BIG Job Search Mistakes: Online Postings & Ads

Time is money. Nowhere is this adage more applicable than in job search—particularly if you’re unemployed or in some rotten job where you are being grossly underpaid. Each week costs you a bundle. It’s obviously critical to be as efficient with your time as possible.

Online postings offer the illusion of efficiency. Without ever leaving your desk, you can track down job openings and crank out applications. Many job seekers spend months scrolling through online job postings and other advertised positions, hoping to find the perfect job. 

[BTW, I’m offering a free webinar on Really Big Job Search Mistakes] Click here to register.

But there are some big problems with this method. 

The best jobs aren’t advertised

You see, most great jobs are not advertised. In fact, statistics show that only one in five jobs is ever advertised. Maybe you’ve noticed in places where you’ve worked that when help is needed, the tendency is NOT to rush to post on Indeed,, or CareerBuilder. The first response is often, “Who do we know?” Hiring decision makers usually prefer to hire a known entity, if they can. Often, the really good jobs have people waiting in the wings, so there’s no need to post the position. Higher-level positions are very unlikely to be advertised. 

What kinds of jobs are advertised?

Consequently, advertised jobs tend to be bottom of the job barrel: entry-level positions, high-turnover jobs, straight commission sales, scams, and multi-level-marketing sales. They are salary researchers or Human Resources and government agencies paying lip service to EEO hiring, when they know who they’re going to hire. And there are a few good jobs. 

Fierce competition

So, when you’re applying for jobs online, not only are you competing for jobs that tend not to be very good, but you are competing in an arena where the competition is downright fierce. Since so many people search for work this way, companies often receive dozens or even hundreds of applications for a single job. A local librarian told me they received over 300 applications for a part-time, low-wage job—and applicants included several with master’s degrees and one with a Ph. D.

How are you selling yourself?

It gets worse. When you apply this way, you are relying on your resume and/or your LinkedIn profile. Even the world’s best resumes are just pieces of paper or bits and bytes in the computer. They can’t fully convey who you are. If you’ve ever been on a blind date, you get it. You might have read the person’s ad, heard a friend talk about them, or maybe even seen their picture (which may or may not be a good representation), but you don’t know if you like them until you meet. So many factors are at work: how they speak, what they say, their smile, their presence, their courtesy, how they dress, and many other factors. 

It can be very discouraging

In my work, I’ve seen many a depressed, beaten up, discouraged job seeker who has spent many months, diligently sending out a mediocre (or worse) resume to online postings. Not surprisingly, they have nothing to show for all their hard work. 

But don’t ignore advertised jobs

That said, I don’t recommend ignoring advertised positions. There are some good jobs that are posted, but it’s essential to use a strategic approach.

  • Limit the time spent on advertised positions to 10-15% of your job search time. Spend the rest of it doing more productive things. 
  • Select just the top ten to avoid wasting time on irrelevant or low-quality job postings and focus your efforts where you have the best chances for success.
  • Be aware of how Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) work. If you’re not familiar with the term, ATS refers to software many companies use to screen job applications and resumes to select the “best” candidates—according to the criteria of the person who programmed it. Who wants read hundreds of resumes? More about ATS in an upcoming newsletter. 
  • Only respond to postings if you are a really good fit; otherwise, you’re wasting your time. A client who had never worked in sales really impressed a sales manager and was offered a job. Had he applied online, however, the Applicant Tracking System would never have selected him.  
  • After identifying the top ten job postings or ads, do your homework. Research the company and find what the company does, their unique competitive advantage, and the two largest problems or challenges the company faces. With this information, write a compelling cover letter, highlighting your skills and experience and how you can help them. 
  • Don’t rely on just the application, but try to get a referral from inside the company through your network 
  • If you can afford it, you might hire someone to send a short cover letter and resume to the jobs that don’t make the top ten, saving you time and effort, and allowing you to focus on building connections through networking.

Don’t focus all your attention on posted positions, but don’t ignore them either. Your best chance for success is with networking. Of course, this assumes you know how to network well—otherwise, you may do more harm than good to your job search (be sure to check out the free webinar on big job search mistakes).

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