Feature: Juice Up Your Job Search With Job Agents

Feature: Juice Up Your Job Search With Job Agents

Feature: Juice Up Your Job Search With Job Agents

Consider the plight of Merck’s employees (some of whom may be reading this column). The company has recently announced that it is laying off 7,000 workers, not because of substandard individual performance, but because of problems at the corporate level. All of a sudden, these men and women-through no fault of their own-find themselves thrown out of their jobs and into a job search. In essence, they have to start all over again and do so from a dead stop. And that, of course, is the most difficult time to start looking for a new employer.

Is there anything they could have done to protect themselves? Is there anything they can do right now to help ensure the success of their current job search? And equally as important, is there anything you could be doing to protect yourself from similarly unpredictable and dangerous situations? Thankfully, the answer to all of these questions is “Yes.”

Job agents are free features that are now offered at about 40% of all job boards and career portals. They act as a private employment scout that works just for you. You enter the details that describe your employment objective into the job agent (i.e., either the kind of job for which you’re currently looking or the next job you’d like to have in your career), and it will dutifully examine all of the openings posted on the site and notify you confidentially whenever a match is found. As I look at it, that gives you three very important benefits:

  • It takes the hassle out of looking for a job online. Job agents aren’t perfect-you can be looking for a sales job, and it will send you a message about sushi chef openings-but generally, they do a good job of searching a site’s job database, so you don’t have to.
  • It improves the productivity of your job search. The job agent does all of the work of checking a job board for openings of interest to you, freeing you up to do other things-in your job search, your current job and/or the rest of your life.
  • It respects your privacy, whether you are actively looking for a new position or simply keeping an eye on the job market (while you’re employed someplace else). Most job agents send a private e-mail message to an address you designate whenever a match is found, so no one knows you got the notice or where you’re looking.
  • Given those real and important advantages, job agents are tools everyone should use, from the first day of their first career to the last day of their last career. Think of them this way:

    If you’re actively looking for a job, a job agent is a “personal representative.”

    It will (a) stand in for you at an employment Web-site so you can be off networking, researching and doing the myriad other things involved in a job search, and (b) look out for your interests by alerting you to the job opportunities you want to see as they become available at the site.

    If you’re not looking for a job, a job agent is “career insurance.”

    It will help you (a) protect yourself from those Merck (and Enron, Tyco, and GM)-like situations that occur all too often in the modern business world, and (b) manage your career more effectively by keeping you abreast of trends and opportunities in the job market.

    In most cases, job agents are provided by a site to search the postings on that site. They’re not always easy to recognize, however. On some sites, the job agent is simply described as “e-mail notification of jobs.” On others, it is given a distinctive name. These monikers can range from the simple Job Alert at CareerBuilder.com to PJ Scout (for Personal Job Scout) with its representation as an iconic frontier explorer on NationJob.com.

    Which job agent or agents should you use? I recommend that you have five of these handy, little services working for you at all times. They are:

  • 2 agents at general purpose employment sites. The goal here is to maximize how much of the job market you are able to monitor. It may take some trial and error, but find those sites that post such a large and diverse range of job openings that at least some are (or may be) of interest to you. You might consider sites run by your local newspaper, the “Big 3” (i.e., Monster.com, Yahoo! HotJobs, CareerBuilder.com) or by smaller general purpose sites such as NationJob.com and BestJobsUSA.com.
  • 1 agent at a site that specializes in your career field and generates postings that are (or may be) of interest to you.
  • 1 agent that specializes in your industry and generates postings that are (or may be) of interest to you.
  • 1 agent that specializes in the geographic location where you live or want to and generates postings that are (or may be) of interest to you.
  • If you are indifferent about any one of the last three categories (e.g., you are willing to relocate), then sign up for 2 job agents in one of the other two categories.

    In addition, you might want to consider using a “meta-job agent,” such as Indeed.com, SimplyHired.com or Jobster’s WorkZoo.com. These agents search the job postings at anywhere from several hundred to several thousand sites so they can enhance your productivity even further. They do have their limitations, however-principally, that they search only a very small subset of the job board population and not necessarily the sites that will best serve your employment objective-so you should use them carefully. I recommend that they be viewed as a supplement to (not a substitute for) the 5 site formula above.

    Job agents are only as good as the job boards they search and the directions you give them. So, do your homework and figure out which sites best connect you to the employers and employment opportunities you most want to reach. Then, be as specific as you can (given the limitations of the technology involved) in the instructions you give the agents at those sites. Finally, keep an eye on what happens. If the quantity or quality of the postings from a specific job agent begins to fall, reassess your options, and if appropriate, move to an agent at another site.

    Thanks for reading,


    Happy Holidays! We at WEDDLE’s wish you and yours a wonderful Holiday season and a New Year filled with health, happiness and fulfillment. We hope the time you spent with us in 2005 was useful and enjoyable, and we look forward to seeing you again regularly in 2006.

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    The District Court in the Dutch city of Leeuwarden has added a new business deduction to those seeking to improve their credentials in the job market. On September 23rd, it ruled that witchcraft lessons may be written off against tax bills, if those lessons will improve the likelihood of a witch’s employment or increase their personal income. Just in case you think we’re talking chump (or gnat) change here, one Dutch witchcraft school charges $2,600 per course. Now, that’s a lot of hocus pocus!

    Korn/Ferry International released the results of a global survey of corporate executives. More than half (51%) of the 1,700 respondents said it was either “highly likely” or “likely” that they would choose a different field if they could start their career all over again. Even more astonishing, 88% said it was “highly likely” or “likely” that they will switch careers before they retire. What are we to make of these data? Without question, they underscore the pressure that many of us feel to make a living rather than to make a life in the world of work. Our culture relentlessly conditions us to seek advancement in earnings rather than increased self fulfillment and satisfaction. As dispiriting as that may be, however, the data also suggest that this situation can be reversed. Indeed, I believe these findings reveal just how irrepressible our desire for meaningful work truly is and how relentless we can be in seeking it. Reinventing a career isn’t easy, but it can be done … whenever we decide to do so.

    Manpower, Inc. conducted a survey of 1,300 employees around the U.S. and found that gas prices have now begun to impact on our career plans and employment objectives. More than a third of the respondents (35%) said that the rising cost of gas had forced them to begin looking for a new job that was closer to home; 4.5% said they had already found one and would be leaving their current employer. There are other options, of course, including public transportation and ride sharing. However, if you decide a move is the better course of action, make sure you take full advantage of those employment Web-sites that focus on a specific geographic location. These can include the site of your local newspaper as well as job boards and career portals that specialize in the locality where you live. These latter sites can serve a specific city (e.g., BayAreaCareers.com and SFgate.com in San Francisco) or cover an entire state (e.g., CaliforniaJobs.com and CAjobs.com in California). As always, us the Prep & Plenty Rule to get the best results: Prep-evaluate the features, services and performance of alternative sites to determine which are most likely to serve you best-& Plenty-use several sites (I recommend 3-5) to maximize your coverage of the job market. Then, focus your search on a shorter commute by entering your zip or postal code in the keyword box of the search engine for each site’s job database.

    Robert Half International, Inc. published its Office Team salary guide for 2006, and the news is good for those in the administrative field. According to the report, average starting salaries for administrative professionals will increase nationwide by 6% next year, exactly double the figure expected for 2005. And, in a number of specific segments of the field, the salary increases are projected to be even greater. For example:

  • Administrative assistants for office/facility managers-9.5%,
  • Medical secretaries-8.7%, and
  • Marketing assistants-7.2%.

    If you’re an administrative professional, what can you do to cash in on this good news? First, remember that these starting salaries are averages so actual offers may (and are likely to) be both above and below that level. Second, realize that you are competing with others in your field for the best offer, the one that’s above the average. And third, put yourself at the head of the pack by making sure your skills are up-to-date, your industry knowledge is deep and sophisticated, and your performance on-the-job is the best it can be.

    Staffing Industry Analysts reported that temporary employment opportunities in the information technology (IT) field will grow by 9% a year through 2012. Currently, 108,000 people are employed every day in temporary IT positions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, that’s about 1.9% of all temporary workers in the U.S. and about 3.4% of all IT workers. What do these numbers mean? In essence, temporary employment in IT-while still a small segment of the overall employment picture for the field-is growing faster than full time employment. A career spent in temporary employment may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but one or more periods of time spent working in temporary positions may soon become a fact of life for many IT professionals.

    Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?

    1. One of your friends is out of work despite being widely known as a bright, high flyer who doesn’t follow the herd. Which of the following sites would deliver a soft-landing for their job search?

  • Rudolf.com
  • FlyingAnimals.com
  • Antlers.com
  • FlyingHooves.com
  • 2. You’re one of a small team hoping for employment with a manufacturing facility up north. Where could you go online to make your wish come true?

  • SmallJobs.com
  • SantasElves.com
  • MiniTalent.com
  • Elf.com
  • 3. You’re an off-terrain vehicle mechanic looking for work with an overnight product distribution organization. Which of the following sites would help you soar to success?

  • HorseSleigh.com
  • Whinny.org
  • SnowTechs.com
  • SledWarehouse.com
  • (answers below)

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2005/6 Guides and Directories

    ASIS International


    American Society of Industrial Security International

    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes – Contract

    Distribution of jobs: International

    Number of jobs: 73

    Salary levels of jobs: $51-75K/yr, $101-150K/yr

    Offer a job agent: No

    Resume database: Yes

    How long are resumes stored: 365 days

    Restrictions on who can post: Must be association member

    Other services for job seekers: None.

    Member, International Association of Employment Web Sites: No

    Answers to Site Insite

    1. While all of these sites actually exist, none offer a job board, let alone a way to get ahead of the herd.

    2. These sites also exist, but we’re afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere to find an employer that appreciates the contributions of small teams.

    3. Yes, these too are real sites, but they cannot connect you to jobs that will take you to new heights in your career.