Five tips on conducting an effective job search online

Searching and applying for jobs online is becoming increasingly popular among Canadian knowledge workers today.

Businesses too have started to post positions – not just on the traditional online job boards – but also on social media sites, such as Twitter, LinkedIn or Craigslist.

While the number of online job seekers has increased, only a few are successful in landing that coveted interview.

Career coaches say there are very definite things online job hunters should, and shouldn’t, do to convey a professional image– and enhance their chances of getting called for an interview.

Technology can certainly help convey this professionalism, but only if used correctly, they say.

“They way you use technology speaks volumes about your skills, style, ability to connect with future employers, and your manners,” said Richard Bayer, chief operating officer of The Five O’Clock Club, a career coaching network in New York.

Bayer is author of The Good Person Guidebook: Transforming Your Personal Life.

He said the content of our messages sends subtle, and sometimes not so subtle signals to a prospective employer that can “improve or derail our chances of getting an interview and ultimately landing that job.”

A person who pays attention to technology etiquette, or netiquette, sets themselves apart from scores of other job applicants who are careless in this regard, he says.

Here are five main tips job hunters should keep in mind when using the Internet for their search.

1. Try the traditional route first

Interestingly, Bayer suggests it often helps to send your résumé the old-fashioned way: via snail mail. “A little bit of old with a little bit of new is the thing to do.”

While technology has made it easier and more efficient to e-mail your résumé to potential employers, Bayer says hiring mangers pay greater attention to applications that are physically in front of them.

Using the traditional mail service for the original point of contact allows your application to stand out from the rest and ensures your message isn’t accidentally deleted or sent to the junk box.

Hiring managers receive hundreds of e-mails a day and many applicants are under-qualified and unsuited for the job. So it’s quite possible for a hiring manager to either miss your online application message or delete it accidentally.

Snail mail also lets you make an impression with superior paper quality, typeface or layout, Bayer said, while most e-mail applications will all appear standard.

The ubiquity of e-mail means you may be the only one sending your copy in paper form – increasing your chances of standing out and getting noticed, he said.

One absolute no-no for first contact, which is more dangerous than sending an e-mail, is to try and instant message a potential employer.

Instant messaging is a permission-based concept, Bayer said. Seeking out and using a hiring manager’s IM is rude and intrusive and should be off-limits to job seekers, the same holds true for personal social networking sites, such as Facebook.

2. Follow up with an e-mail

After dropping your cover letter and résumé into the mail box, you can then use to technology and follow up with an e-mail to ensure your package was received.

Hiring decisions are often made very quickly and postal mail may not be fast enough to slip your message in before the selection is made.

E-mail is also the appropriate tool to use when contacting someone who was referred to you through a mutual friend or member of your network.

But Bayer advises putting that friend’s name in the subject line to ensure your e-mail isn’t automatically deleted.

“Remember that you should spend just as much time crafting your e-mail as you would a traditional letter,” says Bayer. “E-mails are often scanned or read quickly, and they are easily misinterpreted.”

Jacqueline Whitmore, author of Business Class Etiquette: Essentials for Success at Work, says e-mails should be treated as a formal business letter. “Err on the side of formality,” is her advice.

E-mails, said Whitmore, should have a subject line, be well-written, and ensure accuracy of spelling and grammar. Follow-up should take place within 48 hours and reiterate why you are good for the job, as well as how you feel you can contribute to their company.

“Some suggest sending follow up notes by hand, but many companies store files electronically and a hand-written note could be misplaced or forgotten when your package is being reviewed.”

Surprisingly, many applicants also forget to include contact information, she said. Job seekers should ensure their information is up to date, accurate and includes a phone number and e-mail address that you can be reached at.

“It’s important to follow the small steps and pay attention to etiquette because they make a big impact,” she said. “Job seekers are evaluating you at every step of the way and if you are not managing your manners in the beginning, they may not believe you have the communication skills they desire.”

3. Don’t rely too much on mobile devices

Blackberries are glued to the thumbs of many professionals and a lot of people rely on their technology for most of their daily correspondence.

However, the typical mobile message has at least two typos, because it is composed in a hurry and in quick reaction to an inbound e-mail, Bayer said.

If you want to appear thoughtful, sit down and carefully craft an e-mail, use spell-check and proof-read everything you send to a potential employer. Remember, e-mails sent from Blackberries are stamped with their logo.

Mobile phones should also be avoided for phone interviews, he said. Sound quality and transmission are sometimes unreliable and could annoy an interviewer.

Cell phones, said Bayer, can be used for setting up or changing an appointment, only. If you don’t have a landline – ensure you are in a location that is quiet to avoid having to shout.

And job seekers should also always carry a pen and pad to write down information about a job interview. “Asking your interviewer to e-mail you information is a huge no-no.”

Avoid calling a hiring manager on his or her cell phone. Cell phones are for friends and families – not for job seekers, he said.

4. Make smart use of social networks

Professional networking Web sites, such as LinkedIn, help you build a network and stay in touch with folk who are well-connected in your industry, Bayer noted.

Networking, he said, is really the “bread and butter” of the job search. Keeping in touch with people you meet should be top priority, because you never know when someone’s company may be looking to hire.

He said posting your information on LinkedIn or on job sites will help hiring managers find you, but this should not be your only job search method.

You should also be reaching out to users in your friends’ networks and introducing yourself through direct networking, Bayer said.

“Remember if you can hit send, so can a million other people,” he said. “Don’t overestimate the power of the Web”

5. Pay attention to your digital footprint

Common sense goes a long way in improving netiquette – especially in enhancing your online reputation.

With employers are turning to the Internet for information about job seekers, it’s important for applicants to Google their own names, clean up their social networking profiles and improve their professional reputation online, said Igor Abramovitch, division director of consulting services at Robert Half Technology in Toronto.

If you belong to a personal networking site, such as Facebook, change your privacy settings, he said.

Applicants, said Abramovitch, can monitor other sites by setting up alerts or RSS feeds so they receive an e-mail notification whenever their name is mentioned anywhere on the Web.

If a lot of information that’s posted can’t be removed, or another person by the same name and similar stats as you posts unflattering material online, it might be wise to mention that in your interview, Abramovitch said.

“The biggest piece of advice I can give is to assume anything you post online could become public. Even if it is in a restricted group now, it may be moved or privacy settings could change. So be very mindful of what you’re putting on the Web.”

Applicants can also actively improve their online footprint by participating in industry-related sites that encourage collaboration, such as commenting on blogs, commenting on articles or making suggestions online when users ask for input.

Web sites such as ZoomInfo allow users to post information about themselves, he said, so users should consider these, as well as any other industry-specific sites for networking, in addition to using LinkedIn.

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