Be Smart About Using Job Boards
By Susan P. Joyce
Using the evaluation criteria and techniques you learned in Be Smart About Choosing a Job Board, now start your search at Web job boards
What Services Are Available?
Many job board services are very useful. Some are not. Some are dangerous! Our opinions on the most common services offered:
1. Resume Distribution Services
For a fee paid by you, these services will distribute your resume to hundreds of Web job boards or recruiters (?) to help you jump start your job search.
Don't use these services! You have no idea who will receive your resume or what they will do with it, and you have no way of recovering it when your search is over!
It takes time and effort, but, to be effective, you should customize your resume to fit the opportunity and/or the employer. That's the most effective way to apply for a job with a resume.
Most of these services collect money from you for generating unwanted e-mail or populating the resume databases of needy job boards, and it can sabotage your job search. This is not a short cut! It's a potential disaster, particularly if you still have a job.
2. Job Postings
Both employers and independent recruiters/staffing firms post job openings on job boards. Some job boards try to offer you the capability to limit your search to only find job postings made by employers (and ignore those made by recruiters). It's a good option to choose, if offered.
Employer vs. recruiter.
Usually jobs posted directly by employers are the best ones to pursue because your "cost of hire" will be less than if you are referred to the employer by a recruiter (who is paid a commission by the employer for sending the "winning" applicant).
Even in good economic times, smart companies pay attention to the bottom line. They would rather not pay a recruiter's commission if another potential employee approached them directly and is, therefore, less expensive to hire, even if both would be paid exactly the same salary. The difference in "cost of hire" is the finders' fee (commission) paid to the recruiter.
Particularly in the very highly paid jobs (executive and top line management), the mere existence of the job opportunity may be confidential - the employer doesn't want the competition, the media, the internal organization, and/or (sometimes) the existing job holder to know that the opportunity exists or will soon exist. So boards which cater to this end of the employment food chain may not have many jobs posted openly by employers. These openings are usually handled by retained executive recruiters. Regardless of whether or not a job is filled - they are paid to provide a pipeline of qualified candidates, who are typically very difficult to find.
If you are a top-level executive, these retained executive recruiters are the recruiters you want to know. Unfortunately, the retained recruiters rarely, if ever, post their jobs anywhere except, in some instances, on their own Web site. They almost never use the commercial boards. For a list of executive recruiters, visit Job-Hunt sponsor RiteSite, from John Lucht author of Rites of Passage at $100,000 to $1 Million +.
The vast majority of executive-level jobs you see on commercial boards are posted by contingency recruiters (paid only if someone they identify is hired). If you make yourself known to the employer directly (via employer Web site, networking, or direct mail) the employer owes no fee to a contingency recruiter, and you may have an edge over contingency recruiter candidates who will cost the employer about 33% of a year's salary as an employment fee.
Free job postings?
Job postings are a primary source of revenue for most job boards. So, be wary of a job site which offers "free job postings" to all employers. Every website needs to make money to pay their bills, so where's the revenue coming from?
If job posting is free, then the revenue is coming from the applicants who are charged for access to the jobs, from the employers/recruiters who pay for "premium placement" in search results, from selling access to information about the job seekers and other visitors, or some other mysterious method. None of those options are particularly good for job hunters.
Fake job postings?
As in the traditional ("off-line") world, some advertised jobs don't actually exist. This can be for several reasons:
- Perhaps, the job was filled but the job posting was left up until it expires.
- Perhaps the employer or an independent recruiter was testing to see if anyone would be interested and/or available.
- A recruiter may feel the need to make their applicant pool more robust in specific fields,
- Someone may have made a simple mistake.
- It could be a scam. Scams are a growing problem. Read Job-Hunt's Guide to Avoiding Online Scam Jobs for more information.
Don't be discouraged, but DO be careful!
3. On-line Application
When you have identified a job that interests you, most boards offer the ability for you to apply for the job on-line, usually with a resume that you already have stored at the site (be sure to read #4 below before storing that resume!). This one-click application can be a quick and convenient way for you to apply for a job, but there is definitely a downside.
View this application as a resume submission because that's what it is. And, the most effective way to apply for a job is to customize your resume to that specific job, emphasizing the experiences in your background that map most closely to the job's requirements. (Read SMARTS for a Tough Job Market for the most effective way to apply for jobs.)
So, it is often more effective, although slower and less convenient, to complete a form for each job using text you have developed specifically for that opportunity or to submit a customized resume.
Some boards offer you the ability to store several different variations of your resume, presumably emphasizing different skills and experiences you have (see #4 below), and this can help mitigate the effect of trying to use one "generic" resume for all jobs.
Best are the boards that provide you with an ability to contact the recruiter or employer directly. When such information is provided, be sure that you use it! Follow up directly with the employer (send an e-mail, call, FAX your resume directly to the HR department or to the hiring manager, etc.), particularly when you seem to meet all of the job's requirements and are very interested in the position.
4. Posting Your Resume
Be very careful when posting your resume on any site!
This can be the proverbial double-edged sword for the job seeker, particularly if that job seeker is employed and has a job to protect! If you are familiar with Job-Hunt, then you know we are very concerned with the collection and use of the highly personal and confidential information contained on a resume. (See Protecting Your Privacy and Cyber-Safe Resume for tips on doing an online job search while protecting your job, if you have one, and your identity.)
Most job boards offer job seekers the opportunity to input their resume (sometimes more than one version) into the job board's resume/applicant database. Typically, selling employers access to the this database is a major source of revenue for job boards.
Resume "confidentiality" or "privacy"? REQUIRED!
Only use boards that provide you with a method for you to conceal your identity (blocking visibility to your name, address, and phone number, at a minimum). Do not post your resume (or complete a "profile") at a job board which does not allow you to protect your contact information, no matter how promising the site seems to be.
Free resume access? Maybe!
Avoid any site which allows free searching of the resume database unless you are provided a method of concealing your identity! This is a major privacy risk for everyone with a resume stored in that resume/applicant database! At the very least, someone, hopefully a potential employer, should have to pay a fee to see the resumes stored on the site.
Free resume posting?
Usually, yes. Few boards successfully charge applicants for posting their resumes in the applicant database. Since charging employers for access to resumes is typically a major source of revenue, most boards don't put a barrier (collecting a fee, in this case) between the job seeker and the applicant/resume database.
Executive exception -
Executive job boards are among the very few that may successfully charge potential applicants for the privilege of posting a resume in their resume database. The reason -- because executive-level jobs are seldom posted or advertised. You still may not see many jobs posted, even on the best executive boards, but you will hopefully be exposed to the retained executive recruiters who have those opportunities.
Resume posting options:
The best boards offer you several options for your resume posting:
Multiple resume versions
The ability to store more than one version of your resume so that you have "canned" responses ready for use, depending on the opportunity - a "management" version for the manager openings, an "individual contributor" version for those great non-manager jobs, a "medical" version for the opportunities in the healthcare and medical industries, etc. You can see how it might be very handy to have different versions of your resume readily available so that you can choose the one most appropriate for a specific opportunity.
The ability to send your resume in response to a job opportunity with a single click of your mouse. However, your one-click resume may not be the best one for every opportunity, so use this service very sparingly.
You must have the ability to edit and/or delete your resume from the resume/applicant database. As you refine and improve your resume, you need to be able to update your posted resume. And, after you find a job, you don't want that resume messing up your job security or your future.
These options allow you to "market" yourself (have your resume included in the applicant database for employers to search) while protecting your privacy. They include blocking certain employers from viewing your resume (risky), blocking your contact information from view (better), and more. It's a trade-off between privacy and marketing yourself. We strongly recommend protecting your privacy as the best long-term strategy! For more information, read evaluating privacy policies.
The ability to see how many employers have viewed your resume and contacted you (or not contacted you). This information can help you see how "searchable" your resume is (see Keyword Resumes for more information on putting keywords in your resume); how effective it is in marketing your skills and experience; and the number of employers visiting that site who are interested in someone with your background and potential. Don't be too discouraged if you don't get many "hits." It may be the wrong job site for you. Or your may need to work on your resume.
The ability to pay a fee for higher placement in an employer's search results. This may be a waste of your money. Placing higher up in the search ranking won't result in a job offer if you are not qualified for the opportunity.
5. E-Mail Agents
Many boards offer an e-mail service to keep you informed about new jobs added to their jobs database. When an appropriate job appears in their database of jobs, this service will e-mail you a notice of the addition or the actual description. This can save you time and effort -- you don't have to keep visiting the site to see if they have jobs for you. It's usually a good idea to sign up for the service if you can do it without compromising your privacy.
If you sign up, be sure to use your personal - NOT your work - email account for these email agents. If you have a job, your employer may be monitoring your email in the course of keeping track of what you do, so they will see these messages coming to you and know that you are job hunting.
Many boards offer you the ability to create several different agents so that you can try different combinations of search criteria, e.g. different key words, different locations, etc.
Check to see that there is a process for you to use when you want to end the service ("unsubscribe") so that you can you can stop the mail when you get your new job. Use a personal e-mail address not associated with your job, like a Gmail account, and then check it at least once a day.
Check out the information in Keeping Track of Your Job Search to manage your use of job boards.
About the author...
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, 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 Google+.