Find a Job Online – Beware of the Online Job Search Feedback Loop

Have you ever noticed that when you are trying to find a job online you tend to come across the same job list in a bunch of different places? This is due to something that I have started referring to as the online job feedback loop. It is especially apparent when you add a geographic term to a job. For example if you search for sales director Houston, a job description that likely only has a few openings right now, your search results will look like there are hundreds of jobs for a sales director in Houston.

This starts when a company posts a real, high paying, job for a sales director in Houston. So we have one real job. Then the recruiters in the area notice that a local company has a job and so they post the same job, with a little modification, on the big job boards like monster or hot jobs in the hopes of grabbing good candidates before they apply directly to the company. Then the top scraper companies like indeed and ehired scrape the jobs off the job boards and post them on their sites. Then there are a whole bunch of companies that add to their sites (in order to increase their advertising revenues) by posting local jobs on their sites. Then there are the second tier scrapers that post the jobs pretending that they are theirs.

Suddenly when you search for sales director jobs in Houston you get hundreds or even thousands of hits and it looks like there is a huge market for sales directors in Houston. The problem is that there isn’t a huge market. If you base your job search on the perception that there are a lot of jobs you are misleading yourself and making bad choices. Worse, if you apply to several of these different postings you are wasting your time chasing ghosts.

This problem gets even worse when online job search companies (who shall remain nameless for now) make up jobs in order to get candidates to their sites to sell subscriptions or resume services or mailing lists etc. If you know what you are looking for you can start to see these made up jobs. They typically look like high paying jobs with good titles in specific geographic areas with very generic requirements. These phantom jobs have the same feedback path, getting picked up, copied, reposted, etc. until even if there are no jobs in that specific category in that geographic area, when people search for them they find a lot of high paying jobs.

So how do you avoid this? When you look at job postings you need to ask yourself two questions. 1) Is this job real? 2) Is this the same as a job I have already seen?

Is the job real? If it is, then there will be a local company that has the job posted on their web site. Look at key phrases in the job description, and a location if it is specified, and then Google search for those key phrases and a description. If the job is real then you should be able to find the actual job description at the company. You also may have better luck applying directly to the company than working through a recruiter.

Is this the same job as a previous posting? Start the same way, look at key phrases and see if they are the same. You should have a good sense of what is going on in your local area and so if you are searching for the same kind of jobs you should think about them in terms of their descriptions. If the description sounds familiar look back at the jobs you have looked at in the past and see if they really line up. If so, don’t waste your time.