Saturday, February 6, 2010

To Friends, Spouses, and Parents of Job Seekers Part 2 – Approaches to Finding a Job

This multiple part series is not addressed to job seekers. Instead it is directed to the friends, spouses, and parents of job seekers. They want to help their job seeker loved ones and just do not know where to start or, with the kindest intentions, are doing the wrong thing.

Job seekers: Do yourself a favor and to your circle of support by forwarding the link or giving a hard copy of this series to your friends, spouse, and / or parents so they will know how to support you in your job search.

Dear friends, spouse, and parents of a current job seeker:

Nothing feels as helpless as wanting to help a loved one in a job search and not knowing where to begin. In the case of the spouse, the job transition impacts you directly as well. Knowledge is strength.

Part 1 shared the realities of the new job market that the job seeker is facing. The job market has drastically changed and the job seeker must adapt to successfully land that next job.

Part 2 covers the various approaches used in finding a job and the success rate for each so you know what is required of the job seeker.

In Part 3 we will share ideas on how to (and how not to) be supportive of your job seeker.

Approaches to Finding a Job
There are a number of approaches that a job seeker can employ to find a job opportunity. The following details each one.

Job Fairs

Television news, newspapers, and other media frequently announce job fairs that are being held in town. Each job fair is sponsored by a company, governmental agency, or a job fair organizer. There is usually no charge to job seekers for attending these events. There may, though, be a fee to the employers for hosting booths / tables in order to participate at the event. These fees are used to help offset the costs associated with sponsoring the fair; rarely are the fees sufficient to make a profit.

To make the most of job fairs, the job seeker should contact the fair sponsor and get a list of hiring companies that will be participating at the event and the total number and types of jobs these employers will be hiring for.

In today’s job market, there are many more people looking for jobs than there are jobs so there is no shortage of resumes coming into the company from other sources. It usually isn’t necessary, or the best use of an employers’ money and their employees’ time, to host booths at job fairs. The biggest benefit is the good will the company generates by taking part in such an event.

Many jobs seekers know firsthand that at such events, the companies’ representatives do not have time to speak to each and every candidate that approaches the booth. Usually the employees take a copy of the candidate’s resume, adding it to a pile of others, and encourage every candidate to apply on-line.

Many job fairs are staffed by universities, technical schools, and outplacement firms to sell their services. The military sometimes has a presence with the goal to recruit and government agencies are there to attract candidates that otherwise would not have considered a government job. It is a great idea for job seekers to supplement their skills or to get assistance with the job search if needed. The military is a great place to have a career, to get training and experience. A Job seeker just doesn’t have to stand in line and wade through crowds of people to consider those options or to be told to apply on-line. The time might be better spent using other approaches.

School Career Fairs

A corporate recruiter told me that her company hires more frequently from school / university career fairs then normal job fairs. Recent graduates have training on the latest technologies or techniques. By being recent graduates without a lot of job experience, they do not cost the company as much as job seekers with years of job experience and higher salary expectations.

Even if the job seeker is not a recent graduate, he can still contact his school to get information about upcoming career fairs and, unless otherwise specified, can make use of the opportunity by attending. He should still request a list of participating companies and the number and types of jobs they will be hiring for.

Newspaper Ads

Newspapers used to be a key method of identifying companies who are hiring and the positions that are open. Watch any old TV show or movie and the want ads were the first place job seekers turned to for this information. Those days are over. Companies are deploying other methods (such as the on-line job boards) to get the word out. What used to be page after page of “Help Wanted” ads, now in some papers barely takes up two columns.

The Internet Job Boards

The positions that used to be posted in the newspaper are now posted on the commercial job boards (ex. Monster, CareerBuilder) or on individual company web sites. There are listing aggregators (ex. that scan other sites including on-line newspaper postings and compile a comprehensive list of open positions.

Many companies are now utilizing software that scans resumes for certain keywords. If a resume does not have the acceptable percentage of keywords, the resume is disregarded. Of the remaining qualified resumes, the person responsible for selecting candidates for an interview may take the resumes from the top of the pile, or from the middle to review. It can be pure chance that a resume is selected for review even if it passed the scanning software.


Some companies pay recruiting firms to help identify qualified candidates. Since the company pays for this service, there is no charge to the job seeker.

Note: there are some recruiting firms that charge a fee, usually a substantial one, to job seekers and say they guarantee they will find them a job. No one can make the claim that they can guarantee the person will get a job unless the recruiting firm hires them; that would be the only jobs they control. They usually mean a portion of the fee is refundable if the candidate does not find a job. Many consumer advocates and job search experts suggest staying clear of this type of recruiter.

Before the advent of resume scanning software, companies leveraged recruiters to help weed through the flood of resumes to find the best candidate for the job. Recruiters then present a number of candidates that fit the bill. The recruiter doesn’t really care which of the candidates are eventually hired; they just want a happy customer – the company. When a job seeker uses a recruiter exclusively to find her a job, she is putting the job search in the hands of someone whose interest is not that of the candidate’s but instead the company’s who is paying for their services.


I had to fight the impulse to call networking a new approach to finding a job. In fact, networking has been around since the dawn of man (and woman). Networking is not complicated. It is merely having a friend or contact who knows and likes the job seeker suggest that they talk to another person the contact knows who is looking for a person with those skills or qualities. Whether it is a family member, a friend of a friend, or a new contact, many jobs were and are found going through someone who knows someone.

Comparing Approaches

In order to make a wise decision about which approach the job seeker should use, we should look at the success rates associated with each. Job seekers are successful finding jobs using each of these approaches. Knowing the success rates for each will help job seekers know where to spend the bulk of their time.

We have already discussed how job fairs yield low results because candidates have very little time with company representatives, their resumes are added to a pile of others, and are directed to apply on-line which they could have done without attending.

School career fairs yield a bit more success than regular job fairs yet since these are only scheduled periodically, the job seeker doesn’t want to count on that approach solely for finding a job.

The biggest problem with newspaper ads and the internet job boards is that only 15% of the available jobs are listed. Many companies do not post all of their available jobs. The 85% of the jobs not posted is referred to as the “hidden” job market.

In part, the hidden job market is because some companies would rather have employee referrals as the method to bring in qualified candidates instead of posting the position and getting flooded with resumes where many of the applicants are not anywhere near qualified. Why would a job seeker apply for a position they are not qualified for? They are under the misguided concept that Human Resources (HR) or the hiring manager will look at the resume and take the time to find another position for them within the company.

In some cases a position is not posted because there is a person serving in that role already who is about to be let go for performance reasons and, if the position was posted, the existing employee may see it and tip the company’s hand.

Another reason a position may not be posted is that the company knows what skills they need, they are just not ready yet to start the laborious process of receiving resumes and fielding phone calls.

Whatever the reason, the majority of open positions will not be found in the paper or on the internet.

The most frequently quoted statics for people who are successful getting a job by applying to ads from newspapers or on-line on the internet is less than 10% and remember only 15% of the jobs are posted. Not good odds.

15% is the success rate most frequently quoted for people finding a job through recruiters and the recruiter’s goal is to make the company happy, not necessarily to find a job for a particular candidate.

The best success rate by approach for finding a job is through networking. 75% of job seekers find job opportunities through networking and it is through networking that the job seeker will find the hidden job market.

Are we suggesting that job seekers not go to job or school career fairs, not apply to ads, and not use recruiters? Not at all. What is recommended is that job seekers spend a proportional amount of time using a particular approach based on its success rate. Therefore 75% or more of a job seeker’s time should be spent on networking and no more than 10% of their time applying to on-line ads.

Too many job seekers limit themselves to applying on-line and months or years later are still baffled that they have not found a job. Is it the easiest way to apply for a job? Certainly! It just is not the most effective approach and could greatly lengthen the time it takes to find a job. A person can drive a horse and buggy on the interstate and eventually get to where he is going; he will just not get there as fast as he would if he drove a car.

Where to Network

As we discussed, networking is the most successful approach to finding job opportunities. Developing and leveraging contacts is the key.

Level 1 Contacts – Level 1 contacts are those that the job seeker knows well. This is family, friends, former co-workers etc.

Level 2 Contacts – Level 2 contacts are those that level 1 contacts know or people the job seeker knows, just not as well. These include friends and contacts of parents, the spouse, and friends of friends, as well as the job seeker’s doctor, dentist, hair stylist / barber, or people from clubs, associations, and activities in which the job seeker is involved.

It is typical for a job seeker to leverage her level 1 & 2 contacts and not get a qualified lead. For many reasons, it is beneficial for the job seeker to increase her contacts. That is true even once she has landed that new job – but we will cover that in the next article after this series.

There are a number of ways to develop new contacts.

Job Networking Groups

In almost every city there are numerous job networking groups. Many are church based; others are not. Crossroads Career Network is one nationwide job networking group. I am affiliated with Crossroads and lead the chapter at my church.

In addition to developing new contacts, the benefits of a job networking group include:

* Learning new job search tips
* Sharing experiences with other job seekers
* Receiving encouragement during the job search

Job seekers should not limit themselves to job networking groups though because most of the people in attendance are also in a job transition. Although they usually have information about companies that are hiring, they are not the hiring managers.

Industry Networking Groups

Networking groups, whether based on skills (PMI for Project manager, IIBA for Business analyst for instance) or based on industry (SHRM for HR) are target rich environments for networking. Most of the people in attendance are employed and may include hiring managers or employees looking for people to refer for one of the positions in their company.

Job seekers in Atlanta GA are fortunate to have a guide published by the Atlanta Business Chronicle titled The Book of Organizations (not to be confused with the Book of Lists). The Book of Organizations contains the industry networking groups in the metro Atlanta area. I did not find another city’s Business Journal that published a similar list. (If you know of any, let me know by sending an e-mail to

Other Contacts

Every daily interaction is an opportunity to develop a new contact. It just requires the job seeker to get out of the house and interact with others.

Volunteerism is a great way to establish contacts while helping others. It may also be an opportunity to hone existing skills or develop new ones.

Job seekers need to make a calendar of events to attend in the coming weeks. The plan gives them a goal as well as a sense of accomplishment as they mark things complete. Getting from behind the computer and getting out with other people also helps the job seeker feel connected and not as alone in the job search.

Especially for spouses, it is hard to understand why the job seeking spouse must be away in the evenings after going out so often to meet someone for coffee or lunch. The fact is that most networking events are held before or after work. In the case of the industry network meetings, that is because most of the attendees work and therefore the events have to be held during non-work times. Although job networking groups are attended primarily by people in a job transition, the volunteers usually are employed and therefore have to hold the meetings before or after they go to work. Either way it takes away valuable family time. Understand it is necessary that the job seeker attend such events. In Part 3, I’ll share some ideas on how to find a balance in the schedule, time for networking and time for family or the spouse.

We have discussed how different the job market is than ever before. Just like the home phone, the job market has gone through a metamorphosis and there is no looking back. It changed, we didn’t get a vote. We just have to learn how it changed so the job seeker and those who support and encourage them can adapt to it.

We discussed the various approaches your loved one has to find the job opportunities and the success rates associated with each.

Now that you have an understanding of the new job market and what it requires, in Part 3 we’ll discuss various ways you (the friend, spouse, or parent of a job seeker) can be supportive and helpful to your loved one in the job search process. We will also caution against some pitfalls that well intentioned supporters fall into when trying to be helpful that actually hurt more than help.

Copyright RightChanges, LLC.

No comments:

Post a Comment