Making The Internet Your Job-Search Ally

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We all know about information overload. It's been around for at least 40 years, but the Internet has raised it to new levels. As a job candidate, you're forced to confront it from at least two angles.

As a user of information, you have the Herculean task of filtering an ocean of job postings and Web sites to find the few nuggets that might bring you closer to your goal of landing a job. At the same time, you've got to concern yourself with whatever's circulating online about you. As best you can, you have to manage that information so you'll stay in the good graces of recruiters, hiring managers and your own network of contacts.

Recently, several career experts offered a variety of tactics to make the Web an ally in researching potential employers and controlling your own public face and message. They spoke to the New York Society of Security Analysts.

Start with the obvious: Before you meet with anyone research them online, says career coach Anita Attridge. Look for relevant facts, like common interests, that you can mention during the interview to establish rapport.

A detailed portrait of your interviewer's professional history and interests might show up on the professional networking site LinkedIn. Its profiles contain a wealth of information, including the names of individuals the person has recommended, and vice versa.

Steer Clear of the Lemmings

When prowling for job opportunities, don't limit yourself to posted openings. Use the news to learn who's hiring, advises Ken Murray, president of recruiting firm Mercury Partners. Whenever someone jumps from one firm to another, a vacancy has been created at the company they left. And the firm they joined might be making more hires, as well.

Murray also recommends seeking out "undiscovered companies" - lesser-known or smaller firms whose openings usually attract fewer applicants than the industry leaders. Locate such employers through engine searches. Murray suggests:

First, search for a wide range of phrases that relate to your specialty. If you're a portfolio manager, do separate searches for "asset management," "mutual funds," "separately managed accounts," "wrap accounts," and any other relevant phrase you can think of.

Second, when you reach the end of the first or second page of results, don't stop. Later pages can be the most productive, just because few people will bother to look that far.

Other Free Tools

The Internet contains other free tools that shouldn't be overlooked. Attridge cites Weddle's, a research and consulting firm that publishes guides and directories of online job sites, and career management newsletters that are free to candidates.

Another resource is the New York Public Library's Science, Industry and Business Library. It provides free public access to a broad range of specialized industry publications, databases, research reports and directories that normally charge high subscription fees, or aren't available to the general public. (The library does charge fees for custom research service and document delivery.) The library also offers free classes for candidates and entrepreneurs at its midtown Manhattan site.

On LinkedIn, a user can search for all members in an industry and specialty. For example, analysts working in hedge funds. Each profile will include the employer's name.

Controlling Your Professional Image

A core function of LinkedIn for candidates is personal branding: defining and controlling the information others see when they search your name on the Web. Profiles of LinkedIn users are meant to be permanently online, notes Mike Gamson, general manager of LinkedIn Research Network. So having a profile there differs fundamentally from posting a resume, since it doesn't mean a person is looking for a job.

LinkedIn profiles are structured to show up near the top of Google search results for the user's name, Gamson says. That helps you get exactly the information you want into the hands of employers or recruiters who look you up online. It also helps avoid "digital invisibility" - where a search engine's top listings to your name are references to someone else.

Gamson advises investing two to four hours building your LinkedIn profile and inviting other members - whom you already know - to join your network.

A further tactic for branding is associated with LinkedIn's "Answers" section. Users can gain points for posting the best answers to questions posted by other users. Those who earn the most points become designated "experts" within the system. (We should note a similar feature is offered on eFinancialCareers.)

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