an e-mail alert or RSS feed for those search terms. Look also for blogs that carry job listings and subscribe to their feeds.
In the broadest sense, the future focus for both job-seekers and hiring decision-makers will be on establishing and building relationships. Scott Monty of the Social Media Marketing Blog has, in fact, called 2009 the "year of the relationship." To do so, they will follow the other trends listed in this report.
2. Digital presence, "findability," and search-engine optimization (SEO) increasingly are standard operating tools for jobseekers.Closely tied to the demise of job boards is the growing conviction among recruiters that what recruiting guru Dr. John Sullivan calls the "we find you" approach is better than "you find us," in which job-seekers find employers and jobs through job boards and company career sites. Recruiting expert Adler's take is "find jobs for people, not people for jobs." And on the job-seeker side, Dan Schawbel, author of Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success, suggests that candidates "search for people, not jobs."
All these philosophies underscore the importance of relationships and the ability to be found online if you are interested in a new job. We've talked about the significance of an online or digital presence since our 2005 report, but as job boards diminish in importance and effectiveness, and hiring decision-makers shift their approaches to connecting with talent, digital presence becomes a must. The job-search scene has shifted from a job-board approach to a Web 2.0 approach, described by Kevin Wheeler, president and founder of Global Learning Resources, Inc., this way: "Web 2.0 is the evolution from text-based, online brochure-like websites to websites that are interactive, allow control and input from the candidate, and provide information in a variety of formats, including video, audio, graphics, and text. Web 2.0 sites tend to focus on blogs, wikis, and chat, and they keep the boilerplate to a minimum."
You can establish something of a digital presence using the social-networking tools and venues discussed in item 3 of this report, but that kind of "outpost" approach (as social-media guru Chris Brogan calls it) will work much better if you have a "home base" to refer all your connections to. Thus, the basic digital-presence package we recommend is:
- Your own Website with your name as the site's domain name (for example, mine, katharinehansenphd.com). Instead of a static Website, your site could be a blog.
- Your resume on your Website or blog. Schawbel notes that "instead of submitting your resume, it becomes a billboard that can be shared, distributed to hiring managers, searched and more."
Add-ons that are optional but highly desirable include:
- A career portfolio as part of your site.
- A blog if your site is not already a blog. (We cover blogging in greater detail in item 4 in this report.)
If you neither have your own Website/blog nor plan to have one, the next best thing is a LinkedIn profile (see item 3 in this report).
Job-seekers are also beginning to become more sophisticated in optimizing online portfolios, resumes, and Websites to make themselves "findable" by recruiters and employers. They are learning Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques, such as effective use of keywords to ensure high placement in searches on Google and other search engines. (See our article, SEO for Job-Seekers: 10 Tips for Building Your Brand and Being Found Online by Employers and Recruiters.
Also gaining traction since our last report is the concept of the social-media resume. Schawbel, in an excellent how-to article on creating a social-media resume points out that a social-media resume can include "various multimedia elements, sharing options, integrated social networking feeds and the same elements you'd find in a traditional resume." Schawbel offers these as examples of social-media resumes: his own, Chris Penn's, Bryan Person's, mine, and Rohit Bhargava's.
3. Social-networking, people-finding, and micro-blogging participation are becoming critical to the job search.Social-networking venues have been part of our annual report since 2005, but the big difference now is that hiring decision-makers are being encouraged to source candidates through these venues in a way they never have before. In past years, job boards have been the centerpiece of advice to these decision-makers -- but no longer. We cannot tell you how many webinars we've attended and articles we've read in the last year that are how-to's on finding talent through venues like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Twitter. "Recruiters who are not using these tools ... feel as though they are falling behind," writes Wheeler. Despite a faint undercurrent of concern about looming legal issues (such as discrimination) over bringing social-networking venues into the hiring process, employer and recruiter interest in using these networks is high. Wheeler even predicts that more and more candidates will be recruited, assessed, and hired without actually seeing anyone in person.
Participation in social-networking venues also has become more pervasive in the wider culture. The Pew Internet & American Life Project reports that the share of adult Internet users who have a profile on an online social-network site has more then quadrupled since 2005 -- from 8 percent that year to 35 percent as of December 2008.
Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter are key for job-seekers because they are considered destination sites for many Internet users, and Facebook and MySpace boast much more traffic than any job board.
Slightly different from the other big social-networking venues, Twitter is characterized as a micro-blogging site that people periodically update with "tweets" that tell what they are doing. Anyone can "follow" anyone else on Twitter (unless the Twitterer has blocks in place). Some users follow and are followed by thousands; at least one expert, Robin Good of Master New Media, recommends users follow no more than 200-300 people "if you want to be able to really follow what these individuals have to say." For career advancement, it's best that most tweets deliver some sort of value, reveal your personality, or share interesting information. Job-seekers can use these tweets to broadcast the fact that they are in the job hunt and ask advice. They can also "follow" employers, recruiters, and those who offer good job-seeking advice. You can search Twitter using keywords to see who is talking about your career field and other topics of interest -- and set up an RSS feed for those search terms. Learn more about how to use Twitter for job search.
We recommend participating on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter as a must. Of course, hundreds, if not thousands of other social-network venues are out there, and most people probably can't effectively maintain a presence on more than a few. Peter Weddle contends that the best social-networking sites are the discussion boards and forums operated by:
- National and state-level professional associations and trade groups.
- Technical school, college, and graduate school alumni organizations.
- Some affinity sites that may be important to employers (such as women in technology, African American certified public accountants, and veterans).
A synthesis of some of the best advice experts have offered in the last year for using social networks in the job search results in these tips:
- Ensure that your profile on the major venues is complete and compelling. "Your social network profile can be a great opportunity to enhance your image as someone who is truly passionate about what they do," says "Bill S.," a commenter to the blog ReadWriteWeb.
- Conversely, "an incomplete profile makes you appear lazy and does not showcase all your accomplishments and abilities," cautions Christine Hassler of The Huffington Post.
- Ask the people you connect with to critique your resume.
- Let your network know through your status updates that you seek a job and what kind.
- If you blog (see item 4 in this report), link your blog content to your profiles and status updates.
- Include links to your Website/portfolio/blog in your profiles.
- Ask and answer questions through LinkedIn Answers .
- Join sub-groups within venues like Facebook and LinkedIn that focus on your profession and interests. Communicate and connect with members of these groups.
- Research employers through company pages on Facebook and LinkedIn.
- Recommend people on LinkedIn and ask your contacts to recommend you.
- Participate in discussion forums and boards in your career field.
- See if professional organizations in your field offer social-networking tools.
- If you once worked for a large company, you may find a social-networking venue for alumni of that employer.
- Always offer help to those with whom you connect and thank your contacts for their assistance and advice.
- Realize that even on sites with good privacy settings, your profiles may be less private than you think, and be careful about what you say and post on social-networking venues.
- Invite your real-world contacts to join your networks, and invited contacts from one venue to join your network on other venues.
Schawbel mentions a couple of new twists in using social-network techniques. One is to search for people with whom to network, people who could be or lead to your "in" with a given employer. Schawbel says to identify the top companies you'd like to work for, use search engines to find people who work in those organizations, and then connect with each person directly. (SittingXLegged, a blog on the ERE Blog Network lists these as the five best "people search engines:" Pipl, Google, Facebook, iSearch, and 123people.) Rusty Weston, a commenter to the blog ReadWriteWeb, concurs with Schawbel's suggestion: "Job boards are passive approaches, but social networks give you the option of reaching out to hiring managers or recruiters at companies you're targeting for employment. It works."
Schawbel's other innovative suggestion is to run "job-wanted" ads on Google AdWords and Facebook Social Ads. Franzen of OneDayOneJob outlines the process for running Facebook Social Ads and also offers success stories from those who've tried it here. Franzen has not tried the Google AdWords method because Google "doesn't let you target specific companies like Facebook does. Targeting geographic areas performs pretty poorly, so I figured AdWords wouldn't work too well for grabbing people's attention like this."
4. Blogging is still seen as a both a way to demonstrate expertise and learn more about and connect with employers.We first mentioned blogs as a job-search tool in our 2005 report, and despite occasional murmurings that blogs are on the way out, the prevailing wisdom is that they are going strong and remain valuable tools for job-seekers.
At the heart of blogging as a boon for job candidates is that most of them provide two-way communication -- interaction and conversation between blogger and reader. Whether you blog or read blogs, you have the opportunity to add contacts to your network.
As a job-seeker, you also have the opportunity to start a blog about your profession or other topic you're passionate about and show off your expertise to employers. A blog can establish you as an expert and thought-leader in your field, again raising your visibility with hiring decision-makers. Since blogs are updated regularly, you enhance your digital presence every time you blog.
We are still hearing the notion that a blog can even serve as a form of resume. As recently as a few weeks before this report went to press, the Christian Science Monitor published an article, "Blogs: An Effective Job-Hunting Tool?, which points out that even if a blog is not seen as a resume in itself, job-seekers can blog to supplement their resumes. Article author Marilyn Gardner quotes job-seeking blogger David Atkins: "A resume gets the attention of people who are looking to hire someone in a particular role. A blog complements that by showing what else I do that makes me an interesting person." Gardner cites another blogger, David Erickson, who "regularly receives job opportunities as a direct result of his blogging." See also our articles on the subject: Use Your Blog as a Resume? Part I: Pros and Cons and Use Your Blog as a Resume? Part II: Tips and Examples.
ExecuNet conducted a study in which 70 percent of executive recruiters reported that finding positive information online improves candidates' job prospects and can therefore elevate them to the top of the consideration list. The membership organization for executive leaders suggests blogging as a method for amplifying a job-seeker's web presence.
Candidates also have increasing opportunities to learn through blogs about prospective employers and recruiters and get a feel for a company's culture and what it would be like to work for a given employer. Job-seekers can also learn who's hiring by reading recruiter blogs. They can join the conversation and become known to employers and recruiters by leaving comments on their blogs. Check out the Top 50 HR Blogs and Top Recruiting Blogs.
5. Integrating multimedia into the job search -- a controversial trend -- is one to watch.We talked about the multimedia trend in our 2008 annual report as well, especially with regard to video resumes. Increasingly in the year since then, career experts have expressed doubts about the future of video resumes. Less than a quarter of employers that Robert Half International surveyed in 2008 said they would accept video resumes from candidates. Employers have cited the time it takes for hiring decision-makers to watch video resumes compared to the few seconds it takes to scan a resume, the employment-discrimination concerns that accompany seeing what the candidate looks like before the interview, and government requirements about keeping resume data on file; to comply, employers would need to download and store video resumes.
Still, video from the candidate perspective is not entirely dead. Employers are using video interviewing to cut costs. Kevin Wheeler, president and founder of Global Learning Resources, Inc., recently quoted John Younger, president and founder of the San Francisco-based firm Accolo: "While I don't think videos designed to replace a complete resume will ever take off, short videos where a candidate answers one or two particular questions will become very popular and useful."
"Short" is the watchword. If you choose to try a video resume, make it no longer than about 2.5 minutes -- and try to make it as professional as you can. Check with your targeted employer before submitting a video resume to make sure the organization will accept that format.
Candidates should probably not rush out and create a video resume but should monitor video resumes as a trend that may or may not take off. You may want instead to consider tools such as VisualCV to create multimedia resumes that include "video, pictures and a portfolio of your best work samples and other supporting documents." A VisualCV also contains "informational pop-ups [that] provide background data on the companies you've worked at and the colleges you've attended."
Because more employers may be conducting interviews through Web-cams and videoconferencing, job-seekers will need to add "camera presence" to their arsenals of interviewing skills.
An alternative to video is a slideshow about yourself and what you have to offer an employer. LinkedIn has added Slideshare and Google Presentations applications that enable you to feature your portfolio items, work samples, and accomplishments in slide form and embed the presentation in your LinkedIn profile.
See Dan Schawbel's how-to article on creating a social-media resume for more ideas on using multimedia in the job search.
Opportunities increasingly abound for candidates to learn about employers through online videos. The importance of video for recruiters and employers is as a communications medium to show candidates what their organizations are like and what it's like to work there. Video is often the best way to answer the candidate question, "Why should I work here?" Employer videos are proliferating on sites such as YouTube and Monster.
Final Thoughts on Internet Job-HuntingWe conclude this report with a collection of mini-trends and forward-looking trends we're likely to examine further in our next Internet Job-hunting Annual Report:
- Respected experts are compiling step-by-step guides on Web 2.0 job search. Examples include Chris Brogan's free e-book, Using the Social Web to Find Work and Dan Schawbel's 7 Secrets to Getting Your Next Job Using Social Media.
- Mobile will drive the next evolution in recruiting. Recruiters and candidates will increasingly interact though cell-phones, texting, and other mobile technologies.
- Reference checking is getting easier online. With new Web-based tools available for employers to check references, candidates will want to become more careful than ever in whom they list as references and how they prepare those references. Experts have pointed to an online psychology in which referrals are often more candid and critical in giving references online than they are over the phone.
- New Web-based and desktop tools are emerging to help job-seekers manage their searches. We're seeing more tools like JibberJobber (described as "a long-term relationship manager for your personal career management"). Another entry in this category is PerfectJobSoftware.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine, an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at)quintcareers.com.
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