3.2 Find Job Postings

Jordan Smith

Major job search engines like Monster and Indeed are good places to start your job search, but they should be only a part of a broader job-search strategy. Both job seekers and employers have their objections to these sites. To seekers, applying through them can be frustrating for the following reasons:

  • Some will strip out the formatting you have meticulously assembled for your résumé and cover letter;
  • Submitting confidential information about yourself to them feels risky;
  • They can feel like vast abysses into which you send dozens of applications you have labored over for hours, but without ever receiving a response back.

To employers and recruiters, the big job sites attract a flood of poor-quality applicants from around the world, leaving the hiring manager or committee with the time-intensive job of sorting out the applicants worth seriously considering from the droves of under-qualified applicants taking shots in the dark with what amounts to spam applications. With such a demanding selection process, employers simply do not have time to respond to them all.

Nonetheless, ignoring these sites altogether would be a mistake because too many employers use them to advertise positions. When your full-time job is just to find a full-time job, you need to explore all opportunities. The following are sites worth searching for job postings and other information they offer on the job market:

A search for the jobs available in the career you are training for may yield depressingly few hits if you use just one or two of the above sites. If so, be prepared to use all of them and widen your search area to neighboring towns, large urban centers, and even other states and countries. Even if you are not seriously considering moving for a job—if your strategy is just to wait until relevant jobs arise closer to home—at least getting a sense of what is out there is an important exercise for now. Beyond the above sites, also seek out the following:

  • Job search engines specific to your sector or field
  • Professional association sites specific to your field
  • Company/organization websites (look for their Careers page)
  • Professional networking sites such as LinkedIn

Your goal is to collect as many job leads as possible to get a full sense of what is available before focusing on those worth devoting significant time to.

Once you have collected some job postings for positions you can pursue seriously, your next step is to compile a set of notes that will furnish all the necessary information for a cover letter and résumé. For each position you find a posting for, list the following:

1. Job title exactly as given in the job posting

  • Use this in the subject line for both your cover letter and in the Objective Statement (if needed) in your résumé.
  • Also, copy and paste the reference number, if the position has one. Larger organizations that have a dedicated human resources (HR) department will use the reference number for the position you are applying for to process your application properly.

2. Required skills, competencies, and qualifications

  • Every job posting worth applying to lists skills the employer is looking for in the ideal employee for that position. These may also take the form of job duties. Copy and paste these into your notes to ensure accuracy of transcription.
  • Use this list as a guide for what to include in the Skills and Qualifications Summary section of your résumé, as well as under entries in the Employment and/or Education sections as proof that you have developed the skills the employer requires of applicants. If the employer or their third-party recruiter agents use an electronic filter to dispose of applications that do not match enough of the keywords present in the posting, basing your résumé on the posting’s list of skills will increase your chances of success. Copy the exact wording.
  • Do not let the fact that you do not have everything the employer asks for be a reason to not apply. Some employers may ask for too much when listing required educational credentials and experience to see if the unicorn candidate they seek actually exists. If not, they will select from among the next-best applicants. If you have reasonably equivalent experience or potential instead of the exact credentials required by the employer, find opportunities in your résumé, cover letter, and interview to explain how you can nonetheless deliver on what they want.

3. Company name, mailing address, and website

  • Find the mailing address on the company’s Contact page
  • Use the company name and mailing address in your cover letter. This will clarify to the hiring manager that your application is specific to the location where you intend to work.
  • Use the website to research the company.

4. Company background

  • Search the company website, especially its About Us page, for basic details about its size, history, and mission or vision statement.
  • Extend this research to an online search for news about the company beyond what they present itself. Look especially for recent news items that might offer clues as to why they are hiring and what problems they need to solve. Knowing this informs how you persuasively pitch yourself as part of the solution to those problems.
  • Use this information to inform your cover letter and prepare your interview talking points. Paraphrasing the employer’s mission or vision statement to make it your own in both the cover letter and interview will help convince the employer that your priorities align with theirs and you will fit the company culture.

5. Services and products

  • Sketch out a list of the company’s products and/or services; if there are many, just give some major categories relevant to the job you would do for them.
  • Use this knowledge to prepare for parts of the cover letter and interview.

6. Clientele

  • Identify demographic and other information about the company’s customer base or clientele. Since the first rule of business is to know the customer, what they want, and how to provide it, proving your understanding of these will help convince the employer that you share their priorities.
  • Use this to prepare your cover letter and for your interview.

7. Hiring manager name and contact information

  • When the manager responsible for filling a position sees their name as the addressee in the cover letter, this usually reflects well on the applicant. As opposed to addressing the letter generically “To whom it may concern,” the targeted cover letter shows that the applicant is resourceful in discovering who exactly to direct their pitch to and would be similarly resourceful in networking on the company’s behalf in the position they are applying to.
  • Search out the company Contact and About pages to determine who would likely be in charge of hiring.
    • Some job postings will name whom to send applications to, in which case this is easy, but usually you have to dig for this, perhaps using LinkedIn.
    • If it is a larger company, look for head personnel in HR (human resources), recruiting, or operations.
    • If it is a small business, the hiring manager is more likely to be the CEO, director, or owner.
  • If this information is not available on the job posting and you cannot find it on the website, try calling the company and ask to whom you can address your cover letter for the job application (Guffey et al., 2016, p. 398).
    • Calling the company shows that you are proactive and resourceful in getting the information necessary to succeed, shows that you care about what the company wants, and is a good networking play.
    • Calling also provides you with an opportunity to ask about their preferences for cover letters (do they want them or not?) and résumés (one page or two? reverse-chronological, functional, or combination résumé? what else do they like to see in them?) so you can tailor yours accordingly.
    • If they refuse to divulge this information, respect that they want to protect the identity of the hiring manager so that applicants can not influence them outside of the standard hiring process. If this is the case, “Dear Hiring Manager” is an acceptable alternative salutation in the cover letter.
  • Use this information for your cover letter and preparing for your interview; also consider if this person is worth working for by examining their LinkedIn profile and whatever else you can find online. After all, a hiring process is a two-way street where both employer and applicant assess each other for compatibility.

8. Job posting URL and screenshot

  • Copy and paste the web address (URL) for the job posting into your notes and, to retrieve it easily, hyperlink the address by positioning your cursor at the end of it and hitting the spacebar (or highlight, type ctrl + k, and paste in the URL into the web address field).
  • Just to keep a record of the job posting for future reference, especially if the posting is taken down after the application window expires and you need to review it ahead of the interview, insert a screenshot (Take-a-screenshot.org, 2014) of the job posting below the URL. You may need two or three screenshots to cover the full scroll-down length of the posting webpage.

Making a habit of keeping such a record of the jobs you are serious about and that you have a good chance of hearing back from will set you up for success. Applications that do not address what the posting asks for because the applicant did not strategically note what that was, however, will likely be disposed of electronically before a human even sets eyes on them.


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3.2 Find Job Postings Copyright © 2022 by Jordan Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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