Online Job Searches: As Many Dead Ends as Fast Lanes

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By Mary Ellen Slayter
Sunday, August 31, 2008

Acouple of weeks ago, I asked you to share which Web sites had become indispensable in your job searches -- and which ones were driving you crazy.

Professional résumé writer Wallace Holland's favorite site is also the one that frustrates him most often: USAJobs.gov, the federal government's primary job site.

"This site is supposed to be the one-stop for federal jobs. However, some agencies . . . listed on this site have their own separate application procedures, which means job seekers will have to complete the entire registration and profile input process again for those agencies, which don't use the USAJobs format," Holland, who lives in the District, wrote in a recent e-mail.

"Copying and pasting text directly into each field at USAJobs and the other federal job sites can take as long as three hours per site. Also, some jobs that do not meet the criteria specified in the search agents occasionally are referred. If applicants do not review each listing carefully, they could waste time applying for a job for which they are not eligible. Finally, federal agencies that use this site to recruit applicants can take weeks, even months to make selections."

Elizabeth S. Biehn, a human resources director who lives in Alexandria, has used a variety of job sites, reporting mixed luck. "I had high hopes for JobFox, but found that HR jobs are not a hot ticket with them," she wrote. Another site, HR Ladder, had more relevant listings, but they were often posted late, she said. "With one position, the hiring folks were already down to their two top candidates when they received my résumé."

Other job sites, such as those for the Society for Human Resources Management and CEO Update, have proved fairly reliable, she said, "but I really think that I will find my next challenge via friends and colleagues."

Robert Gluck of Herndon has also turned to a variety of sites in his search for a position as a Web site manager/information architect. "My favorite site by far is CareerBuilder.com. It is easy to use, easy on the eyes and just seems to find the type of positions I'm looking for," he said. "That said, I haven't gotten any actual interviews yet via anything I've applied to through CareerBuilder, but at least it doesn't drive me crazy."

What does drive him crazy: Monster.com. "It is busy, hard on the eyes, and just doesn't seem to generate the leads I want," he said. "Also, their daily e-mail notifications are really hard to read."

Another nonstarter: "WorkTree.com is awful, and I regret the money I spent registering on that site."

He praises the usability of LinkedIn's job search, but he hasn't gotten many leads from it. Ditto for The Washington Post's job site, which he described as "pretty efficient and useful."

Freelancers have their own preferences. Jay Boucher, a Web professional who lives in Hoboken, N.J., recommends Krop.com, which specializes in creative and tech jobs. "It has such a clean design and simple search that it's a joy to use," he said, "and the postings are very good."

He said he's just begun tinkering with eLance. "I've registered but haven't bid on any projects," he said. "Before you make your first bid you have to complete a test, which includes watching 20 minutes of video on 'eLance University.' The process is foreign to me, and I haven't had the time to learn and sort out all the info. It has a complex interface, with lots of filtering tools."

The competitors to the big Internet job sites often tout their ability to provide better matches using their proprietary software, but not all of you are impressed with such tools. Antonio Lozada of Herndon recently started using JobFox to search for jobs, but so far he hasn't found that it finds matches that are any better than what he could find on more established sites.

And there's another downside to "better" matching, he wrote in a recent e-mail. "You have to fill out an extensive questionnaire (personality test included.)" he said.

Finally, no matter what site you use, hang on to your skepticism, as Kenniss Henry of Cheverly found.

Henry, a project manager, said she applied for a "seemingly great opportunity" she saw in an ad on Craigslist -- but the response she received suggested that the ad was a scam.

She doesn't blame the host site. "I recognize that Craigslist is not responsible," she said, "and that no one can scrutinize everyone who posts to their Web site."

But before you send someone your personal information through a Web site -- any Web site -- you should do so.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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