Tech & Work

Job boards are only one small part of the job search

Today's tough job market demands creative approaches to job hunting. Here are some insights on finding that next job, from maximizing online job boards resources to getting the first drop on potential new clients.


Once billed as the tool that would revolutionize the job hunt, job boards are now viewed more as a necessary evil in the quest for work.

"The job boards are next to useless," said Handly Cameron, an Atlanta-based IT manager who found a job in May 2003 after being unemployed for a little over a year.

Bruce Crownhart, a Minneapolis-based senior level manager echoed Cameron’s sentiments. Crownhart has applied for at least 100 different positions using a variety of Web sites, including Monster, America’s JobBank, Techies.com, and startribune.com, the newspaper Web site for the Minneapolis/St. Paul StarTribune.

"Most of the time I don't hear anything," said Crownhart.

Both Crownhart and Handley’s job-hunting experiences are the norm today, said Jim Stroud, an Atlanta-based IT recruiter, as the job market is tough. Job searches for IT management positions are taking eight months or more, explained Stroud.

To get a job, IT managers need to realize that the job hunt requires much more creativity than just clicking around sites to find the next position.

The trick, explained Stroud, author of the self-published book How do I Find a Job When the Economy Sucks, is to “manipulate the job boards to work for you and don’t stop there.” Job boards are just one prong of today’s multifaceted job hunt.

Making job boards work for you
Stroud offers the following tips to ensure that job hunters get the most value from online employment listings and searches:

Put your resume to work with keywords
The first step is to include as many acronyms and general terms as possible on the resume—making it an easier target for keyword searches.

"I would put VB as an acronym term, but I would also spell out Visual Basic,” said Stroud. “I would have a section for zip codes and area codes and the cities and states I want to work in."

Doing this helps make sure the resume gets as many hits as possible during hiring manager searches.

Study the market for your skills
Jim Steer, an Atlanta-based senior IT manager/consultant who became unemployed in April 2003, likes to mine a job board’s informational resources to do a trend analysis of the job markets and the current skills expected.

"You can see what jobs are available and get a sense if the job market is getting better or not," he said.

Make sure job listing is legitimate
One of the most aggravating and frustrating elements of online job boards is that, often, the job listings are old or not legitimate. Unscrupulous recruiters do post bogus jobs in order to build up resume databases.

That’s why IT managers need to scrutinize the job listings, to make sure the position is real. Jason Medick, director of marketing at the Des Moines, IA-based job board Dice, said there are telltale signs for spotting phony listings, such as:
  • The job looks to good to be true
  • The salary is too high
  • The skills listed are too vague or broad

Dice, like several online job boards, has an internal quality assurance group that verifies suspicious looking job listings and tries to keep the listings fresh, automatically expiring a job listing after 30 days.

Yet these safeguards don’t do much against a recruiter or hiring manager who inadvertently posts a job for which job interviews have already completed.

For example, job hunter Cameron recently got calls within three days from eight different recruiters about the same position. Cameron interviewed, and was told a decision would be made in short order.

However, "by the time the job board posting appeared, the interviews for the position were already completed," he said.

Creativity in other search methods
Cameron’s interview experience is exactly the reason why career experts say job boards are just one tool in the job hunt. In addition to recruiters, job seekers need to tap employment services, improve networking skills, and get as creative as possible in reaching out to hiring managers.

When Crownhart was laid off in April 2002, along with 5,000 other Fingerhut employees, he used outplacement services to polish his resume and improve his interviewing and networking skills. But for many job hunters, the tried-and-true networking methods, such as calling, e-mailing, and writing to friends and colleagues in hopes of uncovering a lead can prove difficult in this tough job market.

"Everyone tells you that [networking is] the most effective way of doing your job search," said Crownhart. "But I haven't found that to be the case."

But Stroud said a bit of innovation when networking can go a long way. "I tell people, ‘Don't just look for the job itself, but look for what would be around that job.’ The job seeker is looking for fires, and they should be looking for smoke." Stroud is referring to an aggressive approach to networking—a combination of creative research and chutzpa that actually expands a job seeker's network.

For example, you might make a list of companies that provide the skills or services you offer. This way, you are targeting the exact company in terms of matching skills. You can then call the sales person at these companies and initiate a conversation, saying:
"Hey, I've worked for companies A, B, and C, and I may be able to refer some sales leads your way. I'm also looking for a job and was hoping you could provide insight on your client base, which may be looking for my skills and experience." Stroud said his approach often yields a fresh list of names for further follow up.

Another technique is a cold calling approach: visiting office buildings and speaking to the lease manager about available space he or she may have. In this approach, you would explain that you're looking for a job and want to offer IT services to new tenants. An IT manager can get a lead on a business just moving in that might need ground-level IT services in order to set up operations—probably well before the company had completed its staffing plan.

New local business licenses can often also provide leads for jobs opportunities. A list of newly granted business licenses is available for a small fee at most municipal offices. Stroud recommends calling those new businesses and asking if you can come down and talk to them.

Desperate times call for creativity
The key in a difficult employment market is to use creativity in each job search method—from job boards and resumes to networking. Those who look for signs of a job before the job is actually listed will beat the competition to the punch, demonstrate incredible initiative, and may get hired.

"In desperate times, you've got to do something different," said Stroud. "You can't keep doing the same thing and expect to get different results."

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