The Right Research - Becoming An Informed, Intelligent Job Seeker
Everybody advises ad nauseum“You need information to be a successful job seeker.” Great—what does that mean? Information is everywhere—translating it to intelligence which can be used and useful in job seeking—now that’s helpful advice.

As the web is the ultimate source of information for connecting job hunters and employers—many believe it simplifies the process. Truth be told, it has probably made everything more complicated. But it’s here to stay and getting bigger by the nano-second so let’s manage it and use it as a powerful tool.

Research on the effectiveness of the web in job search success is slippery. Like the blindfolded man who was asked to describe an elephant, he said something different when he touched the leg, trunk and ear. The internet always gets mentioned in successful job seeking strategies along with employee referral and networking, but what aspect of the internet are we talking about? Job boards, company web-sites, blogs, chat-rooms, networking sites, on-line databases? No one really says.

Dick Bolles, author of the 33 year old, time tested bible of job hunting, What Color is Your Parachute, has another book out with his son, Mark Bolles, Job-Hunting on the Internet. As expected, it’s packed with wisdom. He says the internet is a place to perform a number of career planning and job-seeking tasks:

  • Get self-assessment tests/inventories and even counseling/advising
  • Research fields, organizations, employers, cities, states, trends, etc., all which can make you a more intelligent candidate
  • Make contacts and network
  • Post your resume which can be selected by employers, and
  • Identify jobs for which your qualifications match
It’s hard to disagree with Dick that research is the function for which the internet best delivers. There isn’t much you can’t find on the web—the challenge is applying it to your job seeking—and using it to make you a better candidate. Researching organizations before you actually start applying to them—can provide useful information in helping you begin to understand your career goals. “We learn much about who we can become—in practice, not in theory—through exploration and examination; testing fantasy and reality—not just by looking inside.” (Hermina Ibarra, Harvard Business Review)

Sociologist Ed Schein tells us that an organization’s culture can help us know where we can be most successful: "...The culture of any organization is a deep phenomenon; culture is complex and difficult to understand, but the effort to understand it is worthwhile because much of the mystery and the irrational in organizations suddenly becomes clear when we understand it..."

I once consulted for a Fortune 500 pharmacy and before a piece of business was accomplished, consensus always had to be reached through a series of PowerPoint presentations – some days, it seemed like people spent most of their energy and time on preparing and presenting these than on actual work tasks. This was a core aspect of the company culture. As a whole, the pharmaceutical industry also reflects this consensus building. Any drug, therapy or medical device doesn’t come to market until a long series of protocol, trials and R & D successful outcomes, including FDA approval, have been achieved.

What can job seekers take away from this? As all business processes at this company reflect their culture, potential employees need to ask –“What skills and traits do I need to be successful in this company---in this industry?" Well, for starters--group meeting skills, consensus building, verbal communications, patience, persistence and willingness to work within structure are all critical in our pharmaceutical example. Not to mention the ability to be effective with PowerPoint!

Aside from performing research, the web is also the best source for real-time job openings through the various employment sites out there. You’ll eventually discern which ones are best for you—and then check them regularly. The advantage here is on the employer side as seldom will you derive any information you can use to follow-up your resume submission or posting with a human being. Your challenge is to use your existing network—or build out from it—and find someone in the organization on the inside so you can track your candidacy and possibly gain an interview.

Tying in with the research function of the internet, employment sites usually have profile pages set up for the employers that are posting jobs. These profile pages can be useful but are limited in the amount of information that can be presented. To combat this problem, offers Employer Branding Sites where progressive employers can take their company profile to the next level. Employer Branding Sites offer multiple pages with which to present job seekers with a more comprehensive look at the company and their unique culture. Employers are able to fully communicate their brand and separate themselves from their competitors.

The important thing to take away from all of this discussion of the web is that while it is a powerful resource, there are people out there using it who may not have your best interests in mind. Unwanted advertising, criminality and bad information are three things to beware of. Understanding your security settings and not downloading programs from sites you don’t know or trust are two guidelines. Know how to use the latest anti-virus software and know that once you start using the web, you will be likely bombarded by many ads—and pop-ups. Know that there is software to help manage this problem.

We encourage you to search high and low for information which you can use to enhance your search and candidacy — but simply be aware of their sources. Get help from a coach, consultant, colleague, or knowledgeable friend. Check facts—don’t quote figures or situations to make a positive impression in an interview or informational meeting unless you can back them up.

Information is power but if used poorly, it can get you into trouble as well.