How to Work Around the Online Job Search
An online job search is fast and convenient, but it also comes with its own share of drawbacks that can actually do you more harm than good if you’re not aware of them. Chief among the complaints: if I’m supposed to make myself stand out from other applicants, how can I do that following the same cookie-cutter directions as 150 others? Where is the personal connection?
It’s a valid complaint. It’s also the reason we’ve put together a game plan for how to work around it. Let’s begin!
The Problems Searching for Jobs Online
The search for online jobs comes with a whole host of problems that you’ll need to be creative and inventive in working around. Before we get into the particulars of the workarounds, let’s thoroughly lay out the problems. Why is it so difficult to get the career you want responding to online job postings? Here are six reasons.
1. You Attract a Lot of Time Wasters
The minute you sign up for and become active on, one of the big online job services — Monster, Indeed, ZipRecruiter, GlassDoor — it seems like everyone comes out of the woodworks to pitch you on their job. This is flattering at first until you realize there isn’t any pay or benefits, only the chance to “be in control of what you make.”
In other words, sales jobs. Sales are a necessary part of a business, but anytime a company believes so little in its product or service that it refuses to put skin in the game, you can’t be expected to take it seriously. Unfortunately, you get a lot of these bogus offers the minute you create an account and make yourself “discoverable.”
2. Good Jobs Are Probably Already Filled
What’s the logic in posting a job if the position is already “filled”? Companies like to have several candidates in their pipelines even if they only end up picking one person for a position. And most of the frontrunners have probably established a personal connection to someone within the company before applying. That means a lot of companies posting jobs online do so despite the fact they already have a strong idea of whom they’re going to present with an offer of employment.
As LinkedIn points out in a recent Daily Rundown, “If you suddenly find yourself out of a job, you may need to tap into your professional network to get your next one. It’s important to keep those connections going before you reach that point.”
As enablement manager Matt Cohen writes in a post on the topic of being laid off, “In order to be ready when the unexpected happens, you need to build and maintain your network when you don’t need them.”
We’ll get into more of the particulars on this in a moment, but for now, let’s just say you need to start getting your foot in the door at companies you want to work — and with relevant connections from those companies — preferably before the job is posted.
3. Scammers Are Everywhere
The only thing worse than being contacted by an onslaught of time wasters (See No. 1), is actually getting suckered into doing business with them. At this point, they’ve gone from being a nuisance to a scammer. Their hapless victim? You.
Don’t allow a time waster to have a scammer’s impact on your life. Shut these people down quickly by knowing what to look for and promptly ignoring them. (Or reporting to the job site if they persist.)
But how do you know what to look for? This is a fairly simple answer. If it seems too good to be true, it is. Not probably. Not maybe. It’s a scam, period. No one is going to contact you with the job of a lifetime out of the blue with zero or limited education requirements attached, and they’re not going to tell you or imply you’re all but guaranteed employment in the initial outreach. If they do, it’s a scam. No exceptions, ever.
4. Personal Connectivity Opportunities Are Nonexistent
Most people get jobs because of effective networking, not by randomly filling out job applications on a website. We’re convinced the reason for this is that companies want to hire people they can trust. But how do they find people they trust?
They do it by tapping into existing resources (read: other employees or partners or colleagues). They look for a personal stamp before taking chances on unknown applicants.
When you’re just filling out a job application or submitting your resume online, you’re simply entering into a cold, nameless slushpile of candidates with no discernible advantage. Instead of doing this “banging your head against the wall” routine, consider finding people in your network or people connected to people in your network and making contact.
This is something you should do as soon as possible. If you’re employed, don’t wait until you’re not. In fact, making contact now will lend you more caché because you won’t be connecting with these people from a place of desperation.
5. Online Reviews Can Cloud Your Judgment
Online reviews, in our opinion, do more harm than good when determining the viability of an employer, particularly as it relates to startups and obscure companies. Even with the established folks, you’ve got to understand that bitter current or past employees are more likely to poison the review well than people with a genuine experience to share.
Too many glowing positive reviews can be a hindrance, too. This is especially when they’re not accompanied by reviews that take a more clear-eyed, constructively critical approach.
Online reviews can discourage you from applying for jobs where you might be happy, and they can mislead you into applying to career cesspools. Don’t give them too much notoriety, even if it’s tempting to trust in what the reviewers on online job sites are saying.
6. Premature Exposure
This, the final problem with your online job search, speaks to the nature of the unemployed (or employed-but-unhappy) mindset. When you jump onto a job site, it’s often out of a sense of desperation. You need work badly, or you hate the job you’re in and you’ve just got to get away.
That sense of desperation mixed with the site’s surface-level convenience of being “one click away” from the job of your dreams can lead you to apply to jobs before you’re technically ready.
By technically ready, we mean that your desperation has led you to submit your resume/application before you took the time to get your website, your social media pages, and your resume in order. You’ve left off key skills or left up embarrassing pictures, not thinking that the employer might first check your profiles and online behaviors out before going any further.
Premature exposure can hurt you whether through bad behavior left unchecked or good behaviors (i.e. additional education and experience and skill sets) that you’ve failed to make known.
How You Overcome the Problems
Thankfully, there is a way to use the web to your advantage when looking for work. It allows you to avoid the above pitfalls while making personal connections and standing out to a hiring manager, even if you don’t know them personally. Here’s how we’d suggest doing it.
1. Maintain Control Early
Don’t be so granular with the job search. Instead, think about the career field you would like to be in, and cross-reference that with your education, experience, and skill sets. What have you accomplished? What would you like to accomplish? What are you lacking to keep you from getting there?
At this moment, you control the presentation. Take full advantage of that. Make sure your social media pages are open, but “safe” in the things you’ve chosen to share, the statements you’ve made in the past, etc.
Update your skills and experiences. For those things on your resume that are already there — where you graduated college, where you’ve worked — go in and tailor the descriptions so they highlight more of the things relevant to what you would like to be doing. Then and only then, start reaching out to some of the people that can guide you into a position.
2. Make Personal Connections Before Applying
Any online job search advice that starts with, “Follow the application requirements exactly,” is designed to fail. While it may come to you having to apply and go through the basic procedures, your job search should actually begin with personal contact.
Go to LinkedIn. Search for the company online. See how many people who work there are on LinkedIn. Scroll through each of the results, making note of job titles until you find one that is more in line with the type of work you’d like to be doing for that particular company.
3. Show You Can Play the Game
Learn how to mimic email architecture for the company. You can usually do this by finding an email suffix on their website. Any will do. If there’s an email address that says something like [email protected], then you know every email address will end in @mycompany.com. You’ve figured out 50 percent of what you need to know to make a personal connection.
From there, you may need to do a little guesswork. Is Bob Smith’s address “bob.smith,” “bob_smith,” “bsmith”? One good way of being able to tell how email prefixes are structured is to find any person’s email address, even if they’re not the person you want to contact. This will take some trial and error. In some cases, it will be very easy. In others, more challenging.
But all you need is one. Once you’ve discovered that Stephanie Jones in accounting is “[email protected],” then you can safely assume Bob’s will be “[email protected].” Once you’ve figured out an email address to someone relevant to the job you’re seeking, you’re way ahead of 90 percent of any applicants.
4. Tailor Something Short But Personal
All you have to do is stick the landing by making a short, intelligent email to Bob explaining who you are and why you’re contacting him. It doesn’t need to be more than five sentences. It should be direct. It shouldn’t seem like an email you send to everyone else. In other words, make it personal.
Recommendation email: “Hi Mr. Smith, [His company] is at the forefront of what [I’d like to be/am doing] with my career as a [major] graduate from [my university] [and/or, choose one] a current [job title or just associate] with XYZ Company. I regularly watch for opportunities at [His company] and just wanted to introduce myself. Any advice you have for getting started at [His company] or for any positions you would recommend applying for now or in the future is most appreciated. Thank you for considering this request, and I appreciate your checking me out on LinkedIn. Best wishes, [Your name][Your LinkedIn URL]”
Any response from Bob to that email is a win. If it’s a direct email, then you have that for safekeeping along with permission of sorts to contact him any time. If he goes to LinkedIn and checks you out, then you still have the email, and you know you’re on his radar.
What to Do When You Get a Bite
Should you get a response, there are some basic things you need to keep in mind for how to react or move forward. Let’s look at each one before signing off.
Be Cool But Compliant
Again, if Bob directs you to the online posting that we’ve told you to avoid, that’s okay. You’re entering into the potential slushpile of applicants, but you’re doing so with a key advantage. Bob knows who you are. He knows you understand how to make relevant inquiries. He’s personally seen your background, education, and experience, rather than some screener. Do what he tells you to do.
Ask to Connect
For this, you can go directly through LinkedIn. If Bob doesn’t request you first, that’s okay. He has responded. There’s no harm in sending an invitation at that point. If he accepts, then you have him in your contacts for safe-keeping. While his work email is better for a more immediate and valuable response — and why we recommend going that method — capturing him on LinkedIn is good in case he ever leaves the position for another company. You never know when you may want to tap that resource again.
Leverage When You Can
Even if you’re not actively looking for work, it’s good to make some form of personal connection whether through email or LinkedIn because your needs might change six months to a year from now. Simply making that contact will give you the power of leveraging either a direct connection or an indirect (friend of a friend connection) down the road.
Be Gracious Even If It’s a ‘No’
Trying the online job search in such a manner might not result in a job every single time, or it could result in a job two years from now when both of your circumstances change. You just don’t know. And because you don’t know, it’s important to be gracious and thank people even if the connection doesn’t result in anything for the short term. Thank people for their time and for giving you the chance to connect. And even be willing to help them if circumstances change, and they’re the ones later needing help. Stoking good karma always helps your self-esteem and future prospects, even if there is no immediate benefit.
Your Online Job Search Needs to Change
If you’re still doing an online job search in the tired, traditional way, then you’re thinking needs to change. Stop applying for jobs as your default, and instead try creating relationships with people. It all starts through connectivity and nurturing that relationship along over time. Now, are you already employing some form of this method? And what are some online job search tips that have helped you? Sound off in the comments section below!
[Featured Image by Pixabay]