Successful Job Search With Classified Ads

By Cathy Goodwin

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Career counselors often warn you that only 20% of jobs are advertised. But numbers can be deceptive. When I worked in the corporate world and later in academia, I found almost all my jobs through want ads.

My own clients are surprised when I encourage them to add classiifieds to their mix of job search strategies.

Of course, most savvy careerists today do not rely on any one approach. You can also include networking, connecting with recruiters and social marketing, especially on LinkedIn.  But want ads can be part of the process.

(1) Be selective when answering ads.

Professional publications will be more helpful than Craigslist and your city’s daily newspapers. Even if you’re networking or working with a recruiter, your professional publications will give you a sense of what's out there and what leading firms are seeking.

(2) Protect yourself when answering blind ads.

If you’re currently employed, I recommend steering away from blind ads. I’ve actually met a few people who responded to blind ads from their own employers.

And if you’re self-employed, protect yourself against unethical recruiters who want to send your resume to every employer in town. Add a paragraph along the lines of:

“If you are a recruiter, please send my resume only to the employer associated with the position advertised in [publication and date]. Call me before sending my resume elsewhere.”

(3) Apply for positions even if you are only partially qualified.

One rule of thumb: If you’re missing one or two “must haves” listed in the ad, go ahead and apply. Otherwise wait.

But I would say, “If you really need or want a job, stop counting!”

A few careers ago, I answered an ad for a job for which I was vastly overqualified. The hiring manager pulled my resume and suddenly I was being interviewed for a higher level position.

When you’re missing a few “must haves,” a strong “yes” in one area can sometimes overcome a few “no’s.”

(4) Answer ads for distant locations based on the publication.

You’re considering a move to Great City, You look in business publications and local newspapers and sure enough, you see jobs! Set up a time to visit and include in your cover letter: “I’ll be in Great City from – to — . “

BUT if you’re answering an ad from a national publication, use your current address and don’t discuss your plans to move. You may be benefit from the Not Invented Here syndrome (i.e., whatever’s outside is better).

Companies that advertise in the Wall Street Journal or in industry publications (such as the Chronicle of Higher Education) have chosen to reach a national and international market. Most of the time they’ve budgeted for relocation and don’t care where you’re living.

(5) Recognize you’re shooting dice.

Often companies have no idea what they want. Sometimes hiring managers get an “aha” moment after they see a candidate: “I didn’t realize I needed X but…”

The wording of an ad may be dictated by custom. Sometimes an ad is nothing more than a wish list. Sometimes an ad doesn’t mean the company has a real job. Companies may want to see who’s out there. The hiring manager already chose the boss’s nephew but they’re forced to run an ad (and maybe even interview candidates) to comply with legal and corporate regulations.

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