Is Your Job Search Still Random?

Dec 8 2010 in Featured, Job Search Strategy, reCareered Blog by Phil Rosenberg

job search information, job search advice, job search help, job search tips, career advice

Are you conducting a random job search? If you found out that your job search methods were random, would it shock you?

Would you want to change your approach?

Many candidates conduct their job search randomly … and don’t even realize it. Their methods are “throw enough stuff against the wall, and see what sticks”. Learn to spot if your job search is random and how to adopt a more structured targeted approach …

Why Would Anyone Use A Random Job Search?

Most job seekers who use random job search methods don’t even recognize that they are random (if you knew they were random, you probably wouldn’t use these methods, right?).

Candidates use random job search methods because it’s what we were taught. It’s the traditional way that job search has been taught since the typewriter was invented – it’s the only way most candidates know how to search for a job. For job seekers who haven’t had to actively search for a job in many years, random job search was cutting edge the last time they looked for a job.

If your job search methods you’re using came from any of these places listed below, this article applies to you … you’re probably using a random method.

Examples of places that still teach random job search:

  • School placement offices, including the top universities and MBA schools in the world
  • College and University alumni office career resources
  • Most outplacement firms
  • State, Local, and even Federal job search assistance office resources
  • Recruiters
  • Even … many career coaches

In addition, most candidates’ random job search methods have been reinforced in the past, especially during strong job markets. When there are candidate shortages, random methods can work in a reasonable time frame. When jobs ware abundant, a “low hanging fruit” method used to be ok. Random methods may not get you the best job you could possibly find, but in a strong job market most candidates could find a reasonable job in a reasonable time.

What Changed? Why Doesn’t Random Search Work Today?

Your first response might be – the recession. The recession certainly has magnified the problem, but random job search wasn’t working very well long before the recession began in 2007.

Just like “Video Killed The Radio Star”, the internet killed random job search. When job boards started to dominate job search in 2000-2001, 3 things changed:

  1. Candidate Information: A candidate’s universe of possible jobs exploded to near infinite levels.
  2. Competition: Job competition also exploded. Before online job search/applications, it took hours to apply for each job, so candidates were selective. Now you can apply to hundreds of jobs in a day. As the cost to apply dropped to zero, many more candidates competed for advertised jobs, resulting in hundreds or thousands of competitors for each position.
  3. Hiring process efficiencies: What company could afford to staff HR departments to read hundreds (or thousands) of resumes for each position? Plus, as candidate application cost dropped to zero, percentages of underqualified applicants skyrocketed. It made random job search a big problem for companies as candidates continued old methods, but now it was free and unlimited – creating random job search on steroids. Companies reacted with technology – ATS databases that allowed HR departments to pre-screen efficiently.

In 2007, a 4th change occurred – the first job shortage since the depression (even in prior recessions, there were still candidate shortages). Recessions amplify problems with random job search, but these methods absolutely, positively don’t work during job shortages.

For companies to become more efficient in hiring, they had to take the randomness out of job search. Companies created widely implemented procedures and best practices that reward targeted job search and penalized random candidates.

… But no one told the candidates. Candidates get the idea something changed when they notice a poor resume response rate of under 5% (average is 1.5% – See “How Effective is your Resume? Here’s how to measure” at for more info).

Recognizing Your Job Search Is Random – Are You Using Any Of These Methods In Your Job Search?

Review the following list of random job search methods and tactics. Any of them sound familiar? How many are you using in your search?

  1. Static resume: If you send the same (or with only small changes) resume to most of the jobs you apply to, you’re using one of the worst random methods. You’re hoping that the words on your resume magically happen to match the key words a company or recruiter is searching for. Go buy a Lotto ticket – the odds are better than getting interviews with a static resume.
  2. Cover letters: Part of the HR drive to hiring efficiency is that few employers read them, and almost no employers can search ATS databases for cover letter content, and only 3% of hiring managers/recruiters/HR reps make interview decisions based on cover letters. So, if you’re using the same static resume and putting all the customization on a cover letter (a whopping 96% of candidates do this), you’ve made your search random. To move to a structured approach, heavily customize each resume where you know the target company.
  3. Job Board Ads: If you find more than 12% of your job opportunities through job boards, your search is random. Job boards are a great source for research to see which companies are hiring … but a lousy way to apply for a job.
  4. Resume Posting on Job Boards: This can be great if you’re looking for an entry level position, a straight commission sales or insurance position. Few companies or recruiters search job boards for resumes to day – when they do it’s the 8th or 9th option behind internal candidates, candidates who recently interviewed for a different job, candidates they know, referred candidates, candidates found on Google, candidates found on Linkedin and candidates who just sent their resumes before the job post went live. Resume boards are very expensive (over $1,500 per user) and are widely regarded as dysfunctional – a poor resource for finding good candidates. If you post your resume, do it “just to be safe” but don’t count on much response (even if your resume is killer).
  5. Ignoring Google: If your resume isn’t findable on a Google search by your subject matter expertise, your search is random. Recruiters are turning more and more to Google to find candidates. It’s more effective than job boards … and it’s free. One of the hottest classes now for recruiters – Google candidate search. To make your search more structured, make it easier for recruiters to find your resume on Google.
  6. Ignoring Social Media: Simple facts – Linkedin gets twice the daily traffic as Monster. Twitter gets double Linkedin’s traffic. Facebook gets just under 100x Monster’s traffic. If you haven’t taken steps to make your profile more searchable on social media, your search is random. For instance, if you’re appearing in less than 10 searches per week, your search is random. Load your profile with keywords that employers looking for candidates like you will likely search for and make sure to attach your resume (or at least links) if you’re an active job seeker.
  7. Human Resources and Company career pages: If you send your resume to HR or apply through a company’s career page, your job search is random. Either way, and you’ve just bought an express ticket to the ATS system, where an average 2-3% of applicants are reviewed by humans. Instead, identify the hiring manager and contact someone who knows the hiring manager well – being introduced by a trusted connection is a structured method and one of the most effective ways to be considered for a job.
  8. Email blasts: How many of you have gotten an email update from someone in your network with their resume attached? Don’t they usually look like spam? What do you do with spam? Delete it or pass it on? Email blasts can work well in one situation: Recruiters, if the email is targeted and followed up with a call.
  9. ”Marketing” Letter and Resume Mailing Services: If spam doesn’t work, why do you think that junk mail will? Even worse, the majority of employers don’t want paper resumes, they want digital resumes that can live in their ATS databases. Paper resumes are typically scanned into the database … or thrown away (this is especially true for technology candidates).

How many of these random methods are you using in your job search?

I’ve listed some of the worst random search methods, there are many others.

Readers (including recruiters and employers) – please comment with other random job search methods you see candidates using today? How do you suggest they make their job search more targeted and more effective?


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Author: Phil Rosenberg

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