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The Riley Guide

The Riley Guide: How to Job Search

How to Use The Internet
in Your Job Search

How Does the Internet Work in a Job Search?

Job Listings

job title, keywords
city, state, zip
jobs by job search

The Internet expands your job search from a single dimension to a multi-dimensional being. It stretches your connections across local, state, and even national borders and gives you access to sites, resources, and possibilities you may not have considered.

It isn't necessarily easy, but it is an enhancement you cannot afford to skip. Just remember that no single site, service, or resource will contain everything you need for a fully effective online job search.

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Why Go Online?

If the job search is already hard, why add to your stress by using the Internet?
  • You can access current information at all hours of the day or night. It's there when you are ready to use it, even at midnight after finally getting the kids to bed.
  • You can reach deeper into your local area to find smaller employers closer to home, maybe even within walking distance from your house. We saw it happen at a workshop given in Boston.
  • You can also take your search far beyond your regular boundaries. There are no geographic limits.
  • Using the Internet in your search demonstrates current skills. This means you not only know how to use a computer but you also know how to navigate online.
  • You can meet new people in your profession or region with much less stress. On the Internet, no one can see you sweat. Take your time getting to know people or groups before putting your best electronic face forward.
  • You can explore career options you might not have considered. What are you doing now, and are there any ways to can take your skills and apply them in a new direction? You can find some self-assessment tools online, loads of occupations and disciplines to explore, and even lists of local career counselors and career centers to help you.

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Before You Go Online

Before you can go online, you need to know exactly what it is you are searching for. You need a list of Keywords, the actual terms you will enter into search boxes all over the Internet.

There are 2 ways to build this list of keywords.
  • Create your resume. Not only will this help you think this through, you'll need that resume in case you find your dream job online. If that isn't yet done take the time to do it before heading off into the wild online west.
  • Think about What, Who, and Where. These questions will define your job search, allowing you to focus on specifics instead of wallowing around generalities.
What Do You Want to Do? What Can You Do? (Skills and Occupations)
What skills do you have, what interests, etc. Identify general occupations that interest you, not specific job titles. Think healthcare or sales, not Chief Medical Officer or Director of International Sales
Who Do You Want to Work For? (Industries and Employer Preferences)
What industry interests you, what type of employer? If you have some specific companies you want to target, great! Fortune 500, Inc 500, high-tech start-up, family-friendly organization...
Where Do You Want to Live and Work? (Location)
Define a particular city, state, region, or country. California, Southern Maryland, "someplace with sailing, good golf courses, and very little snow." (Yes, we know someone who did that last one.) "Anywhere they'll hire me" will not work. There's just too much stuff online. However, you can take the time to research the industry or occupation you're interested in and find out where they are hiring so you can focus on that target.

Having trouble thinking of keywords?

Ask a friend to help. Friends can frequently see things in you that you can't. They might also have some good ideas and interesting options for you to consider.
Ask a Librarian. Librarians are usually very good at this kind of exercise, but try to ask for some help when the reference desk isn't busy so he or she can concentrate better on your project. He or she can probably point you to books and other resources that can help.
Scan some Online Job Banks. Search some of the major job lead banks like Indeed (, or US.Jobs (was JobCentral) ( for jobs that interest you. Read the job descriptions, note the skills and kinds of experience the employers are seeking, and then use these words in your search.
Read a Good Book Check your local library or bookstore for a copy of What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles (Ten Speed Press) or other recommended career books. Parachute contains some exercises designed to help you identify your skills and interests, some of which are on the web in his JobHuntersBible. Your local career center, public library, or employment service center will have even more good resources you can use.

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Selecting the Right Sites

When asked to name the best sites for online job search we always respond "the ones which give you the leads, connections, and resources that work best for you."

Believe it or not, the sites that your friends, family, and the staff at the career center use and love may not be the best ones for you. So, how do you decide which resources you have found are the best and will fit your needs? Try asking yourself these questions as you look at a site, remembering that you are the only who can say that a site and its resources works well or doesn't work at all for you.

Asking friends, family members, colleagues, and even others in your job transition group will help you create a list of starting points for your search. It might also cross some sites off your list as others relate problems they've had, so go ahead and exchange ideas with others as you begin your search.

What do they offer?
Options include lists of potential employers, networking groups, career guidance, job listings, a resume database, etc., but not every useful site will list jobs. Trade associations may have lists of members (potential employers), while executive search firms may have terrific interview tips on their websites.
Are the job listings dated?
Responding to old ads is a waste of time and employers dislike getting applications and inquiries about jobs they already filled. In general, if a listing is more than 30 days old, you should check to see if it is still open. If you don't see any dates, check the information for those posting here as to how long jobs are posted. Still nothing? Send an email to the site's webmaster and ask.
How often are things updated, and how long are listings retained?
Is it updated or altered daily, weekly, monthly? Some professional associations only update weekly or monthly. Knowing their schedule and retention policy lets you figure out how often to visit this site (but you will not miss anything if you only visit twice a week). If you don't see anything on the site to tell you this, send them an email.
Who runs this site or service?
We always read the "About Us" and the Contact Information. This is to know who is behind this, his / her / the organization's background, and how to get in touch if there is a question. Sometimes the Contact Information is buried in the Privacy Policy or Terms of Use. Not having any real background information is not a good thing. Not having any contact information says to us that they are not serious about you as a user.
If there's a fee for this service, is it worth the cost?
Always start with sites that do not charge to let you look at job listings and post a resume. In fact, we tend to stay away from sites that do charge a fee unless that fee will get you services and resources not offered through other free sites. You will see very few fee-based sites listed in this guide, but there are some. If you are looking at one, ask what you get for your money, how they handle complaints, what is the refund policy, and what makes this site different from other sites that do not charge? (Can't answer those questions yourself? Send them an email!) Also ask yourself if their promises are reasonable. "We guarantee you will get a job in 60 days or less" and "We have access to the hidden job market" are unreasonable and highly questionable statements.
Do they actually respond to email?
Before you enter your credit card information (never use a debit card, use a real credit card or a prepaid credit card), call them on the phone or send them an email and see if and how they respond. If they don't even answer, or if you are forced to leave a voicemail, cross the site off your list and consider yourself lucky. If they do respond, then judge them using your own criteria, but ask them any questions you have, including those in we mentioned above, until you are reassured.

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Online Job Search Quick Start

A Complete Job Search includes 4 Main Activities -- Networking, Researching Employers, Reviewing Job Leads, and Resume Distribution -- all of which need to execute online as well as off. Under each we've given you "Quick Start" items with links to relevant websites and pages within The Riley Guide to help you. Just remember, you will need to expand beyond these, but use these ideas to get your online search off the ground.

Quick Tip: As we noted under Before You Go Online, you really need to have your resume written and formatted before you start. It will facilitate creation of a networking profile and help with the list of keywords you'll need to search various databases. Plus you might just find the perfect job while you are looking at other things.

These activities are listed in their order of importance!

1. Networking

Connect with anyone you can through meetings / friends / colleagues (a.k.a. Pressing the Flesh). Online you can use Social Media Resources (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) to connect with friends and colleagues (old and new), participating in appropriate Networking Groups and Mailing Lists. Professional association memberships are particularly helpful here, especially local chapters.

Quick Start: Set up a profile on LinkedIn, establish connections with old friends from college and former colleagues you know from past employment and professional association work. Then search the Groups Directory and join any that match your professional interests and aspirations.

2. Target Employers through Research

This is sometimes referred to as "cold calling", but your network can help smooth the way! Use telephone yellow pages (print and online), business directories (print and online, many available for free through your local public library website!), even ads and profiles in local newspapers (also available online and in print). Many Trade Associations and local Chambers of Commerce maintain free public lists of members on their websites (potential employers). You find the employers for whom you want to work based on any criteria you have, then through research figure out what they need and how you can fill the gap. Then you make contact with a hiring manager either through a network contact or by finding someone's name in your research and make your pitch.

Quick Start: Use The Employer Locator from CareerOneStop to create a list of target employers. You can start with Industry, Occupation (find everyone who hires someone with your skills), or Location to create your list of possibilities.

3. Reviewing Job Leads

Scanning the Sunday classifieds along with the job leads in your professional journals has been updated! Unfortunately, it has also expanded to the point of sheer frustration. You cannot look at every possible source out there. You just do not have the time, energy, nor ability to find it all. And you will not miss a single thing by skipping certain sources in favor of other sources. Think Quality over Quantity and focus on sites and sources that target your particular industry, occupation or job function, and location. Then use one or two job lead aggregators or employment search engines to fill in a few more blanks.

Quick Start: Go to our list of Sites with Job Leads, select a category from the top of the page, then select your target page within the site to view resources specifically for you. You want to find 2 or 3 sites to start your search. I suggest you focus on Professional Associations as they are some of the best sources out there. Then, use to search multiple sites and sources for you.

4. Resume Distribution

It's more than an itemization of your work history. Your resume is your marketing brochure. It says "I worked here, and while I was there I did this to benefit my employer", implying that you can also benefit this potential employer. You need your resume (maybe even more than one) on paper and in multiple electronic formats for posting, pasting, or emailing without problem. Carry them with you on a memory stick (a.k.a. flash drive) for quick access on any available computer.

Quick Start: Caution is necessary here! You do not want to paste your resume everywhere because of problems with perception (recruiters hate spam too) and privacy (others may find it and target you for scams). For now, limit your resume posting to the few sites you selected under Item 3 (above). Only when you are comfortable with this process should you begin expanding your public postings.

However you approach your job search, to be successful you must use a combination of activities both online and off. While you are the only one who can determine your level of comfort with any given activity, you really must cover everything to get the best results from your efforts.

  • If you don't attend local networking meetings, you will miss the opportunity to meet people positioned to help you with your search.
  • If you don't look at the jobs posted online you will miss lots of opportunities posted in various places.
  • If you don't shut off the computer, you can't call employers and speak with them about how you can help their business.
  • If you don't have your resume in plain text, you can't easily send it to new contacts or send a quick response to an ads found online.

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Managing Your Time Online

Many people tell us that every night they start their Internet search in the same gigantic job database and, well heck, they spend so much time in there that they never get anywhere else.


There is so much online that you should begin each day in a new spot. Things change, but not so rapidly that you will miss something important if you check only there twice a week. Of course there is so much online you can quickly become the victim of Internet Information Overload. Go back over our Online Job Search Quick Start and stay focused on Quality over Quantity.

Focus on sites and services that lead you to the data you really want, whether it is networking groups, lists of potential employers, or job listings specific to your industry, job function, and/or location. Stay away from search engines and mega-normous job sites unless time permits you some play time. And with the mega-normous sites, utilize aggregators or employment search engines like or to cover them more efficiently.

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A few more thoughts

The Internet cannot be the only resource you use for your job search!

You must continue to utilize all contacts, information resources, and services available to you for the most effective and efficient search for employment. Continue to attend meetings, pick up the telephone and call people, and use the reference books in your local library.

Limit your time online to one-quarter (25%) of the total time you can dedicate to your job search.

If you are a techie working in any area related to computer networks or programming, you may increase that to one-half (50%) of your time, but make sure your skills are current in order to be your most competitive.

Take time for yourself.

One day a week, shut off the computer and spend some time with your family, friends, and yourself. Relax, do some reading, walk outside, and remind yourself that there is a world out there and people to talk to. Play with your dog or scratch the cat (substitute whatever pet you have).

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