As more Americans find themselves unemployed due to the economic downturn, many will undoubtedly turn to the growing number of Internet sites listing job opportunities. While the proliferation of job-search sites has several positive aspects, one employment authority says many job seekers will rely too heavily on the Internet and become distracted from the most fruitful job-search activity: meeting with people face-to-face.
The number of job search engines has grown in recent years from a handful of major players, such as Monster.com and HotJobs.com, to hundreds of sites, offering everything from industry-specific and localized job search engines to dating service-like compatibility matching between job seekers and employers.
Add the growing number of online classified sections posted by local newspapers, employer sites, and job listings on the websites of professional associations and job seekers easily have thousands of places to search for employment opportunities online.
However, access to thousands of job search sites on the Internet is not necessarily a good thing. The choices can be overwhelming for those who find themselves either voluntarily or involuntarily in the labor pool. One could easily spend all day, every day surfing the Net for job vacancies, emailing resumes and waiting for the phone to ring. Unfortunately, this approach will rarely lead to a new job.
Since the beginning of the year, the Challenger firm, which tracks job cuts announcements daily, has recorded nearly 580,000 job cuts, up from 436,000 job cuts at this point a year ago. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employer payrolls have experienced a net loss of 463,000 jobs since January.
The first place many of these displaced workers will go is the Internet. It is certainly a good place to start. In July, there were 3,864,100 job vacancies posted online, according to the latest Conference Board Help Wanted Online Data Series.
While the Internet has the potential to be very useful for job seekers, it has become the primary tool for many, when it should be considered secondary to the traditional technique of meeting prospective employers in person.
Those who make the Internet their primary job search tool are likely prolonging the time it takes to find a position. Overuse of the Internet also threatens to prolong the hiring process on the employer’s end, as well, by inundating employers with irrelevant resumes. Some human resource executives complain that for every qualified candidate that comes in from the Internet, there are 10 to 20 who do not even come close to being a good fit.
The more irrelevant resumes that hiring managers have to wade through in order to select the handful to bring in for interviews, the longer it takes to fill the position. One result of this has been the increased use of digital screening software that scans incoming resumes for keywords. Resumes without the right words are filtered out of the process. This will make it even more difficult for job seekers to get their resume in front of the hiring executive.
This is not to say that the Internet has not revolutionized job searching. It has certainly made it easier for someone in San Francisco, for example, to search for job openings in Miami. In addition, the ability to conduct keyword searches has reduced the amount of time it takes to target the type of position a person is seeking.
Job seekers must learn how to use the Internet as the tool it can be, rather than just relying on it as a conduit for electronic resumes.
Visit company sites to get names of key people.
Many employers post job openings on their web sites, but resumes e-mailed by job seekers are probably directed to the human resources department, the last place you want your resume to go unless you are seeking a position in that department. By exploring a company’s web site, however, you will most likely find the name and even a phone number or e-mail address for the executive who will ultimately make the hiring decision, such as the director of marketing or the vice president of sales. That is the person you want to contact for a position.
Use the Internet to keep up with employer news.
Perhaps you have identified some key companies where you would like to find a position. Visit the companies’ web sites to find financial press releases which may indicate the areas of the company that are expanding. You may discover that one of the companies is opening a new facility in your town or that it is expanding its customer service force.
Visit web sites of trade associations.
These groups often have the best overall picture about hiring needs and trends among their members. The web sites of national organizations may contain contact information for local groups in your city or state. The web sites might also report industry news, such as expansion plans or which job categories are most in need of workers.
Take advantage of free local news.
Most newspapers have free editions online. Read them — not just for the classified ads, but for the news stories. Staying up to date on local business news is an effective way to gain job leads. Most papers allow you to view the day’s print content on their web sites. If you do not have access to the Internet at home, many public libraries now provide computers and Internet access.
Use e-mail to find a job.
The more people who know you are seeking a job, the faster you will find a job. E-mail is perhaps now the fastest, most efficient way to publicize your joblessness. Send an e-mail to everyone on your address list letting them know that you are unemployed, providing some brief information about the type of position you are seeking and your qualifications. Ask the reader to forward the information to their list of e-mail contacts, who will then forward the message to their address list. In a matter of days, the number of people who know you are job searching will have grown exponentially along with the odds of finding someone who can help.
Get connected to social networks.
If you already have Facebook and/or MySpace accounts, turn those sites into job-search tools by using them to inform your network of “friends” that you are seeking a job. Most of them may not be in a position to hire you, but many may know of opportunities or can spread the word to new people in their networks. Additionally, take down the pictures of last weekend’s big party and post photos, writing samples, etc., that will give employers some insight about what you have to offer. Other networking sites such as LinkedIn and Plaxo are geared more toward professionals and should also be used to build, expand and mine your various networks of friends, family and business contacts.