I’ve been employed in the IT field for about eight years, and I’m recently back in the job market. I’m finding that many online employment services require fees to post a resume.

I’ve always thought the employers compensated recruiters, and that those charging fees to the candidates should be avoided because they’re unscrupulous. Has the climate changed? Is it commonplace for these agencies to be paid at both ends, or are there just more unsavory characters out there given the tight market and weak economy?

I’ve always cautioned job seekers to avoid working with recruiters who charge them a fee for services—not because they’re unscrupulous, but because it’s unnecessary and a sure sign that the company using their services is cutting corners in various ways. The fees that companies pay to recruiters are legitimate business expenses, and, as such, are fully tax deductible. It’s a safe bet that companies that rely on their new employees to pay fees to get a job are not companies that provide a good work environment and fair pay raises.

Yet, I don’t have the same concerns about an employment recruitment firm charging a small fee for posting a resume to its Web site. There are so many people looking for new jobs these days that the well-known sites are flooded with resumes, which means the company has to spend significant dollars on having enough Web site storage and robust search software to maintain a large number of resumes.

The companies may also want to discourage people from posting multiple versions on a site or posting their resume to every job site they can find. I’ve heard of one person posting five or six versions on each site, in the off chance that doing so would make him more visible to a recruiter or hiring manager. It’s sort of the same fuzzy logic that makes people fill out contest entries with various versions of their name or enter any contest they come across.

Still, you can’t be too careful
Some companies have set up job-related Web sites that are just an excuse for taking your money. Some post fake job openings, and some steal them from other sites. They charge fees for posting resumes because that’s how they take advantage of people desperate to find work.

Fee or no fee, before you post your resume to a site, take the time to study the site to see if it looks like a good place for your resume. Look for obvious indicators:

  • Is the site dedicated to IT jobs?
  • Is the site geared toward managers?
  • Are there other resumes much like yours already posted?

When in doubt, e-mail the company to ask its opinion about whether posting your resume is worth the time or not. When you find a site that looks promising, avoid the temptation to craft various versions of your resume. A more efficient way to get noticed is to include in your resume, even in a special section, the keywords related to the kind of job you’re seeking.

Avoid the job sites that try to be everything to every job seeker. There are so many resumes on those sites these days that it’s a burden for companies to sift through the masses of resumes. You’ll run into companies that promise to post your resume on hundreds, or even thousands, of job posting Web sites for a fee. If you want to waste your money, go ahead, but you might as well buy yourself a nice lunch with the money and read the want ads in the local paper while you’re eating. You’d get a better return on investment.

Other job-hunting tactics
You can also look for Web sites that help make the task of online job searching easier. On the Matrix Resources site, you can create and save as many as three custom job searches. You can use the searches to quickly scan the new job postings to see if there is anything you might want to pursue.

You can also avoid fees by taking a more active approach in your job search—try doing it the old-fashioned way by answering help-wanted ads in the major daily newspapers. You might even be able to do this without buying the paper because most major dailies have their classified ads on their Web sites.

Finally, don’t forget that the best way to find a job is by networking with people who are working in the IT field. If there is no professional group in your area that you can join, start one. To find a group in your area, contact the IT trade associations and ask for their suggestions. You can also search the Web for national IT groups and check to see if they have local chapters.