As legend has it, job leads used to be found in some mysterious medium called…a newspaper.  Hearkening back, one’s job search during those days largely consisted of waking up on a Sunday, pouring a copy of coffee, and spending a leisurely hour looking through the classified section of the paper and circling any applicable positions with a red ballpoint pen.  If that step failed, well, aside from some light networking here and there, or perhaps dropping off a few resumes in person to companies of interest, you basically just waited until the following weekend to see what NEW job listings got posted.

Ah, to be back in those simpler and more civilized times!  These days, there are estimated to be over 48,000 employment websites floating around in cyberspace where job hunters can search for leads — and it’s worth noting that this number only encompasses paid listing sites, such as Monster.com, as opposed to the millions of corporate websites, themselves, that list opportunities.  What many rookie job hunters don’t realize, however, is that the vast majority of the 48,000 job sites out there (at least 98% of them, conservatively) are utterly worthless — and not worth spending an iota of time on if you’re already consulting the “holy trinity” of job websites on a regular basis: Indeed.com, Simplyhired.com, and Craigslist.com.

So how do you separate the wheat from the chaff?  It’s pretty easy to do, actually.  Any time you come across a new job-related website that sounds promising, simply run it through the following paces:

1.  First see how many TOTAL jobs the site has in your target geographical area. For example, I recently came across a neat-sounding website called SchoolSpring.com that focuses on jobs for educational professionals.  This site sounds great, in theory, but upon running an initial search using “WA” in the location box, and no other parameters, I discovered that there was only a single listing in the site’s database for the entire state of Washington!  The one lead they had posted was for a superintendent position in a city called Mabton, Washington.  Anybody heard of it?  Apparently it’s in the Yakima Valley somewhere.  And it might be downright lovely.  But if a site contains only a single listing for AN ENTIRE STATE it’s probably not worth a repeat visit.  Remember, in this example, we didn’t even code for any of the different types of educational positions; we were simply getting a count of how many total jobs the site had in the state as a whole, which was more than zero, but less than two.

2.  See if the site is powered by another, bigger job search site. Many new employment websites these days contain ZERO original content, but are simply recycling jobs from other major employment sites and putting a fancy new “shell” on them to make them more appealing and to attract new eyeballs — and advertisers.  It’s a slick marketing maneuver, but represents a huge waste of time for the average job hunter unless the site in question offers some truly unique content or functionality.  For example, if you look closely at the sexy new GoingGreenJobs.com website, focused on environmentally-friendly career opportunities, you’ll notice the tagline says “powered by CareerBuilder”.  What this means is that if you’re already checking on CareerBuilder for leads — or using an aggregator site like Indeed or Simplyhired that picks up CareerBuilder listings — this site is going to be a “dry hole” for you.  You won’t find a single new listing on it you haven’t seen before.  So always look for clues that the site is “powered by” another site or is simply regurgitating content from somewhere else, versus attracting fresh listings in its own right.

3.  If a site charges for job listings, buyer beware! I know they’re tempting.  I know the idea one could pay for “exclusive” job listings is hard to resist.  But having evaluated such sites for years (e.g. TheLadders.com, Execunet.com, Netshare.com, Hound.com) and had dozens of clients subscribe to them, to see if they added value beyond the free sites available, the answer has been resoundingly negative.  Not only do most employers WANT their openings circulated far and wide, as opposed to an exclusive audience, but many of the jobs on these sites appear not to be real in the first place.  And yet, the million-dollar marketing efforts of these sites blare incessantly, convincing thousands of unwary job hunters to sign up for them.  So while I can’t rule out that somebody will invent a fee-based site, someday, that provides ROI to the average professional in transition, I haven’t seen one yet — especially for those job hunters who are solely targeting jobs in Seattle, or a single city, versus the country at large.

So if you’re fairly new to the modern job hunting process, take these guidelines to heart, since they will help ensure your journey is a successful one and that you don’t waste any more time than necessary on sub-par website offerings.  Ultimately, almost all of the published jobs on the web can be found via the three “headwater” sites mentioned in the second paragraph, above, so if you’re using these sites successfully, you’re most likely in pretty good shape.

Does this mean that you won’t EVER find a new niche job site that adds value — or that you should consider adding to your ongoing search regimen?  Not at all!  In fact, we just discovered one, ourselves, that looks very promising.  We’ll be reviewing it here on the blog tomorrow, so stay tuned…