Five Most Effective Job Search Strategies
1. Applying for Job Postings Online
This is where most jobseekers spend their time, but most people won’t find their dream job by applying for posted positions. Research suggests that only 2-4% of jobseekers land a job using Internet job boards. Most large companies receive between 200 and 10,000 résumés a month — the majority of these come from online applications for jobs they’ve posted.
There are many places where jobs are posted online. These can include the hiring company’s website or LinkedIn Company Page, niche websites (like Dice.com for information technology jobs, or JobsInLogistics.com), aggregator sites (such as Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, or Indeed.com), social media (some companies will post job openings on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram), or even Craigslist. Many companies try running an employment ad on Craigslist first, simply because it is not expensive; so they try it first, before spending more elsewhere.
The aggregator sites — also known as the “big boards” — aren’t as effective as they used to be. Listing fees have increased while success rates have declined. However, you shouldn’t discount them entirely. If you see a job posting on a big board, go directly to the employer’s website and see if the position is listed there as well. By applying through the company’s website, you’ll not only get the chance to research the company, you might be able to identify a hiring decision-maker directly. And if you are able to find the hiring manager’s name, follow-up your online application with a résumé and cover letter by mail. Remember, once a position is advertised, the competition for it can be overwhelming. Use all your resources to compete.
2. Responding to Print & Online Newspaper Ads
Most jobs posted in newspapers are for lower salary positions (under $30,000/year) but that is not always the case, so it can be worth your while to spend some of your time finding and applying for jobs you see advertised in print publications. You may find jobs advertised in your local newspaper or in a trade journal for your industry.
Newspaper advertising is expensive for employers. That's one of the many reasons companies do not advertise job openings in the newspaper.
However, the newspaper can be a useful tool in identifying job “leads” — companies that hire people to do the kind of job you want. You may find you get more mileage by reading the newspaper or trade journal to find companies that are expanding and growing. You’ll also find these kinds of companies profiled in the Business section of the newspaper, in magazines like Inc., Forbes, and Fortune, and in local business journals. (Locate local business journals here: https://www.bizjournals.com/)
3. Employment Agencies/Recruiters
For certain kinds of jobs, companies pay third parties (recruiters or employment agencies) to screen and recommend potential employees.
These jobs usually fall into three areas:
In exchange for finding candidates, screening them, and recommending the “best fits,” an employer will pay a fee that is negotiated from about 10% up to 25% of an employee’s base salary for the first year to the recruiter or search firm (employment agency), upon a successful hire.
The most important thing to recognize about working with recruiters is that they work for the hiring company, not for you. They only get paid if they make a successful placement. Because you’re not paying for the service, sending a résumé to one of these companies is a good idea, but it won’t always result in success — or even a return phone call. They are not obligated to call you back, if your résumé does not match their search criteria. In that case, they may keep your résumé in their database; or not.
You can find recruiters in the phone book (under “Employment Agencies”) or online. Use Google to search: Recruiter and [city name] and [job title].
Or look in the newspaper classifieds or your industry trade journal for recruiting firms advertising for candidates in your field. You can also make contact with recruiters or employment agencies at job fairs or through LinkedIn.
Remember, the employer pays the recruiter fee, so you should never be asked to pay a fee to work with a recruiter. Don’t be fooled by people claiming to be recruiters who ask you to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to work with them.
It’s fine to work with multiple recruiters. The more recruiter contacts you have, the larger your network, and the greater the number of opportunities that will present themselves. Recruiter relationships are generally not exclusive. Start with 2-3 and expand your contacts if you’re not getting results. But be honest if you’re asked who else you are working with.
There are also variations of the employment agency you may come across. For example, if you are employed in a union trade, your union hall may function as an employment agency, offering connections to union jobs. And if you are between jobs and want to be hired as a day laborer, there are certain employment agencies that specialize in extremely short-term positions (usually one day, or a few days at a time).
And, don’t discount the resources offered by CareerOneStop (https://www.careeronestop.org/) or (https://www.usa.gov/job-search). Local or state employment agencies can also help connect you to employers in your area.
Networking remains one of the best job search strategies you can use to find your next job — or your dream job — but it’s probably the least understood method. Many jobseekers think networking means alerting the people you know that you want a new job. But it’s more than that. Your network is most valuable when you can ask for help in identifying job leads, obtaining information, getting advice, and/or making referrals. For example, if you want to work at a specific company, ask people in your network if they know anyone who currently works for — or used to work for — “Company X.” Then, ask for an introduction to that person, and ask them about the company, culture, and hiring practices.
It’s important to actively develop and cultivate your network. This can include: friends, relatives, parents of children’s friends, parents of your friends, relatives of your friends, club members, cousins, neighbors, your doctor, financial advisor, attorney, current and previous co-workers and managers, suppliers, professional association contacts, clients, and community contacts (civic leaders, clergy, etc.).
Here are some more opportunities to develop your network:
The single biggest mistake most jobseekers make is not asking for help from their network. People want to help you — so let them!
5. Direct Contact
Tap into the so-called “hidden job market” by using the direct contact job search method. Remember: Companies hire people to solve their problems.
In her book “Résumé Magic,” author Susan Britton Whitcomb suggests jobseekers target what she calls “employer buying motivators.” These include the company’s desire to:
It’s estimated that anywhere from 30 to 75 percent of jobs are not advertised. How are these positions being filled? Through networking and direct contact. How do you make direct contact? Call, use your network for an introduction, send an email, or write a targeted cover letter and send it with your résumé. You can also use résumé distribution services — like ResumeSpider or ResumeRabbit — to send unsolicited résumés to targeted contacts.
But the real key to success is following-up. When using direct contact, persistence is the key!
Do your homework about companies you are interested in. Always research the company. The basic information you need is: Who to direct your résumé to within the company and whether the company has jobs (or job possibilities) that match your area of interest, education, and/or expertise. You can’t just send a general letter to “HR” or one addressed to “President, ABC Company.” You have to send it to a person. The best people to contact are managers and executives.
Every unsolicited résumé you send should be accompanied by a personalized, targeted cover letter. You are simply “spamming” potential employers when you mass mail 10, 20, or 100 résumés without researching them individually and customizing a cover letter. Even if you have the most creative résumé, without supporting documentation, you’re probably wasting your time.
Instead, take the time to develop a customized cover letter listing how your specific skills and attributes can be an asset to the company.
Next, make sure you keep a record of the résumés you’ve sent, using a follow-up log. When you send out a résumé, mention what your next step is — for example, “I will be contacting you within the week.” Make a note in your calendar and then follow-up as promised. When you’re “spamming” employers, you lose the ability to closely follow-up on the résumés you’ve sent. Ten résumés and cover letters that you follow-up on are better than 100 résumés with no follow-up.
Follow-up on letters by making a phone call. If you call and don’t get a response, send an email. Leverage your network to get personal introductions. Your efforts will yield interviews. You can dramatically increase your chances of being interviewed and receiving a job offer by following-up with both your network and the person with the power to hire you in an effort to positively influence the selection process.
In your job search, you shouldn’t rule out any job search tactic — just consider how effective it is, and spend more of your time on high-impact tactics like networking and direct contact.
Mandy Fard is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW, CMRW) and Recruiter with decades of experience in assisting job seekers, working directly with employers in multiple industries, and writing proven-effective resumes.