Maximize Your Internet Job Search: Best Practices for Job-Seekers

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by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.

We frequently hear from job-seekers who are frustrated with job-hunting on the Internet. (See our article Are the Major Job Boards All They’re Cracked Up to Be? Observers and Users Speak Out). They have posted their resume on the major job boards or searched for and responded to job postings — but have heard nothing back from employers.

Let’s face it — the sheer volume of resumes and job postings on the major job boards like (tens of thousands of resumes a day for Monster) make it hard for the individual job-seeker to get an employer’s attention. When the Internet began to be widely used in the mid-1990s, it seemed as though it would be a magic bullet for job-hunting. And, while the Internet makes many aspects of job-hunting a lot easier than they used to be, it also means that employers are inundated with responses to their job postings. A single job posting can attract thousands of applicants. Add to the mix a weak economy, and you have a lot of job-seekers who are fed up with Internet job-hunting. The aim of this article is to help you get the most out of job-searching on the ‘Net and to make you aware of Internet job-search techniques you may not have known about. This article focuses on traditional job boards; to learn how to integrate social media into your job search, see Building Your Online Career Brand: Five Tools for Job-Seekers.

  • Try one-stop shopping. If you want to leave no stone unturned and use as many online job boards as possible, you can save a lot of time by going to a site with links to large numbers of job boards. Naturally, we recommend Quintessential Careers with links to almost 1,000 job sites. Most of these sites boast both job postings and the opportunity to post your resume.
  • Take advantage of the extra features of the major job boards. Many job boards, for example have a “search agent” feature that enables you to enter your job criteria and have lists of jobs (or links to lists of jobs) e-mailed to you regularly. Our readers’ and our own experience with these agents have yielded mixed results. One reader said that the agents that work best use Boolean search terms. Named after British mathematician George Boole, Boolean refers to the logical relationship among search terms, a relationship usually characterized by the words AND, OR, and NOT. In Boolean searching, an “and” operator between two words or other values (for example, “pear AND apple”) means one is searching for documents containing both of the words or values, , not just one of them. An “or” operator between two words or other values (for example, “pear OR apple”) means one is searching for documents containing either of the words.
  • Consider the niche boards. The heavy volume of resumes submitted to the major job boards is one reason that recruiters and job seekers are turning their attention to specialty boutiques rather than big-box marketplaces, notes well-known career columnist Joyce Lain Kennedy. These “specialty boutiques” are the online job boards that cater to one particular occupation, industry, or type of job-seeker (such as new college grads, MBA grads, minority candidates, or freelancers). You can access lots of these niche boards though this section of Quintessential Careers. Another excellent source of niche job listings is professional organizations. Not only do they often have job ads for your specific field, but professional organizations were ranked as the No. 1 networking venue in the survey I did for my book, A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market. Access many professional organizations through this section of Quintessential Careers.
  • Think local. One survey showed that 28 percent of Internet job-seekers are willing to look at job listings that require relocation — but 48 percent aren’t. If you want to stay put and still obtain a new job, it makes sense to use geographically specific job boards. It also makes sense to use them if you do want to relocate because you can find openings in the city you plan to move to. Link to geographically specific job boards through this section of Quintessential Careers.
  • Go retro. Years ago, when I instructed my students to submit a want ad with their cover-letter assignment, almost all the ads submitted were from newspapers. By 2000, students submitted barely one newspaper want ad with the assignment. Virtually all the submitted ads were from the Internet. While newspaper want ads might be considered an old-fashioned venue for job-hunting, they are actually every bit as current as the Internet because most major newspapers carry their want ads online. Searching online want ads from newspapers is another variation on sticking with local sources for your Internet job search. Access many newspaper want ad sections through this section of Quintessential Careers.
  • Go straight to the source. Although some evidence exists that career sections of company Web sites are in decline, a number of experts still recommend these sites as a better choice than the big job boards because job postings are more likely to be current, the job-seeker can obtain specific instructions for how to apply online, and the overall company Website provides a feel for the company’s culture. Experts say the best way to approach a job search is to research and target the companies you most want to work for. Visiting company career sites is a great way to do so. Applying through a company job site lets the employer know that you were interested enough in the company to come to its Website. Quoted in an article by Josh Kovner in the Hartford Courant, Michael Dunne of Banker’s Life and Casualty said that direct applicants to his company’s Website “are the hungriest; they’ve sought us out. When we talk to them, they are definitely interested in the job.” In a recent search to hire 10 salespeople, Dunne hired all six of those who had applied directly to his company’s site, but only four out of 100 that had applied through Go directly to company career sections of close to 1,000 companies in our Quintessential Directory of Company Career Centers.
  • Don’t submit your resume indiscriminately. Adding to the overwhelming volume of resumes employers receive online is a plethora of resumes sent for jobs the job-seeker is not remotely qualified for. If you think you’re covering all bases by responding to zillions of job postings, think again. You do yourself no favors by adding to the clutter that employers must weed through. Managing the information glut that results from the bombardment of resumes is a major headache for employers. Some job-seekers think that even if they’re not qualified, the employer will realize how much they have to offer and match them up with other company job openings. Given the sheer volume of resumes and the speed of the screening process, the chances of such a match occurring are beyond remote, so don’t waste the employer’s time or your own.

    Be sure also to pay close attention to employers’/recruiters’ instructions for submitting your resume in response to their ads. Do they want you to send it via e-mail as a Word attachment? Via e-mail with your resume in text form in the body of the e-mail? Make sure you know how to do what the employer is asking. If you frequently send your resume as an e-mail attachment, experiment with sending it to several friends’ computers to make sure it looks consistent and nicely formatted. Many employers ask you to include a position code so they can easily identify the job you’re applying for. And be sure your resume contains those all-important keywords that will get your resume noticed.

  • Publish your resume on your own Web page. Posting your own resume — your way — on the Web can be a terrific supplement to posting your resume — their way — on major and niche job boards. Since many employers now require resumes to be submitted in an unattractive and unadorned text format, publishing your resume on the Web gives employers 24/7 access to a more graphically pleasing version of your resume.

    Of course, if you want to publish your Web-based resume, you need to have Web space in which to publish it. Check with your Internet Service Provider. Many providers offer users space on their Web-servers. A number of portal sites on the Internet will host Web pages. For a search engine that enables you to find Web sites with free Web space hosting, go to FreeWebspace.Net. Once you’ve found a host for your Web page and resume, a key technique for getting employers to notice it is registering it with search engines. Read our article Resume Found: Keys to Successful Search Engine Registration.

  • Don’t spend all your job-hunting time online. Integrate your Internet job search into a comprehensive job-search campaign that devotes plenty of time to traditional job-hunting techniques, such as cold-calling , developing a great resume and especially, networking. When quantifying the number of people who actually obtain their jobs through the Internet, one survey has placed the number as high as 20 percent, but most surveys say the number is between 4 and 6 percent, except for fields such as information technology, where the numbers are much higher. Almost half of job-seekers still get their jobs through networking (see chart), and one survey by the workplace consulting firm Drake Beam Morin indicated that 61 percent of executives found their positions through networking.

    Integrate the ‘Net sensibly into your job-search campaign. We’ve heard from job-seekers who spend eight or more hours a day sitting at their computers. Internet job-hunting can be effective, but you’ve also got to get out there and actually talk to people.

  • Finally, don’t hesitate to use the Internet for all the ancillary functions that enhance your job search, such as career assessment, company research, relocation, salary negotiation, and networking.

See related online job-hunting articles listed in Quintessential Careers Content Index: Internet and Social-Media Job Search.

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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