Continuing our New Year/New Career theme, this inquiry on top job boards is perfectly timed. Please write in and tell me about a career challenge or frustration you’re facing at the office! – Dana Theus
Dear Dana: I have been looking for a job for several months and have applied for jobs on all the top job boards, but am having no luck. I hired a resume writer that fixed my resume and have had people tell me my resume is strong, but I’m not getting call-backs. What am I doing wrong? – Sad in Sacramento
Sorry to hear you’re not having much luck so far in your job search. There could be many reasons you’re not getting responses, including these common challenges:
- You’re not positioning yourself well for the jobs you’re most qualified for
- You don’t have the right keywords in your applications/resume to line up uniquely with each position description
- You’re not being picky enough, and you’re spending your energy on anything that looks slightly interesting instead of the jobs you’re qualified and excited to get
However, based on the way you phrased your question, I think you’re relying too heavily on the top job boards to connect you with your next employer. I know that there are so many online job search websites out there like Monster.com, Indeed.com and CareerBuilder.com (my old alma mater!) and they advertise themselves as having the most job listings, but quantity isn’t the same as quality.
Because they’re so big and attract so many job seekers to apply online, recruiters use the bigger job boards to collect large numbers of resumes that go into even larger databases. The databases allow keyword sorts and algorithmic searches that spit out a few candidates for each job so the recruiter can go through them, but the average number of resumes collected for a job on the top job boards is over 200!
It’s hard for you to stand out in such a sea of text. If the recruiters had time to sort through all 200 resumes for each job you might have a better chance, but no one has that much time (except the computers). As it is, recruiters spend on average less than 10 seconds on each resume they take the time to screen, so unless your resume is a perfect match for the job description, the likelihood you’ll be overlooked is very high. In addition, many of the jobs on these large sites aren’t even real. Recruiters often put out sample positions to experiment with what kind of resumes they’ll receive (to help them write the real one), and/or to fill up their databases so they can quickly pull some resumes as soon as they receive a new search request. These factors together are why fewer than 5% of people who apply online get invited in for interviews.
The good news is that your experience is very common, which says to me that your success rate so far says less about you and more about the job boards themselves. According to these statistics if you keep applying online, eventually you’ll end up in that coveted 5%.
The bad news is that these applications take a long time for you to respond to, and this isn’t an efficient use of your time. It can also lead to a situation (which it sounds like you’re in) where your confidence is shaken.
Be strategic and go where the recruiters look first
The top job boards do have a wide variety of postings and many people applying, but think of them as the haystack and think of your next job as the needle. You can spend all your time inefficiently sifting through straw or you can strategically find a magnet. I suggest you start using a magnet.
One of the best magnet strategies around is plain old networking. Why? Because the minute a recruiter gets a new open job requisition s/he scans their contacts to see who they know that might know the perfect candidate. Some of your contacts are on their lists and the best way to get to the top of that pile of 200 resumes is to get a personal referral from someone the recruiter knows.
Another great magnet strategy is to apply for jobs on smaller sites that are small enough that the recruiters don’t get too many resumes. In each major industry you’ll find specific sites run by professional associations or other groups that tend to have higher quality jobs for that industry than the major job boards. While you may be among a slightly higher calibre of candidates, the number of resumes/opening will be smaller in most cases and the recruiters are more likely to give these site’s applicants greater weight.
Searching the top job boards is still a good idea to help you stay abreast of who’s hiring and what they’re looking for, but I suggest that you be much more selective with your applications and put that extra energy into figuring out which jobs you have the best chance of getting and networking to find them.
Resources you can use
To help you out in becoming more strategic and time-efficient, our Career Transition Program has tons of tips and tricks to help you. Also, you can download a list of the top job boards in 10 industries to help you target your searches more specifically.
P.S. – Have a question you’d like anonymous support on? Write me!
P.P.S. — Need the inside track on your job search? Let me help you without the cost of personal coaching with my comprehensive online career transition program.