No Luck on the Job Boards? You’re Not Alone


By Kevin M

Right now I know a substantial number of people who are looking for a job, but can’t think of a single one who’s found a job through the major internet job boards. Perhaps this has been your experience as well.

Earlier this summer, a CNN articleThe Hidden Job Market (Jessica Dickler, June 10) took a look at the impact of internet job boards on the employment world and came to conclude what so many job seekers are finding out on the front lines. Real life results aren’t living up to the promise.

The article reports,

“When employers do advertise, they are much more selective in where they post by utilizing smaller, free sites that are unique to a skill set or a specific market, according to Tig Gilliam, CEO of Adecco Group North America, a unit of the world’s largest employment staffing firm.

Small or mid-sized business owners, in particular, generally have more luck finding a qualified resource through a site specific to engineers in Pittsburgh, for example, rather than a major job board that caters to all types of job seekers nationwide.

Big job boards are of limited help for them because so many of the users aren’t in the area they are recruiting,” he said.”

How employers use the job boards to look for potential candidates is important for all of us. The majority of jobs generated in the economy are provided by small and medium sized firms who have specific needs in very local markets. Advertising on the job boards is larger in scale and very costly to maintain. Translation: many of the best jobs in any given field will not appear on the job boards.

The Classic Numbers Game

Another point to aware of is that since a position posted on a major job board becomes a national search, the number of candidates applying for that one position can number in the hundreds or even the thousands. Many employers use automated screening systems to narrow the list of potential candidates down to a handful by rejecting applications that don’t include very specific credentials or skill sets.

If for example, a position calls for a candidate with an MBA, and you don’t have one, you can be tossed out of the pool of contenders without your application ever having been seen by human eyes.

It’s vital to keep this point in mind if the job boards are your primary source of leads. If you haven’t been getting much response from them, it may not be your fault. The employers posting jobs there are particular because they can be, especially in the current job market.

Exploring the Alternatives

It may be hard to beat the job boards for convenience and sheer concentration of available opportunities, but much like heading to bars looking for a date, both the competition and the expectations are also a lot higher.

Some of the best places to conduct a job search can be found by going back to the past. A MarketWatch article It’s not just health care that has jobs(Ruth Mantell, May 1), advises thinking smaller and closer to home…

“Remember the help wanted ads in your local paper? …add them to your search repertoire, in addition to smaller online job boards that specialize in a certain skill set, community or region…Even the local listings on Craigslist can be an asset for some job seekers.”

The same article recommends that you also do some homework in advance of applying any where, and also that you take a good, long look at smaller employers…

“A big part of the job search is not just applying but gathering information…When (you) get a chance to interview, (you) need to convey what (you) know about [the company]. It’s not acceptable to come in not prepared.”

Even if you have mostly worked for large companies, consider opportunities in smaller businesses as well. “Small and midsize companies are coming back before large companies because they are more nimble,”

So smaller companies, and think local in regard to search venues.

The Human Factor

In our computer-centric world it’s often easy to forget that ultimately, job hunting is about making contact with people, and sometimes the most direct methods are the best way to accomplish this.

Consider using traditional mail to approach not only employers who have known jobs to fill but also those who might in the near future. Be sure your correspondence is addressed to the decision maker in the company. The arrival of your resume and a well worded cover letter may eliminate the need for the employer to conduct a costly search. This represents a substantial savings to the employer who will not need to pay the cost of advertising the opening, as well as expending management time on interviewing multiple candidates.

Direct contact is another method to try if you aren’t afraid to make contact with people you don’t know. Follow up on the resumes sent out per the suggestion above with a phone call a few days later. Alternatively, call the likely decision maker before sending in your resume. I’ve actually landed jobs in the accounting field just by cold calling out of the local yellow pages, so I know this to be doable.

Networking is highly recommended by many experts, but it may be best to approach it from a different direction. Network outside your career orbit by joining networking groups that are only indirectly related to your occupation. An example would be an paralegal joining a network of attorneys or a bookkeeper joining a network of accountants . In this way you position yourself to be in a place where you can become aware of job openings in your field, or getting to know people with the potential to hire you themselves, without facing competition from a network loaded with people with skills identical to yours.

The internet hasn’t altered the fundamental reality that finding a job is all about making contact with people, and that’s something which is not always best accomplished through large, impersonal job boards.

If you’re looking for employment, have you found any success on the job boards? If not, what sources are you using that are working? What sources have you tried that haven’t?


3 Responses to No Luck on the Job Boards? You’re Not Alone

  1. Hey Kevin,
    I would like to add a little experience to this posting, as I think there is something else wcich can be said for those job hunters. Part of the reasons I have found the people are not hiring, could be due to many unknown issues within the company you are applying for. Always perform your research and know that sometimes that company is the one with an issue and that is why they have overlooked your resume or may be slow to respond from the interview.

    I have a friend who spent $500 to travel to a few states for interviews and has yet to learn about the positions he had been requested to interview for. Companies and Headhunters (or recruiters) all seem to be doing one thing very well right now. They are playing the hurry up and wait game. Don’t allow yourself to fall into this trap. You will sell yourself short and possibly not make the comment which will have you standing out in front of the crowd.

    Remember, be patient and do your homework. It will pay off in the end.
    comment by Tyson Woods
    Monday, August 17, 2009 @ 3:34:37 PM

  2. Currently I’m making a career change and therefore job hunting. There are MANY jobs posted everywhere, but I have not heard from more a than a few. I began calling staffing agencies from the phone book and plan on calling companies directly. Sometimes it seems you need to bypass the masses and go straight to the source.

  3. Eneida, you’re so right about going straight to the source. Right now there are so many applicants for every job that unless you have some way of standing out, the chances of getting a response are pretty thin.

    That’s why the social networks are so important. On Facebook, Linked In, etc, you might be able to make that contact that will open the doors for you. The more people you can make actual contact with, the better your chances.

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