We all get those emails. “Dear ___, A job opening has been posted on the ____ job board…” is how they usually start. You click through, hit “apply” and feel a sense of accomplishment afterward.
Online job boards are everywhere on the post-college/entry-level job scene. If you’re unemployed, you’re surely a member of one (or maybe 10). Even when we have full-time jobs, some of us still stay subscribed!
But do these online job systems actually hold up to their promises?
The truth is, job sites like Monster, CareerBuilder and even your alma mater’s online board might be the reason your job search is failing. Here’s why:
You forfeit your networking power
If someone had told me that finding a paying, full-time job was 90 percent networking and 10 percent resume, I would have shaken their hand—and then owed them an expensive dinner.
The problem is, we focus instead on our resume, cover letter, GPA and experience.
The online job site, your supposed friend, makes it easy to submit all this info with a couple of clicks and, heck, you feel productive doing it.
But once you hit “submit,” you instantly join thousands of candidates who appear exactly like you, if not better.
Seriously, put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes. What stands out from one guy to the next? On paper, virtually nothing. Your school name might pop out and get you an interview, but that’s about it.
Instead of submitting 10 online job apps a day, try one internship, externship or cup of coffee with an acquaintance in your field. This active approach worked well before the Internet even existed, and even Forbes agrees that personal recommendations are the number one source of new hires.
You’re dead last in an endless line
You have zero priority when you apply online. Unless you’ve met a recruiter and they make you apply online as a formality, you’re going to be waiting…and waiting…and waiting.
What’s worse: the position you’re drooling over may have already been filled! A job site certainly doesn’t pull down an opening the moment it’s filled; it’s not in their best interest to do so, because more openings and postings means a more valuable site, which means more site visitors. And that’s largely what they want.
PBS even found that Monster.com misconstrues information to entice applicants.
Then there’s the college job boards, usually intranet portals used to network with alums and find exclusive offers. These sites are more relevant to an applicant and produce higher success rates but still have an anonymity factor that blocks the hire, or even the interview, from happening.
To get first in line, you have to actually to be on the ground in the city where you want to work, working your connections. There’s really no rocket science behind this.
Most importantly, it was never even about you!
Listen up, because this is where it all comes together. Three parties are involved in an online job search, including you. There’s the company you apply to, the job site who’s the middleman and then you.
The first two parties benefit a ton. The company benefits through exposure. You read about their programs online and you think they look great, that they must be growing and prospering if they’re hiring. It’s free advertising.
Then when you get rejected or never receive a reply to that cover letter you slaved over, that company looks even better to you. How exclusive! You’re not good enough!
The job site benefits simultaneously from traffic. Your eyes on their site means great things for them, and if you pay a membership fee to access premium job offers, all the better.
Then there’s you. You fuel the job sites, yet usually get little more than a follow-up email and a small sliver of satisfaction and false hope. You might benefit in the case you do get called—and if you do, then by all means congrats—but you surely suffer via lost time and lost motivation.
A sketchy agreement?
Here’s how we might imagine an interaction between a job site and a company “offering” a job via an online posting:
Hypothetical interaction 1:
New job site: “We’ll post your jobs for free.”
Company: “Do we have to maintain the postings?”
New job site: “Nope, just give us an email.”
Company: “Sounds good; send all applicants to Margie.”
Hypothetical interaction 2:
Well-known job site: “We’ll post your jobs for a small fee.”
Company: “What’s it it for us?”
Well-known job site: “You can save on your recruiting budget.”
Lots of arrows point to why online job searching isn’t tilted in your favor; you just have to look into the process to find them.
Even so, it’s mainly your fault, anyway
If you rely only on online job apps and aren’t finding that dream job, let alone any job, sadly, it’s sort of your fault.
Good news, though: as much as the job world is changing, the principles on which you’ll be hired still remain relatively the same. Present yourself well, be personable and have the poise to talk the talk—and then, hopefully, walk the walk.
And never underestimate the value of a personal recommendation. It really is 90 percent networking in the real world, so get out there and make a new connection.
Then click “unsubscribe” on those darn emails.