The do’s and don’ts of an online job search

The Internet can be a great tool for job seekers, says “The Business Etiquette Bible” author Scott Steinberg, but be careful not to make these common mistakes in your online job search.

The do’s and don’ts of an online job search

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We use the Internet to binge watch our favorite shows, shop for clothes, order food, and most importantly, find jobs. So, as you go about your job search journey, think about what else you’ve done online today.

Maybe you tweeted or shared a link to an interesting article about your industry from, say, this morning’s online Wall Street Journal. Then, perhaps you applied to a few job postings, using the same resume for each listing. After that, you declined an email party invitation from a local business group—because when you can do just about anything from your computer, who needs to network in person anymore, right?

If so, Scott Steinberg, author of The Business Etiquette Bible: Modern and High-Tech Rules, Tips, and Training for Working Professionals, says you just committed three big —and, unfortunately, all too common—mistakes.

“We live in a world of 24/7 connectivity,” Steinberg says, “but somehow the basic rules of business etiquette have failed to keep up and adapt.”

As an innovation consultant who speaks to dozens of business groups every year, Steinberg says he’s “constantly asked how to make the most of new technologies, especially social media.” In response, he’s written a no-nonsense guide to using the Internet to supercharge your career, instead of (inadvertently) messing it up.

Monster recently spoke with Steinberg about best practices for conducting an online job search.

Q. First, let’s talk about the three mistakes above. Why are they wrong?

A. One of my pet peeves is people sharing what I call “big links,” meaning anything that comes from a major blog, site, or publication that everyone in your business checks often and has probably already read. If you must share, at least add something new, like your own well-informed opinion or analysis of the topic.

The second mistake is taking a one-size-fits-all approach to job postings. Instead, pay close attention to the specific keywords and phrases in each particular job description, and customize your application and resume for each one. You need to quickly show hiring managers why you’re unique, and why you can achieve better results than the countless other candidates competing with you. Shotgunning every hiring manager with the same pitch isn’t going to work.

And third, we’ve all become so wrapped up in our electronic devices that it’s easy to forget that old-school social networking—getting to know people in person and building relationships face-to-face—is still key to getting hired. The Internet is a fantastic tool, but it can’t replace that.

Q. But with almost everybody on LinkedIn these days, can you use it to help with your networking?

A. It helps to be a little bit creative and wide-ranging in choosing possible connections. Don’t limit yourself to people in your own field. That is, beyond peers, executives, and thought leaders in your line of work who might potentially open doors for you, search for others with interests similar to yours, or expertise in a related area. For example, if you’re in advertising or marketing, look for journalists or video makers, since you’re all in the storytelling business in various ways.

Then, instead of just sending the standard invitation, briefly tell who you are and why you’re interested in connecting. Be sure your invitation answers three essential questions the person is likely to have: Who is this person? Why should I accept their invitation? And how is their experience and what they can offer me relevant to my business?

Q. What are the best ways to build your “personal brand” online?

A. Employers and recruiters are always trolling the Internet for talent, so you want to stand out as being so damn good they can’t overlook you. One way to do that is to create content, such as articles, videos, blogs, or podcasts, to showcase your skills and knowledge and help others solve problems. Whenever you put anything online, think about your audience. Ask yourself, what’s in it for them?

Another approach that works, if you’re not the one creating the content yourself, is to become a go-to resource for insights into the latest industry happenings and trends. Gathering and curating key data, research, and insights—especially with an eye toward helping others save time, money, or energy—is a sure way to showcase your personal brand online. Remember, we live in a world that’s drowning in messages and marketing. So there’s real value in being a kind of “digital DJ” who helps others discern helpful signals from all the noise.


Anne Fisher has been writing about career and workplace trends and topics since 1996.  She is the author of If My Career’s on the Fast Track, Where Do I Get a Road Map?