The Internet Isn’t as Powerful As You Think

The trouble with your online job search.

It’s hard to find statistics on the effectiveness of job search sites. And by hard, I mean they don’t exist. Go ahead: Google it. Ask Google how good Monster.com is at finding you a place to work. Google will probably ask you if you meant something else. Like, “did you mean you want to work for a monster”? 

Unfortunately, you won’t come across any reliable answers. But perhaps this unresolved search is an answer. The (I’m not so sure why it’s not) obvious reality is, if these job sites were connecting the unemployed with employers with any significant success, they’d be boasting of their results in no uncertain terms. They’d give it to us straight: “We’ve landed x number of unemployed job seekers with y number of employers. Yes, yes we did.”

Suffice it to say, these sites would be going quickly bankrupt if they did all the things they claim to do. A good job site, it seems to me, has very short-lived members.

You’ve got to hand it to them, though. These sites are making a killing. Evidently, 25,000,000 people visit Monster.com each month. Yep, six zeros. CareerBuilder.com gets 12,113,341 visitors per month, and 4,200,000 go to SnagAJob.com. At least they’ve got a cool name. Advertisers are salivating.

Job sites do offer a lot of useful meaningless tips, even if they don’t land you your next paycheck. They’ll help you rework your ghastly resume. One-inch margins. One-inch margins sweep employers off their feet. They’ll tell you how to master the “art of the interview”—because you’ve always wanted to associate the idea of art with the idea of an interview. Chances are the importance of a firm handshake and eye contact has never been imparted to you. They’ll tell you “What Not to Wear” to meet the boss. Apparently, cargo shorts and shoes without socks are big no-nos. Who knew?

They tell us all of this with love, of course. Because, as one of these sites, The Ladders, claims, your career is their job.

Except, it’s not. Your career is … get ready … your job. At what point did we begin to fool ourselves into believing that the job should find us? When did it become reasonable to think that, right now (or sometime soon!), somewhere out there, a business owner is taking her precious lunchtime to scroll through online applicants and find a new employee to whom she’ll write a nice check each month?

Of course, we aren’t that dumb. We know that potential employers have better things to do than analyze our job-site profiles. We know that our rhetorically gorgeous, quirky and creative “About Me” section will indefinitely remain a tucked-away gem on a lonely corner of the Internet. I’d argue that we know these things, but we choose to ignore them.

We live in an era when we think we can tweet our way to a revolution (Occupy was more #Occupy). We like to think a Facebook thread can take down an evil warlord (remember that?).

I think we know we’re fooling ourselves, but we enjoy going along for the ride. Because it’s nice to feel proactive and resourceful. It feels like we’re getting something done when we fluff up our resumes and read all the “How-To” PDFs. We like to think we’re really doing everything we can. We’re so damn connected and networked that we can hardly stand ourselves.

But when did the phone call go out of touch? Is that, like, too direct and imposing? When did the drop-in lose fashion? You know, to show your face and have a word (God forbid—spoken word!) with your potential employer.

The truth is: Take away all the hype and the great commercials, all the talk of creating an online presence, and all these job sites are just the Internet’s iteration of the classifieds. They don’t help you find a job; they tell you where you should go to find one. Monster, CareerBuilder, and SnagAJob are all beautifully laid-out classifieds. That’s all. They’re a jazzy, expensive version of the back of a newspaper.

Yes, the economy sucks. Yes, the unemployment rate for recent graduates is appalling. Of course, we should call for effective governmental policy that will stimulate the economy. Absolutely, we can argue politics over dinner. But even in a good economy, convincing someone to pay you thousands of dollars and maybe even give you some benefits (oh, how wonderful the job creators can be) is not, and never will be easy.

So, forget your passwords; delete your accounts; trash the PDFs. Walk the streets. Knock on a door or two. Mess up a few times. Mess up a few times. Drop in to a few offices. Show your face. Just, please, leave the cargo shorts at home.

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.