by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
The Internet can — and should — be a powerful component of networking and job-hunting strategies for most job-seekers, assuming you use it correctly. This article takes you through 10 mistakes you do NOT want to make when using the Internet to assist you in finding your next job.
Job-Hunting on Your Work Computer
For myriad reasons, the best thing to do is never use company time or equipment for job-hunting. Most job-seekers know to invest in a personal email account when job-hunting, but if you are checking it while at work, you are not only cheating your current employer of time during which you should be performing your job, but you also risk getting caught doing so as employers continue becoming more savvy at tracking Internet use on workplace computers.
Just as with all other aspects of job-hunting, do not use company time — nor company equipment — for any element of your job-search. Instead, job-search from home, use your laptop at the local free WiFi hotspot, frequent an Internet cafe, or use the Internet connection at your local library. Your smartphone is another option. (And just to reinforce this point — do not ever use your work email account for job-hunting.)
Using Only the Major Job Boards
Yes, Monster’s and CareerBuilder’s advertising might be funny and inviting, and you could certainly choose to use one or both of them as part of your job-search strategy, but never limit your Internet job-searching to just a few of the major job boards. In fact, you’ll probably have much greater success skipping them entirely and focusing on the specific niche job sites that apply to your situation.
You can find job sites for just about every profession and industry. (See our directory of industry job boards.) Thus, if you’re an HVAC professional, a site like MEPatWork.com should produce better results for you than a general job board. The same holds for location. If you are searching for a job in a specific city or region — such as Colorado — then using a site like ColoradoJobs.com should prove more effective than using a general job board. (See our directory of geographic-specific job boards.)
Ignoring Company Career Centers
Although some evidence exists that company career sites are in decline, organizations of all sizes offer recruiting sites on which job-seekers can search current openings and submit a resume. Some of these sites are full of amazingly useful information, from company mission and values to benefits and perks. Some sites even provide job-seekers with a set of strategies for how to obtain a job within the organization. Others even have videos and podcasts in which you can learn more about the employer.
If you haven’t developed a list of specific companies to target, you can use sites like Indeed.com and SimplyHired.com, which do a very fine job of gathering and compiling job opportunities from thousands of job and career Websites. Once you identify a number of interesting job leads, instead of applying directly to the position, go to the employer’s Website and review the information in the careers/employment section. If you don’t, you will miss out on valuable information that could be critical to getting your application reviewed. (See our directory of company career centers.)
Not Actively Networking Online
Granted, the rapid increase in professional and social networking sites can leave a job-seeker with many user names and passwords and not nearly enough time to stay current. And yes, some job-seekers seriously misunderstand the concept of networking in general. But these issues are not enough of an excuse to not use at least one or two networking sites to assist you in uncovering job leads.
Sites like LinkedIn and Facebook can be wonderful tools for making connections with people in your field — some of whom may even work for a company in which you are seeking employment. Don’t spend all your time updating your profile and making new friends, but do take advantage of a couple of the sites that make the most sense to you and your job-search. (See our very detailed career networking section.)
Applying for Too Many Jobs
A job-search should be a narrowly defined and well-crafted process in which you identify a number of job leads and apply to them. Even though you’re applying to only a small number of jobs, you’ll have much greater success than applying to a large number of jobs, many of which may not be a good fit.
You may not hurt your chances of obtaining that great next job offer, but applying to a large number of jobs takes too much time and effort — if you are doing it correctly — and takes your focus away from the jobs that truly fit you. Instead, identify the jobs that fit you best and spend your energies submitting amazing job-search materials, and finding ways to follow up and actively seek interviews.
Sending Out Job-Search Emails on Weekends
While it makes sense that you might conduct a fair amount of your job-search on weekends if you are currently working, it’s a mistake to send out job-search emails over the weekend since that’s also the time when a lot of spam is sent — and your email could easily become lost in a sea of emails in a hiring manager’s overflowing in-box.
You can still use your weekends to track down job leads and compose compelling resumes and cover letters — but instead of emailing them over the weekend, wait until Monday or Tuesday afternoon to send your emails.
Not Following Employer Instructions
One of the worst things you can do as a job-seeker is to invest all your time and energy in tracking down job leads only to badly damage the chances of being considered because of failure to follow each employer’s specific instructions.
While it would be nice to discover one standard way to apply to online job postings, such as standard doesn’t exist. Thus, to make certain you are not immediately eliminated from consideration for failing to submit your materials in the proper format, reread the instructions. Once you’ve submitted your materials, it’s important to find ways to properly follow up — such as asking a network contact who works at the organization to assist you.
Using a Generic Resume
One of the most fundamental developments in job-hunting is that the days of creating just one or two versions of your resume are long over. To succeed in today’s job market, job-seekers must develop tailored resumes for every job lead. Obviously, resumes you post as part of your profile on job boards cannot be as tailored as the ones you submit to prospective employers, but they can still be sharply written, focusing on relevant keywords, accomplishments, skills, and abilities.
When you do apply to specific job postings, you’ll greatly improve your chances by customizing your resume to both the requirements of the ad and to the culture of the organization. Whether your resume is scanned by a machine or viewed by a person, you want to give it the best shot at being plucked from the masses and placed in the short stack of potential candidates — and customizing it is the way to do so. (See our very detailed resume resource section.)
Ignoring Basic Email Etiquette
Every time that it seems we are past having to discuss basic email practices and etiquette, I receive some crazy email in my in-box from a job-seeker that makes me realize that for many people, email is still a new thing. Always use an appropriate email account (your name, and not "prettyprincess" or "studmuffin"), include a subject line (ideally one that grabs attention, although some employers simply want the job listing), avoid writing in all caps (which is seen as screaming), and write a clear, concise, and convincing cover letter (taking no more than three short paragraphs to deliver your message).
However, knowing the rules of etiquette is not enough — you also need to know how avoid spam filters. The two main culprits for having your email identified as spam (and never seen again) are including an attachment (unless specifically asked for) and using certain words that have been identified as spamming words (such as free, promotion, marketing, collect, amazing, loans, cash, affordable, insurance, unbelievable, etc.)
Relying Solely on Online Job-Hunting
As we mention in several articles on Quintessential Careers, the Internet is not the magic tool that suddenly gets you the job of your dreams. Finding that ideal job will take a lot of work on your part — networking with your contacts, tracking down job leads, researching companies, composing resumes and cover letters, and preparing for job interviews. Parts of your job-searching can be accomplished online, but you still need to include traditional methods of job-hunting and personal contact with your network.
Successful job-searching is all about having the right balance of tools and techniques. Attend networking events and professional meetings, conduct informational interviews, and consider other methods for tracking down job leads so that you achieve maximum job-searching capacity. I’m still a firm believer in also conducting a cold-contact direct mail campaign — often running parallel to an online campaign. Thus, send your text resume to the employer online, but also send your nicely formatted print resume to the hiring manager by postal mail. (For more tips on finding job leads, read this article on Quintessential Careers: 10 Ways to Develop Job Leads.)
Final Thoughts on Internet Job-Search Mistakes
Besides avoiding as many of these online job-search mistakes as possible, the one other thing you can do to strengthen your online job-search success — as well as to assist you in building an online brand — is to buy a domain name (YourName.com) and publish your resume on it. A simple and small Website is fairly inexpensive and does not take significant Web authoring skills. Of course, if you really want to build your online brand, you can buy a domain name and develop a Web-based career portfolio — but this strategy also takes more money and more expertise than you may be willing to invest at this time. (For more tips and strategies on building your brand, go to this section of Quintessential Careers: Personal Branding & Career Self-Marketing Tools.)
For information on the most current trends occurring in online job-hunting, go to the Quintessential Careers Reports on the State of Internet Job-Hunting.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
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