Is Addiction to Job Boards Killing Your Job Search?

With recent revelations of Heidi Montag's addiction to plastic surgery and Tiger Woods' (or his look-alike) in rehab at a Mississippi clinic, it's time we brought to light another serious addiction that needs to be addressed: job seekers' addictions to job boards.

On a segment I did for CNN on using social networking in a job search, one unemployed professional admitted to the host that she had applied for approximately 650 jobs online. When pressed about how many interviews she actually received, she sheepishly answered, "Ten." With such a low hit rate, why was she spending so much time on this tactic? Are you doing the same thing?

Applying for jobs online can give you a false sense of accomplishment. You feel you're doing something productive for your search, but over-reliance on them can keep you from spending time on more effective channels, like networking, where 70% of jobs are found.

Job boards can still play an important role. They're a great source for information about who's hiring and for which kinds of jobs. They're just not a great place to apply for jobs. That's because with the high unemployment rate, the chances of your application being overlooked in a stack of thousands is also very high.

The ease of applying for jobs online combined with increasing desperation as 40% of job seekers have been unemployed for more than six months, means that a large percentage of the candidates you're competing against are likely to be unqualified for the position, but clogging up the pipeline nonetheless.

The better route? Start your research on job boards, but use your network to get your résumé directly to someone at the company.

I did a test recently on a job opening I saw on a general job board to see how easy it would be to get my resume in the hands of the actual hiring manager. Here's what I did:

1. In the search field I typed in keywords "strategic planning mba" and chose "New York" as the location.

2. On the list of search results, I selected a posting for a position at a Fortune 500 company in the region.

3. I went to the company's website and found the same job posting, which also included the title, though not the name, of the hiring manager.

4. Next, I went to LinkedIn and typed in both the name of company and the title of the hiring manager, and found out his name.

5. I could see who in my network was also connected to him and I was one click away from sending a message to one of my contacts to ask for an introduction.

Now, some companies may scoff at my attempt to thwart "the rules" and bypass their online application system, and if you are not qualified for the job, do NOT try this at home. You'll only hurt your reputation with your network and annoy the companies you're applying to.

But if you are a strong fit for the job, you've just lightened the burden on both the hiring manager and the internal recruiter to find qualified candidates to interview. You've also demonstrated your initiative and resourcefulness, and leapfrogged to the head of the line.

This little bit of time you spend upfront could shave weeks or months off your job search.

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