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Taking That Job Search Online

With thousands of online job boards to choose from, where do you start?

By Sarah Klein

Last summer, I joined the workforce. Or I should say, I joined the thousands of people currently looking for a job.

Yes, it’s true: I am a recent college graduate still searching for that ever-elusive perfect first job. I’ve networked, freelanced, and interned my way around New York City, working toward my big break. But even though I’ve entered this stage of my life during the worst economy in decades, I’m not giving up hope. Why? The Internet.
Today, there are thousands of options for those of us who are in-between jobs to look for our next gig. It’s no longer about opening the Sunday paper and circling promising classified ads with a red pen, but about faster-paced and more widespread efforts like posting a resume, comparing salaries, reading tips for the perfect interview, and sifting through banks of posted job opportunities updated daily. It’s certainly not all fun and games, but it’s a far cry from licking hundreds of hand-written envelopes and blindly snail-mailing resumes to potential employers.

The Major Players

A simple Google search of “job board” or “job search site” results in millions of resources. Many of these sites have very similar features: Job searchers can upload a resume, search hundreds of job openings, and get helpful tips for landing a job. So which sites are worth spending time on?

By many accounts, Monster.com takes the cake. As one of the oldest online job resources, the search can be narrowed by parameters like location, industry, and employer. According to Monster, in 2005, 186 million people across 30 different countries visited one of their sites. At the time, that accounted for 12 percent of global Internet traffic. That same year, nearly 40,000 new resumes were posted each day.

CareerBuilder.com claims to be the U.S.'s largest online job site. The giant offers its 23 million unique monthly visitors benefits like posting a resume, creating individualized email alerts of new openings, searching for local job fairs, and more.

Another option is Indeed.com, which offers one of the easiest search engines, often surfacing with jobs you wouldn’t find on other sites. It’s a meta search, meaning it combs through other job boards to present you with a master list of jobs that match your keywords from a variety of sources. The depth of the search more than makes up for the lack of additional features.

HotJobs.com picks up points from users by being linked to Yahoo accounts. Visitors with a Yahoo login can be signed into both sites at once, then conveniently save information from a post on HotJobs in “My Yahoo.”

Social Networking

Like Facebook or MySpace for professionals, LinkedIn.com lets job hunters connect with colleagues and friends in an online networking community. Browsing jobs through the LinkedIn search engine shows you how you may be connected—six degrees of separation style—to potential employers and co-workers. As many of us job searchers know, or come to (harshly) realize, knowing the right people can play a big role in landing a big gig. Luckily, LinkedIn is aware of this too.

Although Craigslist.org isn't strictly a job search site, many employees-to-be use the community classifieds site as such. Amid the rants and raves and personal ads, it is possible to find some desirable positions, although because anyone can post, you may want to use a bit more discretion in which posts you respond to than you would on Monster. The posts do span numerous career fields though, and because many employers are looking to fill the position as soon as possible, it can be a lucrative search.   

Finding A Niche

There are also many job search sites that cater to individual fields and interests. Looking for jobs in journalism, I troll MediaBistro.com and Ed2010.com. FedWorld.gov is an equivalent Mecca for anyone looking for a government job. One of my favorite job search sites—for those days when I’m feeling particularly bleak about my chances of finding a job in journalism—is Idealist.org, which lists around 5,000 non-profit jobs.

It’s likely you can find a resourceful site for any field you’re looking for—from CareersInFood.com to the DentalCareerNetwork.com. And if there isn’t a specific job search site devoted to your desired career track, chances are a relevant association might offer similar options, like the job board at the American Marketing Association.

If the job searcher in your life isn’t sure what field he or she would like to go into, it can help to search sites geared toward specific position levels instead. Sites geared toward college students and recent grads focus on entry-level positions, so the openings will be at an appropriate level while still covering a wide variety of fields.

I’m a frequent visitor to CareerNet, the job database run by my alma mater. Many other schools have similar systems: Local employers will contact a university and add their open positions to an online list that students and recent grads can often view by simply logging in with their university-provided email or ID.

Who Uses These Sites and How Successful Are They?

With the recession leaving more and more people without work each day, the number of visitors to these sites is on the rise. While it can be tricky to calculate just how many job searchers are logging on, we do know about who is getting hired. A study by consulting group CareerXRoads of hires made in 2007 reports that around 25 percent of external hires applied for their positions through online job boards. Behind referrals, online job search ranks as the second most common way an outsider can break into a large company.

Of these hires, almost 20 percent came from Monster, followed closely by 17 percent from CareerBuilder and another 4 percent from HotJobs. Only 2.6 percent came from specific niche sites, including Craigslist, which stood out as a common source across many fields.

But since simply emailing in a resume won’t guarantee you a paycheck, most career counselors will advise you not to spend all your time focusing only on web searches. A study by CareerXRoad and CareerJournal.com, a job search engine from the Wall Street Journal, found that nearly 70 percent of online applicants only heard back from potential employers 10 percent of the time or less.

These sites, just like their users, are feeling the effects of the financial crisis: Monster reports that online job availability is the lowest it’s been since 2004. Not great news for web searchers like me. I’m still hopeful because of the Internet, but with fewer openings and more searchers, it is helpful to have other tools in my bag of job search tricks as well.

The Internet is a quick and easy way to find opportunities, but don’t underestimate the importance of classic techniques like picking up the phone and networking. Because, let’s face it, as simple as it is to send an email, it’s just as easy to delete or ignore it.

Sarah Klein is a freelance writer for both print and online media living in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has been featured in Health.com, Sports Illustrated Kids, and Scholastic Classroom Magazines. To read more of her work, visit SarahKleinWrites.com.

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