By Liz Ryan I get a lot of mail from job-seekers. "I've sent 72 resumes out this month," one might write, "and haven't heard from anyone." Or, "I've applied for 122 jobs on Monster.com." I wish I had time to respond to all these folks. But I don't. So here's a quick take on approaches that might work better than trolling the bottomless job-search sites.
It helps to start by realizing that the problem with the big job-search Web sites is just that: They're big. They attract so many job hunters that a person's odds of landing a position are small. They're even a mixed blessing for hiring managers, who get more resumes than they can read from postings at Monster (MNST) or Hot Jobs (YHOO). They may not even look at every one, much less answer every applicant.
That's why I call the big job sites "mall" sites: They have name brands, lots of traffic, and plenty of sales volume. But like malls, they aren't for every shopper. If your resume is a little niche-y, if you're not a cookie-cutter candidate, or if you'd like to poke under some unusual rocks for your next job, you might do better with an approach what I'll call "high-impact searching." For example:
Go local. Use Google (GOOG) to find your local job-search sites: In my home state of Colorado, for instance, one of the best-known is Colorado.jobing.com. You'll almost always find postings there that aren't listed on the bigger sites.
Another local option is job-search list-servs, which can be found on sites such as Yahoo Groups and Topica. Use their search function to find job-seeker groups. For instance, type "New Hampshire Jobs" in the search box to find out about discussion groups for job hunters in that state.
Also, check out the function- and industry-specific association sites in your city. If you're a technical writer, chapter sites of the Society of Technical Communicators (STC) often include job listings. And there's the American Marketing Assn. (AMA) for marketers, Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) for HR folks, and so on.
Ask the ladies. Local WorldWIT discussion groups, such as ChicWIT in Chicago, NycWIT in New York, or WildWestWIT in the mountain states, will carry job listings not found on lots of other sites. And you don't have to be a woman to participate. Membership is free, so sign up at www.worldwit.org and watch for suitable job openings -- or post a message to let the ladies know you're looking. Full disclosure: I lead this group.
Use your networks. Through the jobs feature on the business-networking site LinkedIn, you can find postings in your region, plus learn who (a specific person, not a nameless HR department) posted the opportunity. You can use the LinkedIn network to see how you might be connected to this job-poster -- through a college roommate or a former workmate, for instance. That makes the connection personal -- and that's a lot better than blasting yet another resume into cyberspace, where it will likely disappear forever.
Try a little guy. New job sites pop up all the time. Check out one of the newbies such as Indeed for a quick listing of local jobs from all different sources. Bookmark the sites you like and go back to them at least once a week. This way, you'll stay abreast of what's new and also be able to see what works for you.
Of course, don't forget that friends and neighbors, networking events, and college alumni groups are some of the best resources for job hunters. Don't neglect them even though you're pursuing the perfect online job-search strategy.
And most important, don't put all your cyber-eggs in one basket. Branch out beyond the mall, and you may find a gem of a job-search tool you never knew existed. And when you get the plum job, write and tell us! We'll want to hear how you did it. Do you have any great business leadership tips to share with BusinessWeek Online's readers? Send them to Liz Ryan, an at-work expert, speaker, and writer, and CEO of online networking organization WorldWIT