I often apply for jobs on Web job boards, but it seems like I never hear back for an interview. I usually have more luck when I go the old-fashioned way and send in a paper copy. Is the Internet still viable as a career resource?

A few years ago I would not have hesitated to tell you to put a lot of time into visiting sites and posting your resume. After all, what did you have to lose? I’ve changed my mind. You can waste a lot of time, and even money, if you visit a lot of sites.

Today, there are literally hundreds of sites, and some are not even based in this country. With the advent of online payment services and inexpensive Web site hosting, anyone can put one of these sites together, and entice you to give them some money to post your resume. Who knows if companies even know they exist or care to search their databases?

Call me cautious at this point, because I haven’t given up on the Internet as a career resource. To keep people from sinking too much time and effort into online job searching, I have developed a few simple rules for when and where to post your resume and hunt for jobs:

Rule #1: Never pay a big fee for posting your resume on a site or for using resources on a site. The site may look great, but you don’t know what they are doing with your resume. They could also be making up job postings. Reputable sites should be getting fees from the companies that search the cache of resumes, not from you. I can see a small fee such as $10 for 12 months, but $20 a month is way out of line.

Rule #2: Don’t bother posting to a site that is national or international in scope if you are not willing to relocate. If you don’t want to move, then spend your time researching companies in your area and sending them resumes. Check the local papers for jobs, and make sure to check the job postings on the papers’ Web sites.

Rule #3: If the IT job postings on the site require so many diverse skills or an arcane mix of skills, then don’t bother applying for those jobs. Skip job postings that require you to give your salary requirements or current salary. It’s hard to believe, but companies use the online sites to test salary ranges and job descriptions. They have no intention of hiring, but they’re trying to do some research on the cheap.

Rule #4: Post on a broad-spectrum job site only if you can quickly find at least five recent job openings that interest you. Fewer than five means the companies that need your services don’t use this particular site as a regular resource. (This rule doesn’t apply for specialized IT job sites.) Also, if you can’t read the job postings before you post your resume, then the site is of no use to you and you should skip it.

Rule #5: Look for sites that are specifically geared for what you do or want to do, such as trade associations and peer organizations. They often have job and resume posting sections. Savvy companies know to go there, rather than the general job sites, when looking for that one special person with the IT skills they need.

Let me give you an example of how to hunt jobs on the Web while keeping these rules in mind. Say you are a manager who manages teams of programmers, software testers, and so forth. Write down your top five skills and three most important perks for a new job. Write down your title, plus three or four other titles that you think someone who does what you do might have.

Since you work with software, begin your search by visiting a software trade association Web site–such as the Software and Information Industry Association ( You check out the postings in the JobsNetwork section of the site. It’s easy to find the kinds of jobs you’re interested in because the section is set up for IT people who work with software. You post your resume here. You visit a couple of other trade association sites, and decide to post your resume at one or two because they have interesting job postings and more than a few are management level.

You then check out the job postings at the corporate sites of several companies in the area that you know do software development. Even if you don’t see a job posted that fits you, look for the e-mail address of the HR department and send a brief synopsis of your resume highlights in the body of the e-mail. (Don’t send an attachment because many corporate e-mail servers now discard mail with attachments because they are trying to ward off viruses.)

Finally, you browse through the online job postings at the major daily newspaper sites for your area and any area you might consider moving to, just in case you might find something. When you find something, you respond to the ad as directed. If a company name is listed in the ad, visit the company’s Web site and find the HR contact. Send a brief e-mail saying you’re interested in a job you read about in the paper and include your resume synopsis in the body of the e-mail.

Then, you pat yourself on the back because you’re using your time wisely, and you’re on you way to a new job.