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Internet Job Boards:
Hello, Anybody Home?

By Clara Horvath

Recently, a news reporter posted some good questions on the JobPlace newsgroup (JobPlace is dedicated to discussions among workers in college career centers). She wanted to know about job hunting on the Internet.

"Does anyone know where I can find information/studies on the success rate of people finding jobs via the Internet? An article in a computer mag last month suggested there are more jobs posted than seekers. How many of these are duplicates? How many people who post on a site ever get a match? Any info greatly appreciated."

Getting The Question Right
I've been asked that first question before, and each time I'm struck by the difficulty of giving a response that will satisfy without having to cover the basics of job search. Does the question even make sense? If we substitute "newspaper", "telephone" or "college career center" for "internet", is the question more answerable?

What is the success rate of people finding jobs via:

  • the newspaper?
  • the telephone?
  • their college career center?

One of the difficulties seems to be that "the Internet" is a rather loosely used term. It is both a network of linked published information resources, as well as a mode of communication.

The job search process involves many sources of published information (newspapers), methods of communication (telephone), and combination resources that offer both information and communication (college career centers). Can using these means of information/communication sources contribute to job search success? Of course! Is it possible to measure the contribution of each of these to the success of the search campaign? Probably not.

The Real Question: Where's The Payoff?
The reporter's question could also be interpreted to mean, "What percentage of the jobs advertised online are filled by candidates responding to the posting?" Conversely, "What percentage of job seekers responding to online job postings get one of those jobs?" Another possible question is, "How many job seekers who posted their resumes online got hired as a result of the resume posting?"

High-Tech Promises...
All job and resume posting services are purveyors of hope. They promise exposure to a qualified and interested target audience. They promise that what you seek will come to you because you made your opportunities and qualifications known in a public arena.

Employers post jobs because they have difficulty finding enough qualified candidates. In the Spring 1997 issue of Red Herring Deborah Claymon writes that the major job boards "report a largely technical audience: the job seekers are a mix of roughly 60 percent engineers, 30 percent sales and marketing, and 10 percent finance and administrative types." This implies that employers who need to fill these types of jobs will be most likely to advertise online. It also means that there will be lots of competition from fellow job seekers reading those same ads. These boards also promise efficient matching services through the use of various database and searching enhancements. But matching capability does not mean much if the talent pool is too small, unqualified, or unsuitable for some reason.

...Or A Madison Avenue "Ride"?
Information about real connections made is extremely difficult to find. The advertising agencies running the big boards (CareerMosaic, Monster Board, OCC, etc.) promise that they provide lots of exposure. They have no way of telling either the job seeker or the employer how many successful hires resulted from job/resume postings on the board. These boards promise traffic volume and low cost. The reason employers will keep using the boards is that they are cheap compared to print advertising.

Responding to advertised jobs is a passive approach to job search. Jobs posted online represent a miniscule percent of all job openings. Job seekers should evaluate thoroughly how their target employers use the Internet/Web in their hiring. Based on this research and evaluation they should make a strategic decision about how much time and effort to spend using online resources and whether pursuing online job postings deserves to play a role in their job search.

Connect To Results
Online services are an interesting new technology. However, a somewhat older technology, the telephone, is probably more powerful and useful in the job search. Nobody seems to be worried about measuring success rates for using this dated technology. :-)

The biggest task we have in working with our clients is to convince them to get proactive in their job search. Being proactive includes evaluating the usefulness of the available tools (including the Web/Internet) and then concentrating on methods that are most likely to bring results.

Clara Horvath is a career management consultant, writer, speaker and workshop presenter, counselor and job search coach. She specializes in online resources and desktop software tools for career management, recruiting and job search. She can be reached at (415) 570-5880.

Copyright 1997 Clara Horvath. All rights reserved. Reproduction prohibited.


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