The Truth About Job Sites

I’ve done a lot of professional speaking on resume writing, and over the past eight years have talked to thousands of people. Every time, I ask the following question: “Has anyone gotten a job off of”

Eleven people have raised their hands.

There are hundreds—if not thousands—of job boards online, and they list millions of positions. Yet many of us have had this experience: You’re trolling job listings, clicking on openings in your target field, when you see The Dream Job. Your pulse starts racing. You look more closely. You are a perfect fit. You are such a perfect fit that it was like you had written the job description yourself. So you spend hours editing, proofing, tweaking and finessing your resume and cover letter. You hit “send” confident you’ll be contacted right away. You never hear a peep.

There are real, viable jobs being posted on job sites. But even if you hit upon one and are an appealing candidate, going through the “front door” isn’t the most effective way to getting hired.

When it comes to job listing sites, there are a lot of things going on behind the scenes. Some employers post positions so they can prove they’re complying with Equal Employment Opportunity law. Others recruit inside their companies, but post jobs to just see who is out there. And some jobs stay posted even after they are already filled, because the employer forgot to cancel the listing.

There are real, viable jobs being posted on job sites. But even if you hit upon one and are an appealing candidate, going through the “front door” and applying directly to the human resources department isn’t the most effective way to getting hired.

Why? Most human resource people are actually screeners, not hiring managers. The human resource person’s job is to pull out unqualified applicants, not to make hiring decisions. When you add in the applicant tracking software some companies use, there are a lot of filters in place at the front door, keeping you out rather than letting you in. The hiring manager is actually your target—and positioning yourself with that person is a critical key to your job search success.

A new way of thinking is to see job search sites as phenomenal research tools. They can help you see which companies are generally hiring and figure out the keywords you can use on your resume, to help you rank well with the applicant tracking software some companies use. Even if the employer isn’t using that software, you still come across as a highly relevant candidate!

Once you have information from the site, use your contacts to get yourself in the back door—that is, to the hiring manager or an internal advocate (an employee that you have a connection to). These people can “make” your application by putting in a good word for you, making you a known quantity to the employer.

According to recent newspaper reports, 70 percent of people find jobs through someone they know. (The others find jobs through postings, so it can happen, but it’s much less likely.) The old adage, “People do business with who they know” holds tried and true. If you have a connection at Your Dream Company who is willing to walk your resume down to HR, it means you’re not just an anonymous applicant. It dramatically improves your chances of getting an interview.

Knowing this should affect how you spend your time and energy looking for a job. Build your social and professional networks through sites like Plaxo, Naymz,, Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace—to name a few. Don’t be afraid to go through your Rolodex and address book. As you attend networking events, ask permission to connect online with the people you meet. Schedule informational interviews, go to networking events and take classes.
There are people everywhere…and they know people. You never know exactly who they might know!

When you do find that Dream Job through online postings, it is a lot easier to tap into your network, get a personal referral and circumvent the official channels. And just maybe that Dream Job will be Your Job.

(This blog has also been posted to