How Job Boards Can Actually HURT Your Career Growth

It’s probably safe to say that everybody wants a great job.

And if that’s the case, everybody wants every edge they can get in their quest to land that job. Not everybody approaches their job search in a way that leads to such an outcome.

One of the reasons for this are job search myths. I’ve been a search consultant for 20 years, and during that time I’ve seen quite a few myths. Unfortunately, the willingness of professionals to believe these myths often contributes to career stagnation and frustration.

One of these myths has to do with online job boards.

150-to-1 odds vs. 10-to-1 odds

I want to start with an excellent article by hiring expert Lou Adler. The title of that article, which Lou published on LinkedIn recently, is “Why Job Boards Are the Worst Way to Get a Job.” (I guess you could say that the title almost says it all.)

In that article, Lou references a published report from Lever.co, an applicant tracking system. In that report, Lever.co reported that among their clients, only one person out of 150 landed a job by applying directly for the position. (This was based on the ratio of 15,000 jobs filled vs. 1.5 million applicants.)

That’s 1-in-150 odds. Doesn’t seem very good, does it?

According to Lou’s article, the Lever.co report also showed that if a person was referred for a position, there was a 10-to-1 chance they would land the job. So that’s 1-in-150 vs. 1-in-10. Which of those odds would you be more willing to take?

The fact of the matter is when you are referred by another person for a position, you are much more likely to get the job. That is clearly shown by the information revealed in Lou Adler’s article and the report presented by Lever.co. Now, there are a number of different people who could refer you. They include the following:

  • A colleague who already works at the company
  • A colleague who doesn’t work at the company but who has influence within your chosen field
  • A search consultant or recruiter who works with the company to help fill their open positions

It’s always been a matter of trust

In each case, when the person refers you, that referral means more to the organization than a completed online application. That’s because, more likely than not, the hiring authority trusts the person who is doing the referring. (You might remember the Billy Joel song titled, “A Matter of Trust.” That’s exactly what we’re talking about here.)

I’m going to take things a step further. Here’s a question: Of the three types of referrals I listed above, which do you think would be the most valuable to you—the candidate? You might be tempted to choose, “A colleague that already works for the company.” That would seem to make sense.

However, that colleague and current employee may or may not have knowledge of the following things:

  • Inside information about the job opening
  • Information regarding the company’s hiring techniques and preferences
  • The company’s hiring goals in both the short term and for the long haul
  • A working relationship with the hiring authority or other decision makers
  • What starting salary and/or benefits the company is willing to pay

That being said, guess who does have knowledge of these things? If you said a search consultant or recruiter, you are correct! They have knowledge of all these things and more. So not only are they able to refer you for a great opportunity, but they also possess information regarding just about every aspect of the job and the employer. AND they can share that information with you during the hiring process.

Now you might be thinking, “Don’t companies shy away from choosing a candidate who’s represented by a recruiter because the company doesn’t want to pay the recruiter’s fee?”

The answer is simple. Organizations do NOT engage recruiters just so they can avoid paying their fee. They engage recruiters because they want the best candidates in the marketplace. They are willing to pay a recruiter’s fee so they can have access to those candidates. Without the recruiter, they don’t have that access.

Job seekers should not be fooled into thinking that companies will steer clear of a candidate represented by a recruiter simply because of the fee. Keeping a position open for too long or even worse, hiring the wrong person, is far more costly than paying a recruiter’s fee. If you’re the right person, the company will want to hire you—period. And they will be willing to pay a recruiter’s fee in order to do it. If they are paying a recruiter’s fee to get the candidate, they are going to be more interested in keeping that person once they hire them, as well, to protect their investment.

A more effective career growth strategy

If you’re truly serious about your career and about growing it, then you should use more than just online job boards. In fact, using online job boards can actually HURT your chances of getting a great job and growing your career. Do you think the very top people in your company would use a job board to find a position or post their resume on a job board? Do you see the top 5-10% of people in your company post their resume on a job board or use a job board to get a position? More than likely, the answer is no. They would use networking or they would go through a search consultant.

First, there’s the 1-in-150 odds of actually landing a job by applying for it directly online. That alone speaks volumes about the effectiveness of using online job boards.

Now you might be thinking, “What about using both job boards and referrals. Wouldn’t applying through more than one channel increase my chances of success?”

I can say emphatically that the answer to that question is a resounding “No!” I’ve had candidates more numerous to count who have “shotgun” their resumes all over the Internet and applied for multiple positions with multiple employers. Then they come to me and ask for help finding a job. By that time, though, they’ve already branded themselves poorly with those organizations. Applying for positions through every channel imaginable is NOT an effective job search or career growth strategy.

What IS an effective strategy is to align yourself with an experienced search consultant in your chosen field. For all of the reasons we just discussed, a search consultant is uniquely positioned to help you land a great job and grow your career. They have the knowledge, the connections, and the relationships necessary to get the job done.

Don’t settle for 1-in-150. Increase your odds of landing a great job—and your chances of enjoying career satisfaction—by building a relationship with a search consultant as part of your network.

We help support careers in one of two ways: 1. By helping to find the right opportunity when the time is right, and 2. By helping to recruit top talent for the critical needs of organizations. If this is something you would like to explore further, please send an email to stacy@thevetrecruiter.com.