Carrie the Careful Consumer

This article was originally published here

9/30/2008 3:06:03 PM

I received an email the other day from a recruiter with an interesting question. Let’s call her Carrie. Or, better yet, Carrie the Careful Consumer. She wrote me to ask about a job board she was considering for some of her employer’s staffing requirements. She had noticed that the site displayed the logo of the International Association of Employment Web Sites (IAEWS), which is the trade association for job boards that I founded several years ago. What concerned her, however, was that when she checked the association’s Member Roster at its site (, she was unable to find the site on the list. Was this job board, she wanted to know, actually a member of the association?

Carri’s message contains an important lesson for those who are in transition and even those who are just keeping an eye on the job market in preparation for a possible move in the future:

  • Recruiters invest with their eyes open and so should you. There are now at least 50,000 job boards and career portals operating in the U.S. alone. The good news is that this wide array of sites gives you a real choice when looking for the best places to find the right employment opportunities for you. The bad news is that the job board community has almost no barrier to entry, so there are unfortunately some bad players among those 50,000 sites. For that reason, many recruiters, like Carrie, are very careful consumers when it comes to deciding which job boards they will use. You should do the same. Every site you use involves an investment of your time and effort, so make sure you invest wisely.
  • Recruiters do their homework and so should you. Smart shopping for job boards is exactly like smart shopping for anything else you purchase online. First, you should make sure the vendor responds to your needs—for you, of course, that means the site will attract the kind of employers and the caliber of employment opportunities in which you are interested. Second, make sure the vendor operates in an honest and professional way—that it abides by good business practices. That’s why Carrie turned to the IAEWS. Its members have ratified a Code of Ethics which commits them to adhering to clear and explicit standards in their dealings with both employers and job seekers. For example, IAEWS members provide full transparency with regard to how the candidate and employer information they collect will be used. So, when you are considering a job board, make sure you evaluate it thoroughly before using any of its services or turning over any of your personal information.
  • Recruiters check the information they collect and so should you. Not all information provided online (or any place else) is accurate. Sometimes, erroneous information is the result of an honest mistake and, sometimes, it is a blatant effort to deceive you. Unfortunately, the latter is what appears to have happened in this case. The site that Carrie asked me about was not a member of the International Association of Employment Web Sites. It had hijacked the association’s logo, but could not gain access to its Member Roster. So Carrie’s caution alerted her to a site that was not adhering to the ethical standards of the IAEWS and, I hope, led her, instead, to one of the thousands of other job boards and career portals that do measure up to such standards. I strongly recommend that you follow in her footsteps. Always try and confirm whatever you are told by a vendor online, either by using a reputable information source (e.g., the IAEWS) or your own colleagues and friends.

    What happened to the site Carrie asked me about? It was confronted with the inappropriate posting of the IAEWS logo which it agreed to remove from the site. Then, the site operators asked how they could join the IAEWS. They were told they couldn’t. They had already violated the association’s Code of Ethics.

    Now, I know what some of you are thinking: interesting story, but totally unrealistic. Who has the time to bother with such a labor intensive effort? Well, my response is who doesn’t? You can be an expert in all of the best techniques for online job search, but you will still not connect with the truly great jobs you want to see if you do not use those techniques on the right Web-site(s). In my view, therefore, Carrie’s brand of careful consumerism is just as important for anyone who is looking for a job and for anyone who will in the future.

    So, what is the best way to practice good job search consumerism online? The following 5-step process is one place to start. I call it the SmartSearch method because it will help you make informed choices among job boards and, as a consequence, maximize the success you achieve when looking for a job on the Web.

    Step 1: Determine Your Options.
    Use any or all of the following resources to identify those sites that are most likely to connect you with great employment opportunities in your field:

  • The experience of colleagues and coworkers;
  • The results of a browser search online;
  • Your local library’s Reference Librarian;
  • Career counselors and coaches; and
  • Other people’s research (e.g., WEDDLE’s Guides and Directory, other job search books).

    The key to a successful online job search is to use a large enough array of job boards to ensure you probe the full range and depth of employment opportunities in your field. For that reason, I suggest that you identify 12-15 options at the outset.

    Step 2: Evaluate Your Options.
    Compare the features and potential benefits of each and all of the options by using the following criteria:

  • The number of job postings on the site;
  • The top 3-5 occupational fields or job titles among the jobs posted on the site;
  • The principal industry or industries served by the site;
  • The principal geographic area(s) covered by the site;
  • The range of services offered by the site (e.g., resume database, assessment instruments, a discussion forum for online networking, a job agent so you receive interesting opportunities automatically); and
  • The cost, if any, of using those services.

    There are, of course, other criteria you can use, but this evaluation should enable you to narrow your range of options to 8-10 finalists.

    Step 3: Visit the Sites Online.
    The best way to assess your options further is to pay each of the finalists a visit online. Sites that seem all but identical on paper often have a very different look and feel on the Internet. The key is to find those sites that provide the best experience for you: they are easy for you to use and they provide the specific kind of support and assistance you need. Or, to put it another way, the best sites are those that provide the optimum return on your investment of time and effort when using them. In addition, use this step to see if the site is displaying the logo of the International Association of Employment Web Sites and if it is, confirm its membership by visiting the association’s site and checking its Member Roster.

    Step 4: Make Your Selection and Track Your Results.
    Just as you would with a traditional job search campaign, the best way to look for a job online is to select and use several job boards simultaneously. I recommend that you use five: two general purpose job boards (i.e., they post jobs in a wide range of career fields and industries) and three niche sites—one that specializes in your career field, one that focuses on the industry in which you have experience, and one that serves the geographic area where you live or want to. Each of these sites will provide you with a different pathway into the job market; that’s important because, while you’ve done your research, it’s impossible to know, in advance, which organizations will be looking where on the Web. Then, keep track of each site’s performance to see if they are really working for you.

    Step 5: Continually Evaluate and Fine Tune Your Selections.
    The Internet is an extraordinarily dynamic medium that experiences continuous change as new job boards arrive, established job boards improve and some job boards disappear. Therefore, successful online job search depends upon an ongoing reassessment and refinement of your site selections. To conduct your evaluation, use both the lessons you’ve learned from previous job search efforts (see Step 4 above) and the research you perform through this process. If you are actively in transition, you should reevaluate your choice of job boards every three months; if you are you keeping an eye on the job market for a possible move in the future, you should check your selections every six months. That’s the only way to make sure you know and use the best job boards that are the best for you.

    Thanks for reading,

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