Sunday, January 15, 2006

More Jobs Being Found Online, but That Doesn't Mean It's Easy(by Barbara Whitaker, the New York Times)


Note of the caption: Brooke Christiansen found her dream cubicle through diligent Internet searching.


January 15, 2006


One of the first things Brooke Christiansen did as college graduation neared last spring was post her résumé on three of the largest Internet job boards: Monster, CareerBuilder and HotJobs.

For the most part, she said, it was an exercise in frustration.

"You get piles and piles of jobs that no matter what you type in, come up with every single search," she said. "It's very hard and very time-consuming to find something you're actually interested in."

In addition, she said, it is rare to hear back when applying for jobs found on the sites.

Mary Riley Dikel, creator of The Riley Guide, a directory of employment and career resources on the Internet, said: "One job seeker told me, 'I think I'd be more successful distributing my résumé by opening my window and throwing it out.' You do feel like you're going into a black hole."

To that frustration, add the risk that identity thieves may steal information from résumés posted on job sites - and to estimates that only 3 percent to 5 percent of job seekers find employment through the sites - and it is reasonable to ask, Why bother?

Recruiters and career counselors typically turn the question around and ask, Why not? Applicants, they say, need to recognize that job boards are but one tool among many that can be used to find work.

"The Internet is an absolutely necessary tool in your job search arsenal, but it's not your only tool," Ms. Dikel said. "Use Monster and professional associations and local and state job boards and other things that target what you want. But if you're spending more than 15 minutes on the Internet, you're lost."

A proliferation of new sites - many capitalizing on search engine technology to provide job offerings from across the Internet - are giving job seekers some new alternatives to explore.

Among them are JobCentral.com, a site developed for major corporations that carries their listings as well as direct links to the companies' Web sites to apply for jobs. The board was created after executives from corporations like I.B.M., Hewlett-Packard and Intel began exploring ways to deal with the ever-escalating fees charged by the largest job boards.

Initially, 18 companies put in $60,000 each to finance the board. Now companies pay $12,500 a year to post all their jobs, or $25 a job (compared with as much as $400 a job on a major board), said Bill Warren, executive director of the DirectEmployers Association, the corporate group behind JobCentral. It now has 182 member companies. The site also acts as a search engine, scavenging job listings from about 1,400 nonmember companies.

Taking a slightly different tack are sites like Indeed.com and SimplyHired.com, which rely on search engines to aggregate a vast array of listings from newspaper classified ads, job boards, corporate sites and trade associations.

The field will expand again tomorrow, when JobCentral, Indeed, SimplyHired and Google Base, a database recently introduced by the search engine company, are to announce that they are teaming up to create a national labor exchange at JobCentral.com. The site, which has about 340,000 jobs posted, will incorporate jobs found by its partners and provide the technology to let those sites link to its information. Mr. Warren, creator of the job site that later became Monster, said the alliance would result in the amassing of information on about 4.5 million jobs.

"The benefit to the job applicant is that they can go to one place and basically see all the jobs on the Internet," Mr. Warren said.

How that will affect the three major job boards - and the state of finding jobs on the Internet - remains to be seen.

Mark Mehler, a co-founder of CareerXroads, a New Jersey company that advises companies on using technology in recruiting, said the traditional job boards might find themselves at a disadvantage. It has become expensive for companies to post employment ads on the major boards, and the number of résumés posted can be overwhelming.

At the same time, he said, it remains to be seen how useful and reliable the sites that pull job listings from across the Web will be.

"They key is freshness and where the job is being taken from," he said. Despite such problems, studies indicate that an increasing number of people are being hired through Web postings and employee referrals, rather than through traditional methods like printed want ads.

In 2004, a study by CareerXroads found that 61 percent of hires by the companies surveyed came from referrals or the Internet, up from 50 percent two years earlier. According to the study findings, Monster, CareerBuilder and HotJobs accounted for 22.8 percent of the hires attributed to the Internet; corporations also reported that a high percentages of employees were hired after filing applications on corporate sites.

Eric Muller, a recruiting manager with the Southern Company, an energy company based in Atlanta, says his company initially began using JobCentral because it allowed the company to post all its jobs at a lower cost and because it provided a direct link to the company's site. While the company still uses big boards like Monster and CareerBuilder, he said, they do so more strategically - if, for instance, a job needs to be filled immediately. "We have to have a mix," he said. "I can't have all my eggs in one basket."

The same holds true for job seekers, although there are increasing questions about the wisdom of posting résumés on the Internet.

"Putting a résumé on an online job site is not the smartest way to go about getting a job," said Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, a nonprofit group that educates consumers about technology and privacy.

The forum put hundreds of résumés on job sites and tracked them for a year. Ms. Dixon said many were stolen by either criminals or unethical recruiters.

One common ruse preys on midcareer professionals whose résumé history can be combined with a Social Security number, resulting in identity theft.

"The more detailed your résumé, the easier it is to do," Ms. Dixon said.

Job seekers who posted online said they had also had problems with employment consultants seeking to solicit business. After arranging an interview, the consultants begin making a pitch for their services, which can cost as much as $10,000.

Ultimately, Ms. Christiansen found exactly what she was looking for - a human resources job near Chicago - using JobCentral. She said the site helped her narrow her search, and after that she found a job quickly. "It can work," she said, "if you know exactly what you're looking for and you can find a place that will have it."

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