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Should You Respond to Online Job Postings and “Help-Wanted” Ads?

By Ford R. Myers
President, Career Potential, LLC

Let’s assume that you’ve just spent a lot of time preparing, strategizing and tooling-up for a job search. Now, you’re finally ready to get into action. What’s the first thing you’re likely to do? Of course! Go online (or open a newspaper or trade publication), to start scanning the job postings and help-wanted ads. You need to send out as many resumes as you can, as quickly as possible, right? WRONG!!!

Most job seekers focus far too much time and energy on Internet job postings and help-wanted ads. When the job market is tight and no one’s hiring, these are the WORST places to look for a job – your probability of success is close to zero. Our experience shows that only one job in ten is ever advertised, and only one in ten of those is any good! That leaves about 1% of help-wanted ads and job postings that are worthwhile. Newspaper ads represent the bottom of the job-seeking barrel: entry-level opportunities, high-turnover jobs, and straight-commission sales positions. This means that only 1% of “good jobs” are ever advertised – jobs for which 100% of your competition is also applying.

With the advent of the Internet, of course the whole want-ad world changed forever. “Job board” web sites now number in the thousands, with more popping-up every day. While these web services have improved the convenience and efficiency of finding job postings, unfortunately the quality of the listings, and the results you can expect from them, are usually very poor.

And yet, every job seeker seems to spend hours and hours sending resumes into this “online black hole,” hoping that maybe one, just one, of their resumes will land on the right person’s desk and generate the interview they’ve been dreaming of. (Sound familiar?)

If responding to advertised job postings is clearly the least effective job-seeking method, what’s a job seeker to do? When you learn of a specific job opportunity at one of your Target Companies (in this case, through a job posting or want-ad), spend the bulk of your time on the other, more productive job search methods!

See the list of strategies below for some good suggestions. Don’t answer ALL the help-wanted ads and job postings that are related to your background and qualifications. Instead, respond only to a select few. When you do reply to an opening, follow these guidelines:

  • Give yourself a limit of two hours per week (about 5% of your time) to read and respond to help-wanted ads and job postings, and select only the ones that ideally match your goals and qualifications.
  • Find someone through your network who works at (or used to work at) the company, or at least knows a lot about it.
  • Ask probing questions about the company, and determine if it would be a good fit for your background and preferences.
  • If it is a good fit, network yourself to the appropriate hiring manager (not Human Resources), and try to schedule an appointment.
  • In the meeting, focus on the company’s needs and challenges, and explain how your related accomplishments could be of direct help.

Of course, this approach requires that you have the right career tools, that you’ve practiced your interviewing skills, and that you can bring some “finesse” to the process. Although these strategies don’t work every time, when they do work, you can really win big! And it sure beats “sending a resume to Human Resources,” where it will probably wind-up buried in a pile of other resumes.

While it is tempting to sit at your computer all day hitting the “send” button, this is really the laziest way to search for a new opportunity. Try to view the online job postings and “want-ads” merely as indicators or “hints” of where the opportunities are – and then concentrate on actively leveraging your network to get you inside for a meeting with the hiring managers!

About the Author:
Ford R. Myers is an award-winning career coach, speaker and author of the best-seller, Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring. Ford’s firm helps clients take charge of their careers, create the work they love, and earn what they deserve! He has held senior consulting positions at three of the nation’s largest career service firms. Ford’s articles have appeared in thousands of publications and web sites, and he has been interviewed on every major television and radio network. Ford has also conducted presentations at hundreds of companies, associations and universities. Learn more at


FORD R. MYERS is an award-winning, nationally-known Career Coach, best-selling author, and speaker. He is the President of Career Potential, LLC, a premier provider of career success services. Through powerful individual, corporate and government career programs, Ford has helped thousands of clients take charge of their careers, create the work they love, and earn what they deserve!

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