January 12, 2010
Digital Job Searching in the 2010s

Digital Job Searching in the 2010s

About 75 people attended tonight’s meeting. Josh Zapin facilitated and Jeremy Kohler recorded the minutes.


Applied Trust (www.appliedtrust.com) provides refreshments, Copy Diva (www.copydiva.com) provides the audio-visual equipment, NCAR (www.ncar.ucar.edu) provides the facility, and ONEWARE (www.oneware.com) sponsors these minutes.



Please welcome our new sponsor, Applied Trust, which is taking over from Microstaff to provide the refreshments. Thanks to Microstaff for its many years of support.

Applied Trust is also hiring people to help with security and performance products.


Thanks also to Brian at covervillemedia.com for creating the podcast.

Don’t forget that RMIUG is always looking for ideas for meeting topics. Would you like to be a speaker, or know someone that you can suggest? Bring your ideas to Josh.

Crispin Porter + Bogusky is looking for freelance backend and frontend developers in php, java, html, and flash. Send your resume to Alex (Alexandra) Gordon at agordon@cpbgroup.com.



A lot of people are using LinkedIn, job boards, and craigslist to find work. Colorado is actually doing better than most other states, officially around 7 percent unemployment compared to 10 percent nationally. There are lots of digital tools for job searching. Monster and Hotjobs displaced newspapers in the last recession (no surprise, as these are better, more efficient technologies). But this recession, social networking is becoming a major component. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are important in this. Some interesting stats: 28.5 percent of LinkedIn’s audience are job seekers--so people who go to LinkedIn are pretty likely to be looking for jobs. Are there other trends beyond LinkedIn?

Liz Ryan has been called “the voice of the new-millennium workplace.” Liz works with employers, universities, and human resources thought leaders on the changing nature of work and employment. She advises working people through her columns, blogs, radio commentaries, podcasts, and the Ask Liz Ryan online community. Her columns reach more than 40 million readers every month, and her presentations across the U.S. and abroad bring Liz’s pithy, down-to-earth observations and humor to corporate, university, and association audiences. Liz works with a team of national thought leaders who share the Ask Liz Ryan mission.


Ask Liz Ryan: www.asklizryan.com
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Around 1995 to 2000, newspapers became irrelevant for job seekers. They were replaced by job boards like Monster.com out of Maynard, MA. Monster was excited about putting classifieds out of business. Now Craigslist is eating Monster’s lunch.

Monster charged $495 for an employer to place an ad. For that you get REACH, which benefits the employer, not you. This reach makes applying through Monster like playing the lottery. And I’d say the lottery is a better bet. For example, at least lotteries are required by law to actually distribute the money; on Monster, the job you apply for might not even exist. Thousands of people could apply, and every one of them could get a no thank you letter. Why post a nonexistent job? The employer is testing the market, basically doing free market research.

The second reason you shouldn’t bother with Monster is the Black Hole Problem: What comes out of a black hole? Nothing. (Well, actually Hawking radiation comes out, but let’s not nitpick). Everything that goes into the Black Hole gets shredded. This is not a volume problem--your resume could hold its own against hundreds of others. The problem is HR doesn't actually see every resume. HR just grabs a few, and yours is not likely to be among them. Monster, CareerBuilder, and HotJobs have no capability to communicate with job seekers as a group, or at least this feature didn't exist in 2005. That means nobody cares. It tells us something about the mindset that was behind those job sites.

So imagine you get laid off from Sun like just about everyone in here. Then I saw the perfect job, and I applied through the Black Hole. True story: the person applied at 8 pm. At 9 pm he gets an autoresponder saying he's not qualified. The next morning, the autoresponder suggests applying for a food service position. Huh? Eventually he manages to talk to the recruiter, and the recruiter says “I'm so under the gun to deliver candidates, I set the site to reject everyone. I only do real recruiting on LinkedIn. You see, I only posted it on the Black Hole because it’s a government requirement. Good thing you called.” Think of it as a goofy “Gary Larson” amoeba (remember The Far Side?) who's looking at your resume in the Black Hole. This is reptilian-level processing. Your amoeba is only looking at keywords. You have to be in the lucky 10 percent that happens to get looked at and has the right keywords. These are very bad odds, and it’s not worth it.

It's fairly black and white for me:

The bad: Monster plus applicant tracking systems (amoebas). If you don't have the right keywords, you're screwed. Content and context is missing. Who did you work for and what difference did your work make for the business? Nobody asks that.

The good: Monster/CareerBuilder/HotJobs/Craigslist: Use them for research only. It's a booby trap with no pot of gold in there. It doesn't work for you, it doesn't work for the hiring managers (that’s right, they hate it too). So use the Black Hole sites to do research that helps you find the person with the need: That’s the hiring manager. The best way to find that hiring manager is use LinkedIn, Google, Zoomingo, and Hoovers. Once you’ve identified the company, use Google News and blogs to research the company.

What about “Don't call us?” HR people are process people who don't want you going around them. Forget them, they exist to screen people out.

When doing your research, what do you want to know?

What is the company's state?

Who is the decisionmaker?

Well, it’s shockingly easy to find this info, although it can be a bit harder for small companies.

Get on some listservs:

NoCoNet alumni list.




LinkedIn Answers: Post a question about a company. Or have your friend post it for you if you want to keep anonymous.


For example, you could google “director IT security companyxyz” (i.e. the most likely title for your hiring manager). Why would they pop up? They might have presented somewhere or they wrote something. I’d say they pop up 60 percent of the time.


Or you might find the name on LinkedIn’s company list.

How do you contact a hiring manager once you find one?

1: Through a friend. A LinkedIn feature called “Get Introduced Through a Connection.” Remember that everyone is focused on their own PAIN. What's the most likely problem that the director of IT security has? Read the job ad, between the lines. All the qualification requirements are a smokescreen for the real pain. Remember that CFOs are not approving openings right now without dire pain. So figure what the pain likely is, then mention the pain through a relevant anecdote about fixing the pain. The briefer the better. You have to talk about them, not you. As in, “I know your pain, and by the way here’s how I solved it once before.” That’s the only place where you can something about yourself. I give it a 40 percent chance someone would respond to that.


2: Through a snail mail pain letter.

3: Call them on the phone. This isn't really scary. It's not scary because you’re talking about their pain. “Do you have a dragon you need to slay?” If you can name the appropriate dragon, you’ve got it. You’re not selling anything, you’re just inquiring. “My research led me to believe you're having this problem.

Be careful not to give away any free consulting. Some hiring managers will bring someone in for a two hour interview, get some really good information, and then not hire the person. So when talking to a hiring manager, provide minute detail about your own dragon slaying but give nothing about their particular problem. You interview them about the pain. How bad is it, how much is it costing?


Remember to ignore the spec. The list of qualifications is a smokescreen. Don't write a letter about the spec. The spec is about laziness on the part of the person writing it.


Back to the technology:

So you want to go around the Black Hole. What about a blind ad that doesn’t identify the company? Unblind the ad by googling unique phrases in the ad. Ad writers reuse their own boilerplate all the time.

Then go right to the company.


With recruiters and head hunters, it’s all about the spec. So that makes them just another Black Hole.


These people often work on a contingency search, that is, they don’t get paid unless the job gets filled. So they don’t want to talk to you unless you meet the spec.


Others work on retainer, which is at higher level, and they will talk to you. These are kind of like salaried people.


You're less appealing coming through a headhunter because the employer has to pay the headhunter fee. So don’t give your resume to a headhunter unless you know and trust them. That’s because when you’re listed with headhunters, it puts a deficit on your head. Some will spread your resume around, which makes it even worse. You’re far better to go to the hiring manager directly.


So do your research on LinkedIn, the company’s web site zoominfo, LinkedIn answers, listservs, and Google. Then reach out. Don’t bother with your own blog. Just comment on other people’s blogs.


Some jobs are advertised with an application deadline, or a time-out. Makes you think you gotta get in before the job disappears. But you don’t. Typically, a gazillion resumes come in all at once and no one has time to look at them right away. Then reality sets in as they start interviewing people; the people don’t match the paper. They start to wise up. So it’s not about speed. If you submit right away, you’re in the throng with everyone else. It's ok to wait even two or three weeks. After you apply (assuming you’re forced to use the Black Hole), continue to do your research and maybe you'll find a way in. Maybe you'll discover the real pain.


We have to take a chance to really name the pain. Is it red tape? Bureaucracy? Sometimes the hiring manager will tell you to reapply to the Black Hole (which they also hate) in such a way so that your resume actually comes out of it.


Don’t forget: There are people out there that need you today, and they are desperate for you to solve their problems.


What about the desired salary question?


The Black Hole wants to know your employment and salary history. This is useless information that has nothing to do with what you’re worth. So, you need to know what you’re worth on the market. Find out with Salary.com, Payscale.com, and Glassdoor.com. There you’ll find actual salaries, CEO ratings, etc.


Never tell the company what you earned. Let’s say you want $60k. Just put that in every salary history box. Then comment: “All salary figures reported in this form reflect my salary target.”


If they ask what you currently earn, say that your focusing on jobs in the $60k range, and if that’s not feasible, then we shouldn’t talk. Never give anyone a W-2 form.


Audience comment: Or you can say confidentiality agreements prevent disclosure of my salary.


LinkedIn: Most people have only one contact because someone asked them to sign up. You need LinkedIn. Don’t put your resume on Black Hole sites like Monster. Recruiters will steal it and spread it around. LinkedIn is the replacement for Monster. It’s your own billboard, with 50 million users. It’s the largest business networking site. Be there and have a network around you.


LinkedIn provides two-way networking, unlike Twitter. You have first-, second-, and third-degree connections, and you can reach all of them. Your third-degree network can be very large. This networking works like an exponential function.


Make sure you have a really wonderful profile. Fill it out. The headline is very important: That’s what shows up in search results. Headline should include what you do and the fact that you’re looking for work. Example: “Front-end graphic designer seeking next challenge.” Keep it human, and don’t cram in keywords.


LinkedIn jobs is a big improvement over the Black Holes because postings are posted by real people--each posting is attached to a profile.


Other places to look include Indeed.com and SimplyHired.com--these are aggregators with millions of jobs.


Contract opportunities:

Most freelance sites are a waste of time. Usually these jobs are handled by an agency. But it’s the same strategy even when you’re looking for contract work: Find the hiring manager and figure out what their pain is.


A note about timing:

Let’s say you’re targeting a particular company for an IT job, and you can make a reasonable guess that is has 400 employees. From that, you can assume around 5 people in IT. You can also assume, based on average turnover, that each of these employees lasts around 2 years. That translates to 2 openings per year. So when do you apply? ANY TIME. The hiring manager will have the pain before anything gets on paper. Get to them before they write up a spec. It’s a gamble of course, but there’s no down side. Write and see if the guy has a dragon. Remember posted job openings are a red herring.



Never try and negotiate the contract and hire at the same time. The contract is your opportunity to figure out what the pain is. Don’t box yourself into hiring details.


Back to LinkedIn:

The building blocks are Profile, Connections, and using the site for Research. Put up a friendly photo to help keep it human. In the profile summary, be human and write conversationally. Tell a story. Don’t take the tired “results-oriented professional with a proven track record...” approach. Don’t write this dreck. Try starting with “I love...” This totally changes your relationship with the reader. Put in your keywords, but tell it in a story. Stories help people understand the logic of where you are. Also fill out the Specialties field with keywords.


When you’re done with your profile, here’s the process:


1. Connections. Send out invitations. Upload your address book--it's ok, you have control. You can then find out who is already on LinkedIn. Do a customized invitation message (it’s easy to miss the box for “customize invitation”).


2. Colleagues and Classmates: Find those people too. You can invite them without knowing their e-mail address. You really want to customize those invitations so you don’t get people reporting that they don’t know you--get three of those and you lose invitation privileges. So customize each one to ensure they remember you.


3. Add connections manually. Name and e-mail address. Always click “Edit Invitation” before sending.


4. Groups: You can join up to 50 groups (of 450,000). Even RMIUG is a group. This lets you contact people directly in your groups.


Always look at Answers. You can use what someone else wrote as an opening for a conversation with that person. Invite them to talk on the phone about something they care about. It’s worth getting used to that kind of thing.


My prescription:

1/3 responding to posted jobs

1/3 targeted outreach

1/3 networking




Q: I responded to a recruiter, and he asked me connect via LinkedIn. Now I'm suspicious.
A: Recruiters are the LinkedIn power users, and I wouldn’t worry about it too much. But it is possible there was no job.

Q: Where do I put my employment history on LinkedIn?
A: That’s what the Summary is for. You put in what you want to do there, so the history isn’t important any more.

Q: Don’t put a resume on Monster? Really? I got a job that way.
A: If you do post on a Black Hole, the key is not to put any personal information in there that would allow people to identify you. Instead, include a LinkedIn profile link instead.

Also check out our workshops at asklizryan.com.

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