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Using Job Web Sites Efficiently

this article was originally published in May 2002, so comments about job opportunities may or may not apply, depending on how the economy is doing.

Because of uncertainty and impending layoffs at the company I used to work for, I've been asked a lot recently about how the job market looks in San Diego and my opinion about it. Since I've been out of work for 3 months, I'm an "expert", although I suspect, as usual, I'm more of an expert at how not to do things than at how to actually accomplish getting a job. :-)

I usually give out my opinion, which is the tech job market right now is tight and I'm not seeing much loosening up occuring, except in defense industries. And where job offers are getting made, they are for less money than people were making or some other drop in the job. Although unemployment is supposed to be around 3.9% or somewhere thereabouts, I don't quite believe that, this is my opinion, based on people I know and their job searches and on my job search.

During the discussion, there's usually some mention of some job search site somewhere and how it showed some x, y or z number of jobs, so how can the job market be that bad? Well, I'd like to offer some tips on using job search engines to show how there are fewer listings than it may look like and to help you out in using the job search engines efficiently and effectively.

With that said, there are two reasons I have for doing this, one is to help you sort out the chaff from the wheat easier and two, is to leave you with more time to pursue other methods of job searching, since it is recommended that you don't use job search engines as your primary search technique. It's not the 1990's, people aren't going out to their cars after being laid off and being mobbed with job offers, it's a tougher world out there and you need to be effective and effecient in your job search.

So, now on to the tips.
1. Lots of recruiter ads don't mean there are lots of jobs. - The first thing I like to clean out of my job search is ads from recruiters. There are good recruiters out there, I have met a couple and good recruiters are a pleasure to work with. But there are a lot of recruiters out fishing for resumes so that even if you find a job yourself, they can claim they 'helped you' so that they can get a fee for placing you with a company. So, while you are looking at the 300 software developer jobs returned for San Diego, look closely at how many of those job listings have the words Staffing, Recruiting, Services or something else that seems to speak of a recruiter firm. If the jobs look interesting, research them, ask your friends if they've heard anything abut that particular recruiter and check them out before submitting your resume to them. It's unfortunate, but your resume and it's information can be worth money to other people if they can show they "placed" you. In the defense industry it can also be used when bidding contracts to get higher prices for the contract and I'm sure there are other ways your information can be used and not necessarily to your benefit. So, be cautious about who you give your resume to, you want to get it to the right people that will help you on your job search, not hinder you.

2. Ads sometimes get duplicated - After cutting out the recruiter jobs, you've probably shortened your list down to, oh half or one third of what it was, so out of that 300 original jobs, there are now around 150 from companies. Or, you've checked around on some of the recruiters and you feel comfortable with contacting one about a job and you've seen a great one that you like that is offered by a recruiter. Now, this one depends on how comfortable you are searching the Internet and I don't recommend spending a lot of time on it. But there are instances where a job advertised by a recruiter is also being run by the company doing the hiring. So, although there are two different ads listed, there is really only one job being advertised, but for some reason the company is trying to get a lot of coverage or possibly some recruiter is trying to take advantage of the situation. This doesn't happen a lot, but it does happen, so again, there aren't quite as many unique jobs out there as you might think.

3. Stale Listings - After cutting out duplicate ads, where a recruiter and the company are both posting, which I must admit there aren't a lot, you are probably down to about 125 ads now, approximately. However, there are other kinds of duplicate ads and this kind can cut down your list considerably. These are what I call stale listings, job listings which have been on a job site for longer than a couple of months. When you initially start your job search, things can look great because you have this huge number of matches for your search parameters. But you won't be using the job board just that one time, you'll probably be back the next day, the next week, basically sometime in the near future. When you start revisiting the site, those listings are going to start looking pretty familiar. So, getting 125 matches the first time out doesn't mean you are going to get 125 brand new matches each and every time you search, if you are waiting at least a day between your searches. When this is taken into account, it really cuts back the number of new and unique listings to choose from.

4. Job postings that you actually have the skills for - After taking into account stale listings, you have probably chopped out 75-85% of the matches you had left, so, being optimistic, you probably have around 20-30 brand new listings that have been posted since the last time you checked. This depends on the job site as well, some are better at getting new listings, others have more problems. However, trimming down those listings from 300 to 20-30 new ones can be rather sobering. The next step of seeing if you actually qualify for the job listings left won't necessarily help either, depending on your experience and your original search parameters. But, we'll be optimistic here and assume that your original search was pretty good and that the remaining jobs actually match your skill set fairly well and not cut any more out.

As a note, in these times, the match between your skills and the ad should be very close, as employers have a lot of resumes to choose from and if they want an exact match for their ad, it's very likely that they could find one.

5. The companies advertising really do want to hire someone - Now, of those companies remaining, how many are really hiring? Some of these listings you will have gotten rid of due to getting rid of stale listings earlier. However, even though a company is advertising a position, they may not really be looking too hard for someone to fill it. The job may already be filled internally, a very likely happening, or there is a contract that is anticipated to need certain skills but the company hasn't won it yet or in the worst case, the company is having financial difficulties and is planning for layoffs or some other belt tightening and for some reason the job listing just hasn't been removed yet. After looking at some of these factors, all of sudden those 25-30 job listings may get narrowed down to 20, 15, 5 or even none because of these factors. Hmm, maybe there aren't as many jobs as it looks like out there.

Now that you are fully discouraged about looking for a job, I'll leave you with some more positive thoughts. As grim as it might look, there are jobs out there and you might be the one of the people who gets called in quickly to fill one of those jobs. One key thing to help that along is to network, network, network. In this easy information age where you can send your resume out yourself to tens of companies, where you can pay to have it sent out to hundreds of companies, you need to think about the other end that's receiving your resume. Multiply your action out by all the other job seekers who can do it just as easily and well, it's a bit competitive shall we say, especially since many companies are trying to do more with less nowadays. Although it's very easy to send a resume, it's not necessarily easy to receive and review a resume with the care and attention you would like. People are busy, in HR, the hiring managers and basically everyone, so you need to do something to stand out.

The recommended way to do this is to network. And I'm not necessarily talking about the networking where you go to a schmooze fest and pass out your business card and receive a bunch of business cards and murmur insincere words in the hopes of getting a job offer on the spot. I'm talking your already built network of coworkers, assuming you are already employed, friends, and family. To build up your confidence, contact people you know and don't ask them if they have a job, but let them know you are looking, what kind of position you are looking for and some of the experience you have. Keep in contact and don't feel bad about being a 'nag' to these people. Think about yourself and your friends, if you knew someone who needed to get a job or who was looking for another job, wouldn't you help them out? Be somewhat reasonable about it and push yourself a little if needed, because it does help. So far on my job searches, I'm about 50/50 of getting jobs cold, versus getting help from friends, so it's definitely useful.

I won't go any further on about networking, there are other articles out there that probably talk about the subject much better than I would, but keep it in mind and remember there are jobs out there, persistence is key in your job search.

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