Add Networking To Your Your Online Job Search

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If you feel like your Internet job search has been a shot in the dark, you’re not alone. Job hunters everywhere are disappointed by the anticipated explosion of job prospects on the Internet. Make no mistake, there are millions of jobs online — the difficult part is securing one. Just ask Sheila Cochran-McKinney who has been surfing the ‘Net for nine months.

“I have applied for thousands of jobs online and most times never even receive acknowledgment that my resume arrived,” says the 15-year human-resources professional. “Has today’s society become so technologically savvy that we are missing the boat on human relations?”

She believes there is no excuse for recruiters, human resource management and other hiring authorities to neglect extending professional courtesies to job-vacancy respondents. After all, isn’t making human contact their intent when they “announce” job openings? Recognizing the Shortcomings Nonresponsiveness to job candidates is just the beginning. Whether one uses specialized Web sites or general ones, the results are often the same: no answer. Niche sites that focus on certain career fields, ethnic groups or other special audiences are often too new or too small to handle the volume of responses they receive. On the other hand, bigger sites boast hundreds of thousands of job openings, but since they are so widely accessible and so well known, the number of respondents to each vacancy is often huge. In either case, there seems to be a no win situation for minority Internet job hunters. Posting resumes online doesn’t often pan out, either. There are simply not enough employers scouring the resume boards to fill positions. They are frequently spending their recruiting efforts on people who were referred to them by a friend of a friend (hint, hint).

Another difficulty minorities face is lack of access to the Internet and consequently, a lack of knowledge about how to best use it for job search purposes. It’s no secret that fewer minorities are wired at home than are their non-minority counterparts. And despite growing computer availability in public places, waiting in line for one-hour slots at the local library, paying for use at the local bookstore, or using one’s work computer during lunch, just won’t do a thing in the interest of equalizing opportunity. In fact, these conditions hardly allow serious job hunters the chance to compete fairly with their Internet-savvy colleagues who perform job search activities outside of regular business hours, like late into the night, early in the morning, on weekends and on holidays.

Furthermore, the digital divide starts to look more like a ravine when you consider some of the other barriers that may eliminate minorities from applicant pools. Some of them are: lack of knowledge about how to use computers; the fact that many jobs are becoming high-tech, but minorities fall behind in obtaining the necessary computer skills to qualify for them; and the reality that far more high-tech jobs are advertised online than low-tech ones.

Leveling the Playing Field Unfortunately there is little that a minority job hunter can do today to change these circumstances, but they can change their perspectives and their strategies. Candidates should see and use the Internet for what it’s worth when looking for a job: a tool to target persons in their field with whom they can network. Although it might seem to be an exercise in futility, addressing hiring authorities personally is critical. Just think about it. When you arrive home from work, are you more likely to open letters addressed to ‘occupant’ or ‘resident’ than the ones with your name on them? Well, the same goes for HR staff who receive correspondence addressed “To Whom it May Concern,” or “Dear HR Manager.” 

In addition, are you likely to toss aside mail when you recognize the sender’s name in the return address? Neither are people who are in hiring positions. The challenge then becomes using the ‘Net to make connections with people, not to apply for jobs. If You Can’t Beat Them ? Regardless of the unjust feelings we experience when we are not on the receiving end of networking, it’s still far more likely to result in a job than any other technique. So, “if you can’t beat them, join them.” The point is: you have to find a way around, over, or under the barriers in order to make yourself known BEFORE you apply for jobs. There are several avenues you can take to achieve this. First, when you find a job vacancy online, DON’T click on the ‘apply here’ icon. Instead, exit from that site and log onto the employer’s Web site. Look for the ‘contact us’ icon to find out who heads the department with the opening. Then call them, but don’t ask for a job. Instead, ask them to help you understand the search process and to give you hints on what key skills should be emphasized in the resume (especially if they are electronically scanning resumes). They might also be willing to share the potential for future openings and names of other contacts who might be willing to help you. Only contact HR personnel as a last resort. Their sole existence is to be gatekeepers for hiring managers. 

Second, if the company Web site doesn’t work, check Web-based yellow and white pages or just pick up the phone and call information for the main numbers. Then ask the operator for the manager’s name in your department of interest. When all else fails, mailroom personnel have access to all names and titles, and they appreciate more than anyone mail that is addressed correctly. Third, Web sites of professional organizations are another good networking resource. Their members usually LOVE to talk (versus reading a stack of resumes from strangers) and are often flattered when asked for advice or information. Plus, they can refer you to many other professionals who would love to do the same. Call them; attend some event listed on the calendar of events; read their publications or join a Web-based discussion group. Finally, using online list serves, newsgroups and discussion forums can help you establish professional networking relationships. Although they are not intended to take the place of face-to-face networking, they can be a great way to get in touch with your colleagues, discuss your targeted job market, and most importantly, become known in your field. You don’t have to be logged on at a specific time since most discussions are posted on bulletin boards, and if you can’t find the topic you are looking for, you can start your own chat. So, minority professionals, stop taking shots in the dark with regards to finding a job online. Instead, brighten up your cyber-search by incorporating human networking into it. By doing so, you might just help enlighten HR professionals who have forgotten that their jobs are to make resourceful contact with human beings. Granted, it’s not your job to remind them, but there is obviously a vacancy to be filled!

If, on the other way, you happen to be a company searching for content online about staffing solutions to improve your own process, you should check Solvo Global.

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