By Liz Ryan
The myth of online job searching is that the speed and ease of sending off a resume – or of posting an open position, for that matter – makes the overall online job-posting and job-hunting process painless. Would that it were so.
What Doesn't Work as Expected
Ten years ago, online job searching was all the rage. It still is – in terms of the hours job-seekers spend sending resumes to employers via Monster, CareerBuilder, HotJobs and the other mega career sites. But something significant has changed.
Job-seekers have figured out that in many cases, your chance of getting a job by zipping off a bunch of resumes online is about the same as your chance of being recruited for Major League Baseball. Recruiters have figured out that the time and expense of screening hundreds of resumes makes the big job websites far less appealing than they might be. Both job-seekers and recruiters are looking for alternatives, and they're finding them.
In fact, job-seekers can waste countless hours carefully composing cover letters to send in response to jobs posted online, only to finally deduce the truth: most resumes sent electronically via career sites never get read. How could they be read? Corporate recruiters can't keep up with the volume of resumes they receive.
The process of sending off a resume, so easy on the job-seeker side, makes the recruiter's task all the more difficult.
Thus job websites have the unintended effect of depressing job-seekers' spirits by making them feel that even sending 100 resumes out into cyberspace won't net them a single response. And often, it doesn't.
There's a reason why humble craigslist.org is taking business away from the larger job websites – Craigslist is locally focused. It's not so easy forjob-seekers on other continents to browse craigslist job ads in your city and apply for them. They can do it, but why would they take the time? Craigslist continues to gain popularity with job-seekers and with recruiters because of its narrow geographical focus.
You can't beat online tools when you're in a research mode. Many of us, me included, don't know how we ever got through a business day without Google. In this way, the Monsters and other large job sites are great research tools, because they let you know who's hiring, and for which positions. They're not job-seeking tools.
Beyond that, there are better ways to reach out to an employer, and email, phone and surface mail letters are three of them. Using your network - a friend or colleague who can make an introduction - is an even stronger way to have your resume presented.
LinkedIn Jobs is another entrant in the new-millennium online job search sweepstakes, and its appeal is pretty easy to understand as well. LinkedIn jobs allows employers to post jobs connected to their own LinkedIn profiles and in relevant LinkedIn Groups.
That way, job seekers aren't responding to a faceless "talent@xyzcorp" email address, but responding to an actual human being who is actually connected via LinkedIn connections to another person they know. That doesn't guarantee that a job-seeker will get a response from a hiring company, but it sure ups the odds of that happening.
And, a recruiter or hiring manager can instantly view a candidate's LinkedIn profile to learn not only about his or her professional accomplishments and history, but to see how and through whom the job-seeker and the recruiter are connected. That's a powerful advantage.
LinkedIn Jobs is a kind of missing link between networking and traditional job-seeking, and a good place to job-hunters to visit in their search.
For job-seekers who truly can't let go of their Monster, CareerBuilder, and HotJobs addictions, here's what I recommend. Go ahead and browse those career sites, identifying jobs you're interested in and bookmarking them, or cutting and pasting the information to another document for easy retrieval later.
Find jobs on those websites, but don't apply for them there. That's the online job search trap – the abyss, the black hole. That's the place where job-seekers send resumes to decompose in cyberspace.
Instead, go to LinkedIn, and go to your own on- and off-line networks to get a different contact inside the hiring company. If you can't find a live contact, go to the employer's own website and apply for the job there – far better, in terms of your odds of having a resume reviewed, than applying for the same job on a huge career site.
Those big job sites let you know what's going on in your job marketplace, but they can sap your mental and physical energy, too. Don't put all your eggs – or even very many of them – in the online job-search basket.
Liz Ryan is Job-Hunt's Networking Contributor. Liz is a former Fortune 500 VP and 25-year veteran of corporate human resources departments. In addition, Liz is the author of Happy About Online Networking and an internationally recognized expert on careers and the 21st century workplace. Find Liz on LinkedIn and on Google+.