Are the Major Job Boards All They’re Cracked Up to Be? A Quintessential Careers Annual Report 2001

Quintessential Careers Reports on the State of Internet Job-Hunting

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by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.

Quintessential Careers Annual Report

This report is the first of a series annual review of the state of job-hunting on the Web, begun as a service to our readers by the staff of Quintessential Careers. 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of Internet job search at the time of publication; thus, updating is limited to removing non-functioning links and outdated advice.

We polled our readers about their experiences with the major job boards such as,, and (recently bought by CareerBuilder). Whenever you conduct an unscientific poll like this, you usually hear more from disgruntled users than happy ones. Thus, we also looked at some recent media articles about the big job boards so we could present a more balanced view of the pros and cons, as well as some ideas for making an Internet job-search more than what one writer called a “post-and-pray operation.” See also our article, Maximize Your Internet Job Search.

Pros of Major Job Board

  • The big job boards, such as Monster, are a good starting place for an Internet job search. Citing career specialists and HR managers, Josh Kovner of the Hartford Courant notes that the major job boards are an effective tool for those who have not yet narrowed their job search and want to get an idea of their marketability. Given that the big job boards are stock-in-trade for recruiters — the Wall Street Journal reports that 73 percent of recruiters spend time online searching for candidates — job-seekers could be missing the boat if they bypass the big guns.

    After all, job-seekers using the Internet to research new careers have found to be their No. 1 destination, according to a report by Greenfield Online, which found that ranked significantly higher than other job sites, with 61 percent of online job hunters using the site. Clearly, many job-seekers must be getting results through Monster because the site also achieved the highest level of satisfaction among users in all categories from ease of applying and career advice to the variety of jobs and search capabilities. Other popular sites included (30 percent), (25 percent), (20 percent), and (15 percent). The same study found that by a margin of two-to-one, Internet-savvy job-seekers believe online job-search sites are “a more effective tool for finding a new or improved job” than newspaper job listings. One analyst has indicated that is the leading or number two help-wanted franchise in the United States, according to The Boston Globe.

    “I have found the widest variety of opportunities by using,” noted one of our readers, who added, “I did find a position for my fiance on, which he accepted, and it was a wonderful opportunity. I think that the major job boards work as well as any other — they just require a little more luck and a lot more initiative to really maximize the potential they offer.”

  • The major job boards can be more effective if you localize your search. A career counselor for a state employment agency who likes to test out job boards so he can share his experiences with his clients told us that was one of the job-search tools that he actively used over a six-month period, sending out approximately 250 responses per week. “My personal experience has revealed that when trying to find a job in the HR profession, responding to ads that are out of state is not an effective way to gain interviews,” the counselor said. “In other words, a person using will find little to no success when attempting to find work that is located out of state.” When he began sending out a letter of introduction to businesses posting job-board ads for positions in his own state, his success rate in landing interviews jumped to five out of every 10 businesses whose ad he responded to.

    Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t give credit to a couple of sites that two of our readers credited as the source of great new jobs: and America’s Job Bank.

Cons of Major Job Boards

  • Some job boards have very rigid requirements for how your resume or profile must be set up if it is to be posted on their site, so it can be hard to make your credentials stand out. See our article, Maximize Your Internet Job Search.
  • Some of the jobs posted on job boards aren’t real or the postings are outdated, reports Stacey Bradford of the Wall Street Journal. Employers sometimes post these “fantasy jobs” as a sort of fishing expedition to check out the available talent. Bradford advises job-seekers to “avoid listings with vague job descriptions or those posted by anonymous recruiters.” An obvious approach to avoid outdated postings is to check the posting date. When a job board asks to be listed on Quintessential Careers, we always ask about the currency of their listings. Postings that appear directly on company career sites may also be more current than those on job boards. Stephanie Stoughton of The Boston Globe recently reported that, according to a Monster spokesman, “ is policing classifieds to ensure they are up to date and reflect the advertised positions.”
  • A significant portion of jobs on the big boards are posted by recruiters/headhunters/executive-search firms. While that’s not necessarily a negative, it does make it harder to connect directly with employers and make an impression. “The golden age of Internet job sites has passed,” lamented one of our readers, who asked to remain anonymous. “I used Monster three years ago. I’m using it again. The difference: employment agencies.” When you post your resume, you become a target for recruiters who don’t necessarily have a good job match for you. “Normally, many headhunters call to get you to sign up with their firm, but I have not seen any productive results coming out of it,” said another anonymous reader. Another said, “The only responses I’ve received are from recruiters who call to tell me they don’t think I’m qualified for the posted job. In the same breath they begin to pump me for names and phone numbers of my co-workers who also ‘may appreciate the referral.'”

    One way to avoid these third-party job postings is, of course, to apply for jobs directly through company career sites.

  • Many users report that they get no response whatsoever — not even an acknowledgement that their materials were received — when they respond to job postings on the big boards. Again, the massive number of candidates inundating employers with their resumes sometimes precludes a response. But smart companies know that it costs almost nothing to at least set up an e-mail autoresponder to thank job-seekers for applying. If you hear nothing from an employer, you should try to follow up, which isn’t always easy, as we note in the next bullet point.
  • On the job boards, it can be very difficult to direct your resume to a named individual or to follow up after responding to a job posting. Because of the huge volume of responses that employers receive — often thousands for a single job posting — the hiring process has become very mechanized and much more impersonal than it used to be. Whereas job-seekers have long been advised (including here at Quintessential Careers) to address their cover letters to a named individual, preferably the hiring manager for the position sought, Internet job postings often omit the name of an individual to write to. When job-seekers call the company to obtain the name of someone to address, the information is often not divulged. Without the name of someone to write to, it’s also very difficult to follow up after applying online for a job. The solution — and it’s not ideal — is to always at least try to obtain the name of the hiring manager. If the employer won’t tell you, address your letter to “Dear Hiring Manager for [name of position].” If you don’t hear anything after 10 days to two weeks, send a follow-up e-mail indicating your continued interest to the same address to which you sent your original response. See our article Sleuthing Out Hiring Managers Key to Job-Search Follow-up
  • .

  • Readers complain that posting a resume on the major job boards often results a flood of e-mails advertising get-rich-quick, multi-level marketing (MLM), and pyramid schemes. “One of the most annoying experiences from both posting my resume and securing ‘job agents’ on many Web-based employment services is being hoodwinked by network marketing firms,” said reader and marketing consultant Michael Albert, of Redondo Beach, CA. “Many multi-level marketing companies post positions as ‘Director of Marketing’ or ‘Marketing Manager’ with realistic-appearing job descriptions, but the rub is that the ‘job’ offer is a veiled pitch for their networking marketing ploy,” Albert related. “Some have phoned me, and I have gone to an interview only to find out the truth. One guy, when I stated that I was not seeking to enter the ‘personal marketing’ industry, flipped and told me I was an idiot for for passing up on his offer. His offer, by the way, involved a $750 ‘business set-up’ charge to ‘get me going.'” When Albert complained to the job board, he received an autoresponder e-mail offering site-navigation tips.

    Misrepresentation and unwelcome solicitations seem to be a common problem for job-seekers who post their resumes on the job boards. One reader wrote: “Here’s a quick overview of my experience with job boards over the last three months:

    • An interview with a career consultant who represented himself as a headhunter/recruiter.
    • An interview with another headhunter associated with a job board.
    • Requests for resumes from many other job-search Websites.
    • No feedback whatsoever from applications to listed jobs out of perhaps 75-80 occurrences.
    • No interviews for real jobs.

    One reader suggested obtaining a “throwaway” e-mail address from a provider such as Hotmail or Yahoo for use during job searching and then terminating the account after the search is complete to stave off these types of unwanted e-mail solicitations. We’d be interested in hearing from the big job boards about what they’re doing to prevent job-seekers from being subjected to inappropriate solicitations and misrepresentation.

  • Some features offered by job boards receive mixed reviews in terms of effectiveness — or they require a fee. Albert noted that when he has used a “search agent” on some job boards for marketing positions using various key words, such as “marketing,” “promotions,” “advertising,” and “events,” he receives postings for cooks, camp counselors, insurance sales, software developers, HR managers. “The new twist,” Albert observes, “is for the job sites to create streams of revenue from their ‘free’ sites by offering upgraded service for a price, ‘highlighting’ resumes by putting it on top of the pile from those who pay.” Another reader derided Monster’s ChiefMonster, aimed at executives at the vice president level and above. Asserting that advertised jobs offered “ludicrous salaries,” the reader recalled, “I had an ‘HR director’ chewing gum when she called. They set aside a Tuesday morning for ‘CEO interviews,’ i.e., four or five candidates in the lobby doing back-to-back interviews. Salary: $45,000.”

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, PhD, Creative Director 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) Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.

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