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Quintessential Careers Reports on the State of Internet Job-Hunting
Are the Major Job Boards All They're Cracked Up to Be?
A Quintessential Careers Annual Report 2001
by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
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of Internet job search at the time of publication; thus, updating is limited to removing non-functioning links and outdated advice.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 Monster.com, HotJobs.com, and Headhunter.com (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.
- 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 Monster.com 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 Monster.com 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.
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, "Monster.com 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.'"
- 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.
- 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.
- 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, 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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