By Susan P. Joyce
For most people, job boards are NOT the solution to their job search, and many job seekers waste too much time on them.
However, ignoring job boards completely is not a good idea, either, so you need to be a savvy user of job sites to have the safest job search.
Choose the job boards you use very carefully! Not every site is a legitimate job site, or a good site, even if it's listed in Job-Hunt (we are very careful of the sites we list, but the site or the domain can be sold and the site may degrade as a result).
Note: We haves found completely bogus "job sites" - no jobs at all, just resume (personal information) collection. If we've found some, more exist. We've also found fake employer websites, fake jobs, and more job scams, too. So, BE CAREFUL! Trust AFTER you verify!
First, the 6 "Safety" Criteria, so you don't trust a site that could harm you. Then, the 10 "Effectiveness" so you find the sites that have the best jobs for you.
If a site fails any of these tests, do not use it. Find another one. Simple as that.
Look for contact information on the site. Not just a form for visitors to complete to ask a question, but a name, address, and phone number(s). Then, verify that the contact information is genuine:
If there is no contact information visible on the site, check the "Whois" information for domain name in DomainTools.com. The domain "registrant" is usually you who owns the domain name (and the website). If the domain name ownership is "private," the email address is "firstname.lastname@example.org," or the ownership is private "by proxy," don't use it.
Google the site's name to see what Google shows you.
Does Google show news about it? What do the news articles say? If Google shows you nothing about a site or if what it shows on the first 3 or 4 pages of search results is mostly negative, move on.
Find another site -- thousands of Web job sites are available that allow you to try before you join.
Pay particular attention to what happens to your resume!
Some alleged job sites seem to exist only to collect your contact information (e-mail address, home address, phone number, etc.) so that they can sell the information to companies that will bombard you with advertising or worse. You provide a lot of very personal information to job sites, and you need to know how it will be used.
Do not assume that a TRUSTe, BBBonline, or other "privacy seal" program ensures that your privacy is protected! I have seen sites that fake their authorization to use the seal.
You must verify the seals before you trust any of them. Click on the seal, and the link should take you to a page on the privacy seal organization's website that is specifically about the job site displaying the seal you just clicked. So, if you clicked on a link on the privacy seal displayed on JoesGreatJobSite.com, the page should have information specifically about JoesGreatJobSite.com.
Take Job-Hunt's Quiz: How Scam-Proof Are You? to test your knowledge of understand domain names and URL's. It also has solutions to help you learn more.
Don't be impressed by (or use) a website that offers employers "free access" to resumes! That free access is an invitation to scammers and less ethical marketers to collect your personal information for their own use. It may be good for them, but it's not good for you!
Check out the "employer" side of the job site to see how easy it is to gain access to the resumes. If resume access is free, or only a nominal fee is charged for access to the resumes, find another job site.
Easily accessible resume databases may well cause an increase in junk e-mail and/or the increase in identity theft and other fraud involving personal information.
The best sites provide you with options to protect your contact information (name, e-mail address, street address, phone numbers, etc.). Options range from blocking access only to the contact information to keeping your resume completely out of the resume database searched by employers. Choose the option that works best for you. If you are currently employed, limiting access can help you protect your existing job.
See the Cyber-Safe Resume section for tips on transforming your standard resume into a Cyber-Safe Resume for protection.)
Yes, blocking access to your contact information may make it more difficult for an employer to reach you quickly, but it can also add to your market value in the eyes of an employer. You may be viewed as someone with a good job to protect and/or someone who is a knowledgeable Web user.
Very rarely should a job seeker pay for access to open jobs, online or offline. In general, if there is a charge to the job seeker, find another site.
Some job sites for "executives" do charge a fee. Before you pay, look for some written guarantees of the quality (and, maybe, the exclusivity) of the opportunities plus recent references from satisfied clients.
The only other online exceptions that seem legitimate are the Web sites of associations and societies. These sites may provide job opportunities (or resume posting) only for members. In that case, you may want to join the association, if you are interested in the association anyway and plan to attend meetings, interact with the members online, get access to special information and reports, or gain some other additional benefit from your membership.
You should be able to easily find a way to search for the jobs you want - specifying the location and the type of job (by keyword or some other method of choosing). When you've found a job you like, it should be easy for you to apply for it. If you want to post your resume, that should be an easy process, too. And there should be easy-to-follow directions in case you get lost or confused.
If you feel inept or uncomfortable using a site, don't use it, no matter how "famous" or highly recommended it is. You and the site may just not have "good chemistry," and you won't go be able to leverage its capabilities. So, don't waste your time. Move on to one that is easy for you to use.
If you search for jobs located in Chicago, Illinois, the job site should show you jobs in the Chicago area, if it has any. Some large employers have jobs open in many locations, so you may get a few jobs in your search results that don't appear, at first glance, to be specifically in the geography you want. But most of them should fit your search criteria.
If the results don't match what you have requested, check for hints or help, and read them before you try again. Typically, on a search engine or other search site, your first few searches just help you understand better how to use the search capability so that you can get what you want.
If you still don't get what you want after 4 or 5 tries, then either the site does not have the jobs you want, or the search function doesn't work properly (yes, that happens!). So, time to move on.
If you are looking for an social media marketing job in Silicon Valley with a company working on projects for major websites, a site for construction jobs in Oregon won't do you much good. The name of the site may give you a clue about its relevance to your job search (e.g., ComputerJobs.com), but you might not really know for sure until you poke around in the site. Try searching for the job you want, and see what you find. The job search capability should enable you to fine tune your search so that the results are appropriate and useful.
If they don't have the jobs you want, move on. Don't waste your time or risk your privacy by posting your resume and hoping some appropriate jobs appear at some later date.
Do a search, or browse through the listings if you can. Do the jobs have posting dates associated with them? Have jobs been posted recently? Be a little suspicious if the jobs are undated or if all the jobs were posted "today" unless thousands and thousands of jobs are listed.
Certainly, a job posted last week, last month, or even last quarter, may still be open (some large employers are always hiring for certain positions), and may be just the right job for you. However, in general, you should see jobs with a wide range of dates, and, depending on the size of the site, several jobs opened each week day.
If posting dates aren't obvious, check the "Employers" section of the site. Frequently, the pricing section will explain how long a job posting will remain active. Job postings are usually purchased for 30 or 60 days, sometimes longer, so that's usually the oldest age of any job posting you may see.
Sometimes small niche sites (e.g. a site for PHP programmers in western Massachusetts) or failing sites have trouble getting enough jobs to post. Then, you may find VERY old jobs posted. You should probably avoid those sites, too, unless that niche is exactly what you are seeking, and you know that job postings are scarce.
In general, jobs posted directly by an employer are preferable because you will be dealing directly with the people who can hire you.
Of course, some employers want anonymity for competitive reasons, and other employers don't have the recruiting staff available. So working directly with the employer is not always possible.
Additionally, if an agency sends your resume to an employer, you may be at a competitive disadvantage in comparison with a direct applicant. An applicant provided by an agency will cost the employer more to hire than an applicant who comes to the employer directly, even if the salary is exactly the same for both.
So, all things being equal, the direct applicant will more likely be hired than the agency applicant because the fee paid to the agency to find the applicant raises the cost of the new employee.
E-mail agent functions typically compare your requirements with new employer job postings and send you the results via e-mail if they find a match. So, you don't need to revisit the site yourself and run your search. Your "agents" will do the searching for you, and send you the results. You may need to return to the site to get the details about the job and to apply for it through the job site, but the search process is on automatic pilot.
Many sites offer you the ability to store several different resumes and apply for a job using the version of your resume you have developed for that specific kind of opportunity. This capability can save you time and effort.
The days of a one-size-fits-all resume is largely past.
You shouldn't run into this very often anymore, but check to see if there is an "edit/update" option for you to access your resume. You can always find ways to improve your resume, and it's a good idea to "refresh" your resume every week, or at least every month. The site should allow you to do updates.
You don't want that old resume still available for view. If your new employer finds it, they may be concerned that you are getting ready to leave. If someone else finds it, they will see all of your personal professional information as well as your address and phone number.
Good job sites provide you with the capability to delete your resume and account or to put your resume in an "inactive" mode until you are ready for your next job search.
MANY employment sites want to have your resume in their database; you should be choosy about the sites you use.
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.