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7 ways to better your online job search
Matchmaking has always been dicey. More so when it involves connecting the right person to the right job.
The Internet was supposed to simplify this. With a plethora of Web sites, falling access costs and a booming job market, the dream offer was just a click away. Unfortunately, however, so is rejection. With a few simple guidelines though, it is possible to dramatically improve your chances of getting hired.
One: Find the right site
Not all job sites are created equal. Some specialise in IT jobs, others in overseas postings. While they may claim to provide a bouquet of jobs across sectors, they will invariably have quality openings in only two to three areas -- for example, banking, technology or retail. So, if you are aware of the sectors you want to target, getting a quick purview of the companies, number and types of posts on a site is a good first step. If you have a friend who received an offer through the site in your area of interest, that is even better.
On occasion, if a company has very large requirements and recruits thousands, it will have standardized forms in the career section of its Web site. In such cases, applying directly at the company site is better than applying from a job site.
Two: Understand the site
Every job site offers unique ways to help you. Getting familiar with these options is of utmost importance. All job sites will have a form that enables you to search for jobs you are interested in. If you are aware of how it works, check for an advanced search option. This will help you sharpen your focus as you can specify many more criteria.
Another critical area is Alerts. Certain sites will allow you to set an alert for postings in a particular sector. The moment a new job appears, you will be notified by e-mail or SMS. This helps if the response time required is very short. Most importantly, these sites help in letting you decide who sees your profile and what part of it -- say if you don't want your current company to see if you are applying to a new job, or you do not want a recruiter to see your mobile number. Both are possible if you know the site well.
Says Michael Bala, Business Head at Clickjobs.com, "Applicants are concerned about their privacy, and rightly so. We allow applicants to filter out recruiters from certain companies in a sector if they wish."
Three: Know how companies search
With millions of resumes and thousands of companies online, the question arises: how do they find each other?
Usually, companies will specify the minimum requirements for a job. Areas such as minimum work experience, marks obtained, and cities where the job is available, are clearly highlighted. When a company sifts through applications, these will be the qualifying criteria in the filter. For example, if the job needs two years of work experience, and you have one, as the filter is set to two, your application may not be highlighted.
A good way to negotiate such filters is to state a justifiable higher number. So, if you have 1.5 years with a six-month internship with a reputed organisation, it may be a good idea to list your experience as two years.
Unfortunately, this works only if there is a slight gap in your CV and the minimum criteria. If you do not clear any of the requirements by a wide margin, it's best to look elsewhere. In addition, you will have to justify the numbers in the next round. This carries risk and the judgment is entirely that of the recruiters. So, if the internship column is a separate one, or there is a written rule stating that it is not allowed, then the right approach is obvious.
Four: Spend time on keywords
This is an extension of the earlier point. By creating a complex query, companies are able to find exactly what they want with select keywords. The trick is to anticipate what keywords the company will search for and put them in your resume.
Suppose you are applying for a marketing position, words such as "customer interaction" and "sales experience" naturally improve the odds. Similarly, for a managerial position, the chances increase if words like "leadership" or "led a team" are present. For a specific position or sector, there will be special keywords that only those with experience can tell, but it helps to remember the strategy of having the right keywords.
The strategy also applies when you are searching for an opening. "Even while searching for a job, one should use variants of a keyword," says Vinny Ganju from the marketing team at Naukri.com. "For example, an IT sector candidate will typically look for only Java, but should also search for J2EE and other terms. The same goes for searching by location and other parameters."
Five: Personalise your CV
As creating a resume involves so much effort and applying is so easy, we often use the same CV for different jobs. Recruiters are, however, immediately able to differentiate a standard resume and one created with specific job requirements in mind.
So, should you spam your CV for each job, or make a new one every time you apply?
The middle road is to take the same basic document and create three or four similar versions depending where you want to apply. Selected sites such as Clickjobs.com or Naukri.com allow the creation of up to five templates, in addition to uploading your own version.
Say you are looking at a career in retailing. When you apply to several bookstores, you could highlight your literary interests. If malls are what you are after, a modified template could emphasise how you like to help people find what they want or how you want to study the science of shopping.
Six: Know the actual recruiter
Often, the person viewing your CV is not the person offering the job. Typically, at the very high end and the very low end, companies will hire placement agents to shortlist resumes meeting their requirements. At the high end are senior positions, where confidentiality is of prime consideration for applicants and recruiters. On the lower side, if the volume of CVs to be judged is high, a company's HR department will outsource the data to a placement consultant.
With a placement agent, the aim is to get through to the recruiter. So, while handling placement agents, it's a good idea to remember that they are gatekeepers to the recruiter who will have the final negotiating power. However, the placement agent can help in considerable time-saving if you ask for broad hints about the recruiter's overall plans. This additional information given by the consultant without compromising confidentiality of either party can be a big help in viewing the larger picture.
Seven: Offline tie-ups and support services?
Many job sites have strong offline tie-ups. For example, "Naukri.com has a tie up with a leading newspaper," says Ganju. "We also extensively participate in events such as job fairs, special sector specific recruitment drives, etc. In addition, many support services such as resume writing, interview tips, etc are also offered."
All these greatly increase the chances of landing the right offer and need to be evaluated when posting your CV to a site. On the flip side, putting your resume involves sharing a great deal of personal information. You need to be sure that the site shows only the required data and to the necessary people. If the site does data sharing with other organisations, care needs to be exercised. After all, getting a free credit card when you applied for a job is unlikely to make you very happy.
Contrary to popular perception, then, searching for jobs online has its costs. While putting up your CV is usually free, the effort invested in understanding the web, searching and applying can take a lot out of you. Besides, add the cost of opportunity on other things lost, the cost of net access if you do not have your own machine and it starts to add up.
In conclusion, it's a good idea to remember that applying online is similar to good old responses to newspaper ads. As Michael Bala says, "the basics like good grammar, not overstating your skills and putting your latest experience first go a long way in improving the chances."
So, while the search tools and medium may be slightly different, at the end of the day, nothing beats a well-made CV that shows your interest in a particular job.
Some popular job sites
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