Just posting online may not land a job

At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here’s an explanation for

How should I use the Internet in my job search?

First, let me say that the Internet is great for finding work. Job advertisements are plentiful and easy to locate round-the-clock — without leaving your desk. You can almost always apply for a position online, a further convenience.

But let me be the first to warn you: Don’t make the mistake of many job seekers, spending all your time online, spreading resumes like birdseed. Such over-reliance will land you in a shapeless herd of candidates. Members of this herd shuffle passively from job posting to posting hoping someone will pick them over other fair-eyed bovines. You’d do almost as well playing the lottery.

Job seeking isn’t just about finding the ads. Rather, a job search is about getting hired for meaningful, rewarding work, preferably for years at a time. That means finding the right position with the right company at the right time and then doing the right things to get noticed.

Use it as a research tool

The Internet can play a key role in this endeavor provided you treat it as a means to an end — a strategic tool. You’ll use the Internet foremost to research prospective employers and their industries and to make connections with people who are involved in recruiting or can lead you to them. Remember, when you’re looking for a job, information and the right connections are a powerhouse combo.

You’ll start online by pinpointing firms with the best fit. Ignore those whose culture doesn’t feel appropriate. In doing so, you’ll narrow your focus, becoming a wiser, more motivated job seeker. You’ll use tidbits of information in your cover letter and resume to impress recruiters with your in-depth knowledge of a firm.

But wait — you’ll have already contacted said recruiters, if not a manager in charge of hiring, to tell them how interested you are in working for their organization. If their names aren’t already on an online job ad, you’ll have found them via newfound contacts.

Network through organizations

Many professional and diversity associations recruit good employees for their industries. Check their Web sites for campus chapters and local representatives, not to mention scores of job listings. Alumni groups with their own sites are also rich sources of information. Rest assured that they can lead you to people working in an industry that interests you. And don’t forget student organizations, including fraternities, sororities and clubs, with their own networks of industry insiders.

Companies’ Web sites also offer useful material. For example, visitors to the Web site of financial services giant UBS can watch videos of current employees, assess their own skills to determine what position might suit them best and find interviewing tips — all this along with job openings and internship possibilities.

Beyond the big job boards

Look to outside job boards, which fall into three or four basic categories. You’re probably familiar with large, generalist boards, Monster, CareerBuilder and Yahoo Hotjobs. For access to an even wider swathe of job openings, aggregators such as Indeed and Jobster may be the ticket. Their software collects job listings from Web sites. Smaller so-called niche job boards can be easier to use because they target just one industry, region or type of professional. You won’t have to search hard for the information or job ads on these sites.

Have the Net search for you

There are other Internet services that may help. If you’re ready to apply for a job but find none that are appealing, you can sign up for a job agent on some Web sites. You outline what you’re seeking and receive automatic e-mail alerts when a job meets your criteria. A newer technology called Really Simple Syndication, or RSS, finds jobs online that match your interests.

Subsequent steps in the hiring process itself will occur largely online. You’ll schedule interviews and receive — we hope — regular updates from your potential employer. Don’t be afraid to take the initiative here. A short thank-you note after an interview can leave a positive impression. Demonstrating interest can also reflect favorably on you. Job seeking is not for the bashful.

Los Angeles-based James Peter Rubin has written about employment and management issues for many publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The Economist.