Job Search Methods

Alumni – Job Search Methods

There are several ways to find a job: networking, working with executive recruiters (headhunters) or search firms, answering ads posted on web sites or in journals or newspapers, attending job fairs and cold calling. Try all methods, but spend your job search time on the method(s) most likely to lead to a job.

The best method varies from person-to-person by level of experience and career field, but for everyone networking is regarded as the most productive job search activity, leading ultimately to 50-70% of all jobs. Because many jobs are unpublished, that is, they are filled before they are advertised, this statistic makes sense. For a seasoned professional planning to remain in the same field, executive recruiters can also be a good source of leads. Recruiters are paid (by the employer) between 20% and 33% of the position’s salary and tend to fill senior positions. For the younger or less experienced person, networking is also the most fruitful job search method and most of a job seeker's time should be spent on this activity. Spending time setting up job search agents and then responding to appropriate postings is also a good use of time. Sending out unsolicited resumes is the method least likely to lead to a job, and should receive the least amount of job search time.

Networking is the most effective way to learn about careers and ultimately to land a job. Research consistently shows that networking leads to a job far more often than other job search methods such as responding to postings, attending job fairs or sending out unsolicited resumes. Networking is frequently the only way to learn about “unpublished” jobs, those that are not advertised and may not even be created yet. People conducting a job search should spend most of their time networking in order to land a job that is a good fit in the least amount of time.

What is networking? Networking is not asking for a job. It is asking for information, advice and feedback as part of the job search that may ultimately lead to a position. It’s a process that anyone can learn.  For more information, review the Alumni Networking Guide.

Executive recruiters, also known as “headhunters,” can be an excellent source of job leads. They usually recruit for more senior, higher-salary positions. Recruiters work for themselves and are paid by the company doing the hiring. Contingency recruiters are inclined to fill mid-to senior-level positions. They will be one of several agencies working to fill a job requisition from an employer. They are typically paid 20 – 30% of the position’s annual salary and are only paid after they successfully fill a position. They are motivated to quickly find a candidate who closely matches the requirements of the job. Thus, they can be very attentive when they feel you are a potential candidate for a job, and less so when they do not see a match between you and the jobs they are recruiting for. Retained recruiters conduct exclusive searches for hiring companies and usually focus on senior-level positions. They function as an extension of the company’s team and are usually more motivated to find the ideal candidate. They are generally paid about a third of the position’s annual salary. Recruiters are generally not interested in career changers.

Recruiters sometimes have access to unpublished jobs and may represent the only source of candidates for particular jobs. They can be helpful in editing your resume for a particular opportunity, preparing you for interviews, debriefing with you after interviews, and negotiating compensation.

One good way to find an executive recruiter is by networking. Ask people in your field about their experience with specific recruiters and search firms. You may also use research tools to search for executive recruiters in your field. For example, the business journals in many cities publish an annual list of executive search companies. Be sure to interview recruiters before you agree to work with them. Ask things like how many people with your qualifications they placed in the last year. Or what industries they specialize in. Find out whether they are being paid on a contingency or retained basis. Stipulate that you want to approve each submission they make on your behalf. Ask them for references. Research many, and reduce the field to 3 – 5 to work with. It is appropriate to work with more than one as long as you inform them all about the arrangement. Finally, remember that this is your career. Don’t let a recruiter push you to take a job that is not a good fit for you. 


Handshake is a job-posting service exclusively for Dickinson students and alumni. The jobs posted for alumni are typically entry-level positions aimed at people who have graduated within the last 5 years. 

If you are spending more than three hours per week applying to jobs on the internet (this does not include time spent on the internet researching), you are not doing an effective job search. Here’s why. Internet postings lead to jobs only 5 – 10% of the time (it is at the higher end for jobs in IT, engineering, finance and healthcare). Searching online should be a small part of everyone’s job search.

Use your time well and maximize your effectiveness by limiting your search to web sites of companies you have targeted; one or two large, general web sites, like or; and one or two industry specific sites. For example, if you’re interested in public relations, go to the Public Relations Society of America site ( or if you’re interested in human resources, go to the Society for Human Resource Management site ( For an extensive list of general and industry-specific job search web sites, go to Job Search Links . Use job search "agents" to make your search more targeted by identifying jobs according to your criteria. Follow up on jobs that make sense for you because they conform to your own work preferences.

Save your resume as a plain text (.txt) file and remove all formatting. Use this version rather than a formatted (Microsoft Word) version of your resume when applying online. There is less chance that it will arrive at the employer or third party screener looking garbled. Save the graphically pleasing version when sending it directly to a person. When applying online, make sure you follow the instructions precisely. Follow up, if possible, to express interest and make sure your resume was received.

For more information on resume writing for online postings, see the Alumni Resume and Reference Guide.   


Job fairs can be a good source of job leads for recent graduates and those in “hot” fields. They are generally not helpful for job seekers with experience. Check with the sponsoring organization for a list of participating companies and the jobs open. Recognize that even if it does not lead to a job, a job fair can be a good place to practice networking and interviewing. While you should take copies of your resume to a job fair, it is unusual today for an employer to take a copy from you. In most instances you will be referred to the company website to apply online. Employers do this to make their hiring process efficient and to enable them to comply with government employment regulations.

To find a job fair, do a search on the internet.  A good site to visit is the "Job and Career Fairs" page on

For tips on how to be successful at a job fair, click on the downloadable file created for students, How to Succeed at a Job Fair.  

Alumni are eligible to participate in some job fairs; check Handshake for more information.