How do I find out about a job?

Nov 11, 1994

Input from readers of this column:

Advertisement in a magazine for graduate.

Campus postings. The companies whose jobs are posted on campus are really looking for fresh graduate students. The competition here is less severe than the world outside where the number of years of experience in the field is always considered in the selection process. Another important source is from friends. Friends could also provide information about job offerings from companies they're currently working.

I look in the newspaper, Internet, and talk to my networking contacts. It's important to keep in touch with your former boss, or former colleagues because companies tend to give higher preference to personal recommendation. And last but not least, tell EVERYONE that you are looking for a different job.

I've been working with a couple of head hunters. I've stayed with them for years. They've kept me informed of the job market and have been quite effective when it's time for me to make a change. Previously I had had some bad experience with placement services, and wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

I' an EE. I got my jobs through on-campus interview.

Again from my experience and my friends', the number one source of jobs are from the network of friends, especially for experienced engineers. For starters, good sources are your older classmates who are working, your professors, recruiting offices, newspaper ads, job swap meet (i.e. Westech).

A software contractor: Ask friends, surf the net, read newspapers (although this is the least efficient). In my case, I found my job in one of the newsgroup. (

Following is my ranking of the source of job information. I am dealing here with regular position, not consulting positions.

1. networking (we are talking about relationship here, not the physical network). Most jobs are not advertised. You get the inside track through your friends/colleagues at technical and professional organization (e.g. VACETS)/ social or athletic club/ religious organization/ neighborhood organization. So, it is essential to create a network of support people (friends, colleagues, friends of friends), where you help each other out. Networking will also help you in other matters. Remember that networking is a 2-way street, you can ask for help, but you are expected to help in turn too. Nobody expects you to hire an unqualified person or to give preference to a person from your network, but you are expected to SHARE information and help with leads.

If you are just graduating, your school placement office, your professors, former classmates or fraternity/sorority members are the best sources of job information. Companies tend to view new college graduates as a source of new blood, so they are treated separately (big companies have different approval procedures for college hire, separate from professional hires). Sign-up for as many on-campus interviews as you can. If you have to write letters to companies that do not participate in on-campus interviews, emphasize the fact that you are about/have just graduated in your cover letter. Through your school placement office, you can obtain addresses of college recruiters for the large corporation. Using these addresses may get you better results than general corporate addresses. Of course writing to a hiring manager may get you an even speedier answer.

The reason it is called networking is that you can call on friends of friends of friends. Always check that you can use the name of the person who referred you to the next one. When you go beyond a direct friend, and you are just after information, be tactful. Use an indirect approach and do not press people for job directly. If you phone, 15 minutes of a person's time is about right, unless he/she volunteers to go on longer. Remember that thank you letters for a good reference is in order.

2. headhunters, employment agencies. For professional, there is typically no fee for you, the company pays. Since the typical fee is 25-30% of your annual salary for a headhunter, you have to have some special skill before a company will pay this kind of fee. Employment agencies typically charge similar fee, but it is on as-you-go basis for about 6 months, and typically involves temporary positions. After the end of the specified period, you are free to work out a regular (HR people are shying away from "permanent" nowadays in the US) position with the employer. The advantage of using these headhunters/agencies is that they are pro-actively looking for jobs for you, in the initial period. If you become stale (3 months?), you need to prod them with phone calls.
Headhunters advertise in magazines and also on some of the usenet bulletin boards. Typically you need to develop a rapport with the person you will be working with.
When working with more than one headhunter, be careful to steer them to different geographical locations or job category. If they collide and find out that you are using another agency, you may end up at the bottom of their priority list. It is better to use only one main headhunter after you have checked him out, and work with others only on specific positions.

3. Ads in newspaper, magazine, computer bulletin boards. While this category comes last, this does not mean that you should ignore it. Scan the employment sections of your newspapers and magazines. The problem with this is that you have a lot of competition, so spend the time on the cover letter to try to answer the job requirements listed in the ad (see my posting a while ago in vacet-jobs on letters). There is one group of ads that I will not bother to answer. They are those with a state employment agency address. These are typically done by a company in the process of qualifying an employee for an immigrant visa. These tend to be very detailed. You can try, but it is typically a waste of time.

In this category will be listing at state employment agencies. These are typically good for blue collar jobs, but companies do send in white collar job requests too.

4. There are also the placement agencies. They actually do not get jobs for you. They help you market yourself. Either you pay them ($1- 5K) or else your company pays for their service as part of a severance package. The good ones will give you instruction on how to write resumes, have classes on how to write cover letter, how to prepare for an interview (and they will help you get info about companies), how to negotiate, ... But basically you are expected to work the phones yourself.

I will put in this category the job advertisement collection services that will get you x number of job ads for a fee. There are also the mailing services that will send your resume to a number of headhunters. Last are the bulletin boards, where you can post your resume. For the latter, contact your professional organization (IEEE or the like) for access to free job wanted bb.

When you are out of a job and actively searching for a job, even a distant possibility is worth a try. Remember, you only need 1 job from the many possible ones. So, try all the above sources.

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