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Job Hunting Is, and Isn’t, What It Used to Be

Great article from the New York Times on how job hunting has and hasn't changed....

Note the highlighting of the use of social and professional networking sites as a resource for job applications in lieu of the large job boards such as Monster.com about half way down the article.

Job Hunting Is, and Isn’t, What It Used to Be
By ALINA TUGEND
Published: September 26, 2008

WHEN I think back to my job-hunting days, my methods seem as quaint as comparing a Victrola to an iPod.

First, there was no Internet. I perused trade journals for job possibilities. I painstakingly typed my résumé on a typewriter (electric) and had to retype — and retype and retype — when I made a mistake. I cut and pasted my newspaper clips, which I needed to send along with the résumé, onto letter-size paper, which was like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle with a few pieces missing.

Then, because self-service copying was in its infancy, I had copies of my clips made. Then, I stuffed them into manila envelopes and took them to the post office to mail.

I followed up with telephone calls, because, of course, there was no e-mail. In fact, voice mail also barely existed. (I’m not that ancient. We’re talking less than three decades ago.) So either I never got past the switchboard or I was shunted off to a bored secretary, who I’m sure never bothered writing down my message.

With all the innovations since then, what hasn’t changed is how frustrating it can be to get the right job. Or even a personal response to a résumé.

And while many of the tools available through the Internet can help searches, they can also become obstacles to actually finding employment.

“Online sites tend to overwhelm people,? said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a firm that helps place people in jobs and does business consulting. “The key for most people to realize is that you can’t conduct your search from your computer. You have to get in front of prospective bosses to get an offer.?

It is too easy, Mr. Challenger said, to spend hours trolling job sites instead of doing the harder work of calling and meeting people.

“You have to do a performance check on yourself,? he said. “I’ve spent so much time on the computer, and how many times did I get to the person I’d be working for, not just H.R. or a recruiter??

But it’s no wonder that people become addicted to the online searches. The Conference Board, a business research organization, estimated that 4,833,700 job vacancies were posted online last month.

The big three sites are Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com and Yahoo HotJobs.com. Craigslist is also a popular option, as are those like Indeed.com and SimplyHired.com, which aggregate big and small jobs sites.

Niche sites are also growing. Doctors can check out PracticeMatch.com; those seeking nonprofit work can go to Idealist.org. TheLadders.com is popular for job seekers looking for executive positions that pay more than $100,000 a year.

And I made a note of JournalismJobs.com. Because you never know.

Most of these sites are free for those looking for work. It’s the employers who pay to post the positions. But the cost of using a site like TheLadders ranges from nothing for limited access to as much as $180 for a year of unlimited job hunting and a weekly newsletter.

But the trouble with many of these sites, especially the bigger ones, job hunters say, is that they have become an indiscriminate morass.

Prescott Perez-Fox, of Brooklyn, who describes himself as “underemployed? as a graphic designer since finishing graduate school three years ago, said that he assumes when he applies for a job online that “I’ll be up against at least 100 other candidates.?

With mainstream sites like Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com, “the numbers can be in the thousands,? he said, adding: “It took me a long time to realize that I would never find a job from a job board, especially a larger, mainstream site. I still apply for jobs at the rate of about three per week, but my expectations are almost nil.?

In addition, many job seekers have applied for what they thought was the perfect post, only to end up on the receiving end of a bait and switch.

Jessica McKenzie of Salt Lake City, for example, said she perused all the big and small job boards when looking for a job in public relations. She applied for one post that seemed like a good possibility, and even went for two interviews.

“The second interview turned out to be a ride along with a door-to-door salesman of discount coupons to places like amusement parks and ballgames,? she said.

The job sites do try to monitor such misleading ads. Ms. McKenzie said that when she reported her experience to CareerBuilder, where she found the post, it responded.

Because of these concerns, many job hunters are abandoning the job sites, or using them much less frequently, in favor of what are called social networking sites like LinkedIn, Plaxo and Facebook.

In fact, Michelle Robinovitz, who has been a recruiter for 15 years and now is director of recruiting for an accounting firm in Atlanta, said she had stopped using job sites altogether and relied almost completely on LinkedIn.

“I feel like they’re a waste of time and money,? she said of job search sites. “I’ve seen a decline over the past two years of qualified candidates. It used to be that we would get 300 résumés. Now you are lucky to get one. I think qualified people are much more savvy.?

Ms. Robinovitz said her firm paid $200 a month to directly e-mail up to 50 people on LinkedIn. Often, it’s not the people she contacts who want the job, but rather friends of those contacts who end up getting the job.

For those (yes, like me) who don’t know how to make the best use of such social networking sites, several books out there can lead you by the hand.

But a word of warning, especially as sites like Facebook become more popular tools for recruiters: get anything that looks bad off your page. That photo of you drunk at a Halloween party, those musings about how much you hate your boss — not a good impression.

The Society for Human Resource Management, a trade organization, recently compiled responses from 571 of their members about how they use the Internet to fill jobs.

It found that recruiters use social networking sites 23 percent more now than they did in 2006 to fill vacancies, verify résumés and screen applicants. Even more interesting, negative information on an applicant’s profile, like “personal views or values contradictory to the hiring organization or excessive alcohol abuse,? have a greater impact on hiring decisions than positive information, the survey found.

When looking for a job, especially in these tougher economic times, the trick is to cast as wide a net as possible. Don’t ignore the online job sites, experts say, but use them sparingly. Also check alumni and professional associations.

Mr. Challenger suggests limiting yourself to surfing such sites only after dinner. Use the daytime to get out and meet people as much as possible.

Also learn how to use the system. Many companies don’t even glance at all the résumés they receive, but have programs that search for keywords to weed out the ones they don’t want.

Tom Musbach, managing editor of Yahoo HotJobs, advises using phrases that appear in the job posting.

“For example, if you apply for a job that says you should have ‘strong media relationship skills,’ use that phrase in your résumé and cover letter,? he said. “That may get the résumé to the top in a keyword search.?

It’s not enough, however, to just parrot words back, he said. Make sure your résumé doesn’t simply list job descriptions, but focuses in on what you’ve achieved.

Also check out sites intended to make you more knowledgeable about the culture and pay of the career you’re seeking. Glassdoor.com, for example, allows people to anonymously share reviews, ratings and salary details about specific jobs and employers.

So, I guess the lesson is that job hunting has been transformed to some extent. You can do a lot more of it at home in your pajamas. But some things never change. When push comes to shove, you still have to put on a suit and go out and meet people.

Posted by kkowatch at October 1, 2008 02:04 PM

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