How Online Job Boards Can Actually Help A Job Search

There was a brief period, before the last recession, when my career-services clients actually found jobs on online job boards. They’d post résumés, and interview requests and job offers quickly followed. For the past several years, though, clients have told me that they felt as if online applications led to a black hole: résumés were submitted but companies never made contact; even a rejection letter would have meant progress, indicating that a human was somehow involved in the decision-making process. Though I don’t recommend online boards as a direct path to a new position, I do find them extremely useful in a job search.

For someone launching a job search, online job boards can provide a wealth of information. I have had consistently good results with though there are many other general boards, industry niche boards, and aggregators of job listings, such as,, and My focus is on finding well-written, detailed job descriptions that indicate specific responsibilities and requirements. Many descriptions are vague and useless to me; others, however, seem to have been constructed to outline highly specific needs for real jobs with viable companies. A bit of fluff promoting the company and its tremendous benefits and great working environment is fine but should be accompanied by a multi-bulleted list of duties beginning with an overview and then mentioning key areas of accountability as well as position requirements.

Here's what I use these job descriptions for:

Do a reality check. One of the first things that a job seeker should do is define his ideal job or target position based not only on career goals but also on education, experiences, knowledge, and skills. Figuring out whether such a position actually exists is a natural next step, made pretty easy with a keyword search.
Pinpoint a job title. A job title is useful in conveying goals to a hiring manager in words that she’ll understand. Postings with position descriptions can be useful in matching real-world job accountabilities with a job seeker’s professional capabilities. Though organizational structures may vary among companies, there will often be enough similarities to pinpoint a job title. Job seekers can then reference this title in communications with potential employers or those who may offer referrals, and use the title in searches of the careers' sections of target employers. 
Uncover obstacles to landing that perfect job. In some cases, a job seeker has most, but not all, of the qualifications. Not being a perfect candidate shouldn’t rule out searching for that type of position. But, if certain skill sets or types of experiences are requested repeatedly by a number of employers, then a job seeker could consider taking a class or learning a new technology, for example, or figuring out how to communicate why his experience is similar to the experience requested by the hiring manager.  
See what companies are hiring and where the jobs are. Though I like to read articles about what industries are hot, what companies are hiring, and which geographical areas are experiencing an economic boom, I use specific job postings with real companies to make decisions about where to concentrate a search.
Refine or write the résumé. My modus operandi is to create a first draft of a résumé and then use job descriptions to make adjustments. I might add a position duty or a computer skill that seemed insignificant but appears on most job postings. For a job seeker writing her own résumé, the online job descriptions could be useful in creating or fleshing out the résumé.
Find keywords. Job seekers may be fearful that they won’t use the right keywords and their résumés will never be selected by computerized screening systems. Scrutinizing well-written, detailed job responsibilities and requirements can provide the job seeker with current keywords.
Craft a cover letter. Customizing each cover letter to match the exact requirements of each target job can be time-consuming and energy-zapping. Instead, craft the letter to meet the descriptions and requirements for a handful of similar positions, and use that letter as the base for subsequent letters.
I typically don't give unsolicited advice to individual clients, but, if asked, I will mention that putting oneself out there (posting a résumé for anyone to see, with no privacy settings) has not been particularly fruitful for many job seekers. To avoid the black hole of Internet searching, some clients have found that referrals from business associates (former co-workers, vendors, and customers), direct inquiries to targeted companies, and communications with those in industry or trade groups are more helpful than blindly posting to online job boards.
Have you used online job boards to find a job lately? Share your experiences in the comments.
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Guest's picture

You've described my what my job search has been like perfectly. I've sent out resumes and applications time and time again to be only met with silence. It's rough out there! Actually, it's more impersonal than rough. People don't reply to applications or email questions, or even accept phone calls about the job! They don't want to talk to you, maybe for fear of being buried in frivolous conversations or... ?

It's like a machine. You put your resume in the slot, pull the lever, and if you don't get the job the machine does nothing and your resume vanishes somewhere inside its recesses. What happens when you land the interview, I couldn't tell you. But thanks for the strategies... Seriously, you've given me some alternatives to try. Maybe I've been going about this all wrong, all this time.

Guest's picture

Great post..

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Guest's picture

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Guest's picture

I've been in the job market on and off several times over the last 8 years, and it has *always* been the resume vacuum. That's not a new thing that has suddenly appeared because of the current economy! In 2003, I was determined to leave a bad job and sent out over 500 resumes in 6 months time.....I got one phone call, and four mailed rejection letters/cards.

I worked a bit helping the Sr Recruiter at my last employer, and all I did was 'harvest' resumes to add to her database. I searched for keywords in resumes and downloaded them directly into her database without even reading them. I would then search her database for keywords, send a mass email to all the people who matched, and if a person responded with an updated resume, *only then* did she actually read the resume.

Its really depressing knowing that your information is just being 'harvested'. I always make a point of doing location-based searches for companies in Google Maps for companies that fit my interests. I visit each individual website, bookmark my favorites, and check them regularly for job openings. Whenever possible I email my resume directly to a person rather than using the "Apply Now" button in Monster.

All of that being said, I am looking forward to starting a new job next week. And all 5 jobs (contract and permanent) that I've held in the last 8 years (I'm in a very specialized IT niche) were jobs that I didn't even apply for. I was contacted by recruiters/hiring managers that found me on Monster or a similar site.

Julie Rains's picture

Yes, the black hole has been around awhile -- the last time that I heard of direct hits/great success was in the 1999/2000 time period before the last recession, as I mentioned.

Thanks for giving specifics on the harvesting method. I did have an IT client who would get calls from recruiters saying that they had found him on a job board (where he'd posted a resume) and then asking for the resume -- an odd set-up and annoying, but he finally got to where the resume would be sent off again and he could start interviewing.

Guest's picture

It goes to say, that those who do the work will get the job, and your article reinforces that point nicely.

As a first step, I recommend to my clients that they go through the job specialization process so that they are clear about their value-add to the employer and how to best find their ideal career (i.e. networking, social networking, job boards, etc.).

I offer a FREE job specialization book which I hope proves of service.

Well done!!

Guest's picture

The 3 websites where job seekers got the best results (from (networking for professionals) (aggregated listings) (matches you to the perfect jobs)

For those looking for work, good luck!

Guest's picture

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There are also more job search resources at

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Guest's picture

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Guest's picture

The "black hole" concept is so true. However, the level of pickiness from companies is even more unbelievable. I remember much like some here when you would post your resume of a site like Monster and get contacted shortly thereafter. Today however, even applying directly through a company's career page yields no responses for the most part. Even now phone interviews have come back as preliminary screening process. Unfortunately sometimes once you have spoken to them about their openings, that same person that was so easy to contact to schedule the phone interview, has now become a on-going call to the person's answering machine. You leave a message but no one calls back even though you're often told to call back if you don't hear back within a specified time frame. I've called back like a collector would call multiple times to see if maybe I can reach the person I spoke to. Of course never leaving multiple messages. As for why I think they're a bit picky, I finished a phone interview that went well until the person told me that although I had say 8 of 10 bullet points, it was those two that disqualified me from further consideration. What got to me more as I tried to stay calm and not "burn any bridges" was that these two specific points were nowhere in the resume that the person used to contact me. In fact, the interview was over before being scheduled and providing a false hope of being able to get out of this miserable situation. Obviously I'm no corporate recruiter but is it me (please forgive the sports analogy) or are these company's acting like NBA teams that are hoping that after dumping all their salaries in lay-offs, they can now find their next All-Star in the unemployed ranks? Speaking for myself I say you're more likely to find a lot more team players to develop for every LeBron out there plus the likelihood of these companies having laid off these "10 bullet point" ,"specialized industry experience" personnel is quite unlikely. To further underscore the feeling of underachievement" in this resume process is the fact that companies containing positions that fall under the "underemployed" category will often hire those candidated that are more less likely to leave when the job market starts to turn (many seem to think it'll happen the day after your potential hiring date) as they fear that "corporate" candidates are not worth the risk in training and so these jobs have now become as hard to get as the one you were let go from. So while you do your part to re-join the work force, others with the power to assist in this situation have become more reluctant. I miss the days when 80-90% match between your resume and job description was enough to get you in. I just wish that in a country by the people and for the people, we weren't required to have our names on buildings to be heard and helped out as many of us were let go just before the multiple extensions were passed and will soon have nothing left to build a future on. As for the tips in the article, I've tried them all..revising the old resume(done), calling back(often get answering machines but no responses), plus some of the other advice seems a bit common from what I've read on other sites. For as long as companies feel that the 100% match person is out there, it seems that they will rule out everyone else until such a person is found and need be re-post the same position months on end. I hope that all of us here will soon start earning a living soon once again because for as much as the so-called unemployment rate skews the results by not counting those of us who gave up...we will continue to be just that...a missing stat.