The Internet is one of the most frequently used job hunting tools. Prospective job seekers can respond to ads and post their resumes on job sites. But though every company posting a job opening on the "Big 3" job sites - Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, and HotJobs.com - is looking for qualified candidates, responding to these ads is essentially sending a cold resume that is guaranteed to be among one of thousands.
So is an on-line job search effective? It can be, if done right. This means getting pro-active and stepping outside of passive searching. Here's how.
Use the Internet to identify, evaluate, and contact potential employers. Instead of hitting "Apply Now" from the job search site, take the time to research the company first. Then customize your resume and cover letter based on your research. Be sure to show insight into their products, services, market, and competitors. In other words, show them you have taken the time to learn about who they are, and why you are a good fit at their organization.
If possible, use a direct contact email instead of applying through a Web site. Occasionally, job seekers can find an HR or individual email address to send a resume on the company's Web site or through the job search site. An email enables the job seeker to more directly enter the company's system. In these instances, it is especially important to ensure all information is accurate and specific to the company and job you are applying. Additionally, use a professional sounding email address and not something frivolous like firstname.lastname@example.org. Your email address is your first impression in an Internet search.
Look outside of the big sites. Although they contain vast numbers of potential jobs, individuals in specialized fields (such as non-profits) may have difficulty finding a match. Posting jobs on these sites is more expensive for employers and they tend to use smaller niche sites that may have a more of the applicants they want. Examples of these sites include www.npo.net in Chicago and www.CTnonprofits.org in Connecticut. To find smaller, industry- or location-specific job sites, try typing the type of job you are looking for into Google (i.e. nonprofit jobs CT). Additionally, companies may post on sites like www.craigslist.org or aggregate job sites like www.indeed.com.
Use the job sites as research tools. Create lists of companies that look interesting to work for and make notes about areas you would fit. Then look on company Web sites to see if a job appropriate to your skills and interests is available. This technique can be effective for individuals who work on a contact basis as bringing an organization's attention to your skills and how you can help them may peak their interest.
Follow up after your resume submission. Call the employer directly to see if you can answer any questions, or give them an opportunity to tell you more about their search process and needs. However, if the ad says "No phone calls," respect their request. Filling a position is a time consuming process and you will likely exclude yourself from consideration if you are perceived negatively by the employer. Sending a follow-up email or letter is better in this instance.
Most importantly, remember that people hire people. The Internet is only one tool in the job search process and, ultimately, how you reach and connect with people is what lands you the job.