If you’re in the process of looking for a new job, chances are that you’ve been told (or read somewhere) that only around 15-20% of all jobs, in general, ever get publicly advertised.  And this statistic is totally true.  Just ask any representative sample of people how they landed their last assignment and you’ll find that the majority of them likely landed their position through networking and word-of-mouth, versus the historical “help wanted, please apply” sort of way.

And yet, at the same time, if you’re eagerly in search of a new opportunity, you probably can’t bear the thought of missing even ONE good lead that might be published out there in your field.  Responding to published openings, after all, is so much easier than having to sell yourself proactively or pound the pavement each day, trying to make something happen from scratch.  So if you’re like most job seekers I come across, I’d wager a bet that you spend at least several hours per day wading through all manner of employment websites, hoping to unearth an appropriate new listing you haven’t seen before.

Therein lies the rub.  These days, with over 40,000 employment sites reported to exist, it can be a never-ending process to try to sift through all the job ads out there — which is why, each year, I conduct a “shootout” project to try and identify the handful of sites that are most effective in terms of turning up opportunities.

This year, my round of testing involved comparing the results from five top “aggregator” job sites — Indeed.com, Simplyhired.com, Beyond.com, Ziprecruiter.com, and LinkedIn’s Jobs Page — given that searching individual job sites (e.g. Monster.com, Careerbuilder.com) doesn’t make much sense anymore in a day and age when you’ve got these “Google-like” job search tools to do the heavy lifting for you.  In each case, I searched each job board for 10 common types of position, ranging from accounting and executive assistant roles to CFO, VP of Sales, and HR Generalist/Business Partner opportunities.  And to try and make the comparison as apples-to-apples as possible, I limited the search results strictly to jobs within 25 miles of Seattle that had been published within the past seven days.

The results?  While I’ll spare you all of the specific data and notes I compiled, I generally found that the advice I’ve dispensed in prior years still holds pretty true — with a few minor exceptions.  Ultimately, here’s what what my experiment revealed this time around and how I’d rank the relative usefulness of each site:

#1: Indeed.com — While other job sites have definitely gained ground on Indeed, I still find it to be the “gold standard” of the genre and to provide the best overall balance of features, simplicity, and content.  In 8 out of 10 instances, the site contained a larger set of appropriate jobs in its database than its closest cousin, Simplyhired.com, and also supports the use of full Boolean syntax, giving job hunters the ability to run much more precise searches than several of the other sites in this roundup.  So overall, both in terms of quality and ease of use, I believe Indeed.com continues to be the most indispensable site for turning up published listings.

#2: Simplyhired.com — Alas, while this site gained ground on Indeed and did contain more results on one particular search, for accounting roles, it was slightly behind in terms of volume on other searches.  Given this reality, and the fact that it’s virtually a carbon-copy of Indeed in all other respects, my conclusion, somewhat ironically, is that even though it’s the second-best site overall you probably don’t need to use it unless you want to be extremely thorough in your efforts.  You’ll largely see the exact same jobs as on Indeed and won’t benefit from other noticeable functionality gains.  If you insist on leaving no stone unturned in your efforts, however, feel free to add it to your arsenal and just configure it exactly as you did Indeed.com.  Sure, you’ll have to wade through tons of overlap, but occasionally you’ll find a few fresh listings that haven’t otherwise hit your radar.

#3: LinkedIn.com — Given that LinkedIn decided to start boosting its own organic leads with aggregated content as of a year or two ago, it’s no surprise it has now become an even greater force in the hiring process than years prior.  On the surface, in fact, LinkedIn tends to generate 200-700% more results than the other sites when running side-by-side comparisons — and to offer more truly “unique” leads than you’ll find via the competitors.  But wait, there’s a catch.  Upon further inspection, you’ll discover that a great many of the leads that come up are due to LinkedIn’s tendency to showcase HUNDREDS of jobs from Microsoft and Amazon which ends up skewing the mix — and can be downright annoying — especially if you’re not interested in targeting these two particular employers (in fairness, though, I was happy to see that LinkedIn finally allows users to knock out all the Microsoft and Amazon leads by adding a simple -Microsoft -Amazon command to the Company box on the search screen).  Additionally, I was bugged by the fact that the site also doesn’t stick to the integrity of its own menu system, meaning that if you search for a term like “project manager” in the Title box, it also shows you openings for jobs such as Program Manager (and possibly other titles) as well.  So while admittedly, I’m a purist, this diminishes the site’s usefulness in my estimation since it means a knowledgeable job hunter can’t take full control of the search process.  Still, despite these various quirks, LinkedIn is a definite “must visit” site if you’re looking for published openings in today’s world.

#4: Ziprecruiter.com — This site is the dark horse of the list.  It’s one I’ve noticed has not only been advertising quite heavily in recent years, but is also getting talked about by many of my clients, as the company not only aggregates leads but is also investing a ton of energy trying to entice employers to post jobs directly to their platform.  This being said, the site still has some usability issues holding it back.  For starters, I couldn’t find any way to search the database by job titles only — instead of the full body text — making it hard to construct a precision search to avoid false positives and wasted time.  Secondly, for a certain amount of the listings shown you’re required to enter your e-mail address (and ostensibly be put on the Ziprecruiter mailing list) in order to actually apply to the job in question, which is a hurdle other sites don’t make you jump over.  So while I’d recommend Ziprecruiter as another potential stop for job hunters who want to be extremely thorough, it’s still got a few kinks that need to be worked out before it reaches its full potential.

#5: Beyond.com — Last but not least, and mainly based on inertia from last year, I decided to review beyond.com again to see if this site had added any new features or done anything to change my impressions from years past.  Alas, I didn’t notice any such changes.  This site still ranks last of the bunch in terms of actual job volume, but also continues to use an interface that seems way too clunky, outdated, and advertising-heavy compared to other alternatives.  So despite it still being a fairly well-known player in the industry, this isn’t a site I’ll likely review in the future or that I’d recommend people incorporate in their regular regimen.  I don’t see where it adds anything you wouldn’t already find from sites #1 to #4, above.

So there you have it — my latest/greatest observations regarding these top job sites, however semi-subjective they might be.  Summing things up, I continue to believe that the “best practice” for most professionals is to use Boolean syntax to set up powerful, precise searches on Indeed.com and LinkedIn.com — and then save these searches as automatic daily e-mail alerts, for convenience.  Additionally, while not mentioned above, you’ll probably want to also check out and set up a job alert on the Craigslist job board as well, since (as I’ve discussed many times previously) that site is one-of-a-kind in that it doesn’t allow other job boards to re-post its listings.  You’ll find openings posted on Craigslist, in other words, you simply won’t find anywhere else, especially from smaller companies and non-profit organizations.

Questions?  Comments?  Other great job sites or resources you think I might have overlooked in this year’s roundup?  As always, feel free to share your own thoughts about the usefulness of these tools, but based on my latest comparisons, the above advice sums up my recommendations on how to find the majority of published job leads with minimal duplication of effort.