IT Employment

Get the most out of an online job hunt

The Web provides job seekers with a less expensive, less time-consuming way to search for their dream job. We'll tell you how you can best leverage the online job sites to land that plum position.

You could be a C++ programmer listlessly punching the keys while rewriting that darned code for the umpteenth time, wishing you could make a switch to the more fulfilling realm of Web design. Or, you could be a project leader in a blue-chip company, bursting with positive energy towards your job but always keeping that one eye open for the “riper pick”—a more lucrative position just one rung higher. Or, you could be the moonlighting consultant who would like to have his plate heaped with as many goodies as possible but hasn’t the time to go about it the traditional way.

The desire for our dream job resides somewhere in all of us. But often, the thought of going through the trouble and expense of a full-out job search quashes any motivation to work toward that dream job. The Internet, however, has given job seekers a new way to peruse the job market that is relatively inexpensive and less time-consuming than other, more traditional means. Jumping into a Web job search cold, however, can be counterproductive. A 2000 study by Forrester Research revealed that the uneven quality of job-recruiting sites, unproductive online resume tools, and the sea of resumes scattered over thousands of job Web sites are holding back any real progress in an industry that is expected to grow to $7.1 billion by 2005. In this article, you will learn how best to leverage the online medium to land yourself a plum assignment.

The first step: Where to place your resume
Although large job banks (such as Monster.com and Headhunter.net) covering the entire gamut of job types are the perfect starting point for the neophyte, industry-specific or niche sites are a better bet for a focused and more sophisticated job hunt. Sites such as Dice.com, ComputerJobs.com, Guru.com, and Technology-Jobs.net cater solely to the technology industry.

Jeffrey Severts, vice president of marketing and exchange business at Techies.com—a hub site for technology hopefuls—opines that registering with more than one job board, across big generalist sites and the smaller niche sites, may increase your chances of finding the perfect job. However, he said, “some of the most interesting jobs—requiring the most esoteric skills—show up on the niche boards” because “prospective employers often assume that the niche sites provide the best venues for reaching hardcore techies.”

You may also be faced with having to choose between free sites versus pay sites. In general, employee-seeking companies are the ones who pay for the privilege of accessing job-seeker information on all of the big reputable sites. However, although registration is free on most sites, some do ask the job seeker to pay a fee for using their job-search features. An example is NetShare, which charges an annual subscription fee of $325 and is targeted specifically at executives seeking remuneration of $100,000+ per annum. However, most seasoned online job seekers feel satisfied with the quality of the free sites available and do not feel the need to look up pay sites. “Any site that requires the job seeker to pay for access to its job listings is unworthy of consideration,” Severts said. “Technical job seekers should never have to pay for this kind of service—the demand for their skills is much too brisk.”

The perfect e-resume
The next step in the online job hunt involves posting your resume online. The skills of good resume writing should be honed to an art before you tack one onto a job board. Here are some tips:
  • Always use the ASCII format—every Web browser or e-mail program can read it. To create an ASCII resume, save it as a text file in a word-processing program. That way, you guard against having your resume appear jumbled and unreadable.
  • Limit each line in your resume to 72 characters. Most e-mail programs wrap text around at 72 characters, dropping anything after that down to the following line. If you go over the 72-character-per-line limit, this text wrap can make your resume appear untidy, longer than it actually is, and hard to read.
  • Always run a spell check and then proofread your resume as carefully as you would if it were a printed copy.

A word of warning: Some resume databases are public and are open to scrutiny by all, including one’s boss. It would be nothing short of disaster to have your resume land on your employer’s desk. In such cases, post your resume in a job site’s private database to prevent it from being thrown up during a general search. The Riley Guide offers a handy reference list that includes the status (public or private) of online resume databases. It would also be prudent to inquire about the duration for which your resume will be kept in the database.

Preparing for interviews
You know your online job search is going well when you receive a call to come in for an interview. It’s always a good idea to bone up on the company’s background beforehand, and once again, the Internet can be a valuable tool. Visiting corporate Web sites and getting a copy of the company’s annual report are great starting points. So are company research sites like CorporateInformation and experience.com, which can link you to outside information about the company. Industry-specific chat rooms and bulletin boards also give you the opportunity to check out an organization’s background and reputation.

Online interviews are receiving quite a buzz these days, but a lot of job seekers are apprehensive about being hired solely on the basis of these. The fact is, however, that virtual interviews are typically used to help the company prepare a final list of candidates and are not the final deciding factor in the selection procedure. Greg Terk, director of creative talent at Guru.com, explains why virtual interviews are enjoying increasing popularity: “Companies these days move so quickly that they don't have time to conduct a face-to-face interview. We find that independent professionals are accustomed to this speed and aren't surprised when they're hired without an in-person meeting,” he said. “[Consultants] have a lot of experience analyzing and deciphering e-mails and phone conversations with current and prospective clients. This experience gives them a comfort level when choosing to work with clients they have not actually met. Also, they use their comprehensive networks to ask advice and to see if a colleague has ever worked with the person or company in question.”

Patience and perseverance pay
A final word of advice from Tim Cederquist, vice president of product development and technology for ComputerJobs.com: “In looking for the proverbial pot of gold, be willing to find a diamond in the rough. Not all companies with great job openings know how to write a great job ad. Make sure you know what kind of company you enjoy working with: large, small, fast-growth, or mom-and-pop and then be willing to review a large number of jobs that match your skills looking for these kinds of employees.”
Is the Web the best place to find a job? How can IT consultants best leverage online sites to find the right position? Post a comment below or send us a note.
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