How to Find a Job Without Using Job Boards

WorkCoachCafeFinding a job without applying on a job board is very do-able and, in fact, may be the most effective way to connect with a new job. In fact, focusing all of your job search efforts on job boards has some major disadvantages for job seekers.

Major Disadvantages of Focusing ONLY on Job Board Postings

Among the disadvantages of focusing your job search on job boards, these are the most important:

  • Limited options. You only see the employers and opportunities that are published at that moment in time on that specific job board! So, you miss the employers who don’t post at that moment or who post elsewhere.
  • Intense competition. When a job is posted, an avalanche of applications typically follow, an average of 250 applicants for every job (and less than half of those applicants are clearly qualified for the job).
  • Not every job posting (or job board or employer) is real. The scammers of the world see in desperate job seekers an opportunity to collect personal information to use or to sell.

Before you apply for any job, particularly on a job board, ask yourself these 4 questions. When you apply for every job you see, you can end up being “blacklisted” as a “resume spammer” and ignored even when you are perfectly qualified for a job you have applied for.

Leverage Employers’ Favorite Ways to Hire

While you can find millions of job postings online, those job postings are not employers’ favorite way to fill a job.

“bad hire” (someone who can’t do the job well or who doesn’t fit into the organization) is expensive — both in damage they may do to the organization and in the expense needed to replace them. Consequently, employers prefer hiring methods that usually produce “good hires” (someone who will be successful in their job and fit into the organization).

Countless studies have shown the 2 methods that result most often in successful employees:

  1. Internal transfer. Obviously, you will need to be a current employee for this method to work. Internal transfers are generally much lower risk than an external hire because they know the organization and the organization knows them. Consider this option if you are currently employed — is there another part of the organization or a different job you would like to do? Look for internal postings or ask about internal opportunities.
  2. Employee referral. This is the favorite way of hiring someone who doesn’t already work in the organization. So, if you want to join an organization, spend time connecting with employees of that organization. Hopefully, you have a list of 10 or more “target employers” where you think you would like to work. Network your way in, and the employee making the referral doesn’t need to be your sister or best friend. In fact, friends of friends or people you have “met” online (a.k.a. “weak connections”) have been proven to be more effective in networking to new jobs.

The smartest method of landing a new job is to leverage these employer preferences.

Ways to Find Jobs Without Using Job Boards

Rather than focusing all of your job search efforts on applying for jobs, try these options:

  • Spend as much — preferably MORE — time on LinkedIn as you spend on job boards. LinkedIn is the  “happy hunting ground” for recruiters. Finding qualified job candidates on LinkedIn is more efficient for them than trying to dig the qualified candidates out of the flood of job applications. So, make sure your LinkedIn Profile is complete (a.k.a. “All Star” in LinkedIn-speak) and GREAT! Include the right keywords to be found for the target job with the target employers — YES! YOU MUST HAVE TARGETS! Join LinkedIn Groups and become visible.
  • Reach out to old friends (inside of LinkedIn and outside). Aim particularly for former colleagues and former bosses. Catch up with them and their lives (this is the best part), and share what you’ve been doing. Then, see if they know anyone who works for one of your target employers. Ask for introductions or email addresses, and connect with those they know. Leverage employee referral programs (“ERP). Most ERP’s reward the referring employee, so they have an incentive to find and make good referrals to their employer.
  • Consider becoming a “boomerang.” A “boomerang” is a an employee who leaves an employer and then comes back and is re-employed. If you liked a former employer and would like to (or wouldn’t mind) working there again, reach out to anyone you know (or anyone who knows someone) who still works there.  Maybe, that friend or friend-of-a-friend can get a reward from the ERP!
  • Join a “job club” particularly if unemployed. Hanging out with other job seekers helps you understand that they aren’t the only ones struggling with the job market. Job clubs are also great places to learn about today’s job search, local employers, and local opportunities! They also expand your networks and may give you a fairly knowledgeable group to test ideas, resumes, LinkedIn strategies, etc.
  • Volunteer for a local nonprofit or politician/political cause you support. Be sure that the work done supports the job search goals, demonstrating or adding new skills and experience. An accountant won’t improve their skills cleaning cages for the local animal shelter — they can certainly do that if it is important to them, but it’s not something that builds their professional credibility unless their target job is related to caring for animals. (Volunteering is a great way to fill an “employment gap” on a resume or LinkedIn Profile for someone who is unemployed!)
  • Go to networking meetings. Look for local professional associations and even neighborhood and family groups like the school’s PTA (for parents) or a town or neighborhood meeting. Reconnect with old friends/acquaintances and meet new people.
  • Take a class or some training. Learning should help increase knowledge and skills, and may also expand your network. (Another great way to fill an “employment gap” on a resume or LinkedIn Profile for someone who is unemployed!)
  • Accept a temporary or short-term contract job. Particularly if you are unemployed, these jobs are great ways to generate some income while learning more about many different employers. Sometimes, these jobs are even posted as “temp-to-perm.”
  • If you like to write, post articles on LinkedIn, write a Kindle book, submit relevant posts to local, national, or international organizations, etc. Become a visible “expert” in your field.

These actions will increase the size and scope of your personal/professional network. Building your network and your personal online reputation are essential skills for the future for all of us to be successful in our job search (your next job may find you!) and in our careers.

More About Job Search Without Job Boards

Before You Apply: Answer 4 Important Questions

Express Lane to a New Job — Employee Referral

How to Make Employee Referral Programs Work for You

Job Search Networking Secrets from the Top Recruiters

Better Than a Job Board: Local Networking Groups

3 LinkedIn Success Factors: Making Your Best Impression

3 Bad Assumptions About LinkedIn


About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 2011, Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoachCafe.  A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan also edits and publishes and is a columnist on HuffingtonPost and LinkedIn.  Follow Susan on Twitter (@jobhuntorg) and on Google+.

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