Pounding The Virtual PavementEdward Baig
A year ago, when he lost his position as a vice-president working on streamlining operations at Charles Schwab & Co., Mark Smith set about finding a new job. Smith made all the usual moves: He hit up acquaintances, researched companies, and sent off a stack of cover letters and resumes. But he also tried a more modern strategy. He visited several career-oriented sites on the World Wide Web. At one site, called CareerMosaic, Smith responded to an ad for a financial analyst at the Brisbane (Calif.) headquarters of Good Guys!, a consumer-electronics retailer. He landed an interview, but the job wasn't the right fit. Still, Smith made a decent impression, and 11 months later, Good Guys! hired him as its treasurer.
Thousands of displaced workers, as well as staffers looking for a career change, are pounding the virtual pavement of the Internet. They're posting electronic resumes, answering online ads, and tapping into company databases. Job seekers may network by E-mail and in Usenet newsgroups (austin. jobs., nyc.jobs.wanted, misc. jobs.resumes). While poking around such newsgroups, in fact, they may be under the watchful scrutiny of headhunters and company recruiters. "Employers lurk all the time," says Pam Dixon, co-author of Be Your Own Headhunter Online. Depending on your point of view, that's either an advantage or a threat to your privacy.
What's more, the Net is fast emerging as fertile recruitment territory for a lengthy list of prominent companies. Citibank, Cummins Engine, McDonnell Douglas, and Smith Barney all post job openings via the Web and take employee applications by E-Mail. Microsoft's site contains a list of its job offerings plus a template to help candidates submit a resume. Other sections describe Microsoft's college recruiting program, benefits, and corporate culture. About one-third of the resumes that reach Hewlett-Packard's corporate offices arrive by fax or E-mail. In just nine months, HP has gotten 20,000 resumes via the Net. "From my perspective, the Web is the future of recruiting," says Bruce Hatz, corporate staffing manager for HP in Palo Alto, Calif.
In seeking career advice and targeting an online job search, candidates should employ search engines such as Yahoo!, AltaVista, and Deja News. The Smart Business Supersite (http://www. smartbiz.com) features a number of job and career links. Other excellent sites include The Monster Board, CareerMosaic, The Internet's Online Career Center (OCC), E-Span, and Career Magazine. They provide help-wanted ads and links to company sites and other resources. Net Jobs from publisher Michael Wolff is a directory of usenet groups and Web sites where people can read classified ads by location or occupation. The YPN Resume-O-Matic Web sitehttp://www.ypn.com/jobs/resumes) also lets you post a resume.
SHORTCUTS. At most of the leading sites, which are free, applicants can enter keywords to make a potential employment match. The Monster Board lets job seekers click on "search shortcuts" to bring up entry-level positions, jobs in the great outdoors (national parks, ski slopes), and spots with health-care employers. When it launches a new version of its service in October, The Monster Board will E-mail applicants with information about jobs that meet their criteria. CareerMosaic has an international gateway section for finding jobs in Britain, Canada, and Asian countries.
The Net is also a great vehicle for people who have to relocate. The CareerPath.com site lets aspirants inspect the classified ads in 21 major newspapers, including The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and The Los Angeles Times. Candidates can use keywords to narrow their search, and, in most cases, Sunday's ads will appear by noon the previous Saturday. Some Web sites are trying to branch out from strict jobrelated information by including other community resources. For example, besides its employment content, OCC plans to offer data on the cost of living and schools in certain areas.
CONFIDENTIALITY. Most of the early batch of Internet postings called for software programmers, engineers, and other professionals with high-tech pedigrees. But today's job seekers can land positions in sales, teaching, nursing, almost anything. Roy Richmond of Hobart, Ind., found his job as a TGI Friday's restaurant manager by searching through the huge The Monster Board site, which boasts nearly 15,000 job postings. Bill Warren, president of OCC, says 62% of resumes posted at his site are of a technical nature, down from 94% in January, 1995.
Some sites are aimed at those just starting out in the workplace. JobWeb (http:// www.jobweb.org), which is backed by the National Association of Colleges & Employers, focuses on entrylevel positions. JobTrak (http://www.jobtrak.com) targets listings for college students and alumni at more than 400 institutions.
Of course, at the other end of the spectrum, not many chief executives are likely to move from one corner office to another by way of the Net. Michael Boxberger, president of Korn/Ferry International, an executive-recruiting firm, says his company still conducts high-level searches in the traditional manner. "But we're paying attention to the Internet," he says. In general, more and more top-ranked personnel are spending time plumbing for career assistance in cyberspace. Just over one-third of outplaced executives surveyed last winter by Lee Hecht Harrison, a career-services firm, said they were using the Internet in their search. More than half ferreted out job openings, while 46% researched companies, and 35% sent E-mail to contacts or potential employers. But only 19% posted their resumes on the Internet.
They're understandably concerned about preserving confidentiality. Certainly, people who are currently employed wouldn't want the boss to know they've been casting about for a better gig. One of the reasons Kristina Klein chose IntelliMatch, a Web site focused on employment opportunities at high-tech companies in the San Francisco Bay area, is that she could block her employer from reading her electronic resume. Klein found a job through IntelliMatch (http://www.intellimatch.com) as marketing communications manager at i-Planet, a computer company in Sunnyvale, Calif. Indeed, most of the leading career sites offer ways to protect a resume poster's privacy--or will soon.
Job seekers willing to distribute their resumes by computer should keep in mind the rules of the digital age. Stick to ASCII text (a plain-vanilla computer format) and avoid underlining, italics, and other graphics, says Joyce Lain Kennedy, co-author of The Electronic Resume Revolution ($12.95, John Wiley & Sons). Most employers scan in and electronically store resumes in a database. Fancy fonts and attached files might throw off a company's scanning gear and bring up a garbled version of the resume, says Liz Corey, human resources manager at Price Waterhouse Management Consulting Services in Philadelphia. Also, keep your cover letter short so a human-resources staffer won't have to page down the screen. If you feel compelled to strut your stuff on the Internet, put the bells and whistles on your personal home page, then refer to it on your resume. Actors can show off head shots, and journalists their writing samples.
The resume should contain specific keywords that an employer might use to match applicants to a slot. A stockbroker might use terms such as asset valuation or portfolio management system. A public-health-service manager could use elder care. Says Haft of HP: "We have 190,000 resumes in our database. So if we look for someone with an MBA in finance who has a CPA and inventory cost-analysis experience, people who have a greater match will appear first." If you are responding to a particular ad, follow the instructions to the letter. If you're not going after a specific opening, express your geographical preference or willingness to relocate.
CYBERMANNERS. Those who land an interview with a key executive might want to follow up with a short, zippy, E-Mail thank-you note. On the other hand, human-resources personnel may be besieged by E-Mail. If you haven't made contact with a company yet but learn the E-Mail address of some corporate bigwig from an acquaintance, it's O.K. to send an electronic missive that says, "I am getting in touch with you at the suggestion of...." But sending an unsolicited E-Mail to an executive who doesn't know you is a touchy matter. "It's the same thing as cold calling them," says Dixon.
The Internet provides great tools for anyone who is looking for work. And job-seekers who conduct a cybersearch, at the very least, demonstrate to employers a basic knowledge of personal computers. In today's fiercely competitive job market, every little advantage counts.