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  • Diana Schneidman

Why job boards don’t work: a contrarian view

A friend recently landed a job through Craigslist. She will finish her coursework for her bachelor’s from a California college in August with a degree in printing technology and graphic design and will report to work in a small, family-owned print shop in Chicago soon after.

She had no personal connection with the owner. Simply applied online, followed the process and got hired.

Specifically, she saw the posting and responded online. Interviewed in a single three-hour session when home on break for a week. Walked out with a written offer. Ta-da!

The data “prove” this is nigh impossible.

The numbers favor networking over job searches on online job boards so dramatically that the latter is almost not worth the effort. And the worst job boards are the general ones, including Craigslist, Monster and CareerBuilder.

That is why “they” say to minimize effort in this direction, not more than a few hours a week . . . or not at all.

Instead, most job hunters continue to expend more effort in this direction than they “should.” It’s hard to resist what appears to be an actual job opening and what appears to be a reasonable opportunity, if not the perfect opportunity.

And it’s so darn easy to apply!

I’d guess that most people peruse these listings late in the evening when it is too late to contact others and they are too tired to put forth their most talented effort. The TV is on, they’re winding down on the computer. So what the hey, you can’t win if you don’t play. They pull up their standard resume, tweak it slightly to fit the ad, and send it on its way.

In contrast, these same job hunters toil endlessly in following up on networked leads. They talk at length to the person who will transmit the resume and to anyone else they may know with information. They do online and other research. They customize and polish everything they submit to the nth degree.

Why? First, since they know only the networked possibilities have a decent chance of paying off, they feel that their effort won’t be wasted. With a real person taking the resume to a real hiring manager, they will get a fair review, not just be tossed onto the stack of dreams. This one is worth the effort.

In addition, they want to put their best foot forward on behalf of the individual who is putting himself out to represent them. They do not want their connection to feel he is taking up the cause of an inferior candidate.

I suggest that applications and resumes submitted through the online job boards would compete more effectively if they were prepared with the same effort and enthusiasm as seekers expend on networked opportunities.

It’s interesting that those reviewing resumes claim that large shares of what they receive have grammar and spelling errors. It would be interesting for hiring managers to conduct a test by comparing the errors in job board applications with those submitted though networking connections. I’d predict the former bunch would be prepared much less professionally.

What’s the objective of job boards?

When companies post jobs on the large websites, they are deluged with too many resumes to handle, we are told, so they just put them aside.

So why do they post in the first place?

Some may be collecting salary data by insisting that past salary or current requirements be submitted. Others are surveying the overall quality of the labor market. Or maybe their ads are run out of some type of contractual obligation between the posting service and the employer.

But here’s another possibility: Some employers post these jobs to find qualified candidates.

So here’s a contrarian conjecture: More jobs would be awarded to job board candidates if they submitted more thoughtful, polished resumes and supporting documents.

Originally posted 6-22-09

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