While job seekers should never rely entirely on job boards, here's a tip for when you do browse listings: Use niche sites.
Too often, job seekers turn to large, well-known job boards like Monster, Indeed, CareerBuilder.com, or SimplyHired. But tapping into niche sites, which offer listings for a specific industry or location, increases your chances not only of finding the job you're looking for, but also of landing that job, experts say.
Why? Because contrary to popular belief, large job boards don't aggregate all listings. Smaller, more targeted sites usually include openings that don't show up elsewhere. They also sometimes offer contact information for the hiring manager rather than routing you to a generic application, which means your resume is less likely to disappear into a black hole. And while applicants from niche sites tend to be more qualified—because their skill set more often matches what the employer is looking for—you'll compete with fewer candidates there than you would on well-known sites.
"You're a bigger fish in a smaller pond," says Chris Russell, a job board consultant and CEO of AllCountyJobs.com. "You have more chance of standing out on a niche job board than you do on a Monster."
Smaller companies in particular often prefer using niche boards to find applicants because they tend to get responses from higher quality candidates, Russell says, which means they have to sift through fewer applications to find the right hire. If a manager is looking for a sales employee, for example, she knows she's reaching out to the right audience when she posts on Sales Gravy, a networking community for sales professionals that includes a job board. Universities that want to hire faculty often post on HigherEdJobs. And companies that need to fill programming or other tech-heavy positions are smart to turn to CrunchBoard, a job board on TechCrunch, a website that focuses on technology and Internet news.
Indeed, for every industry, there's a niche job board—or two or three or more. But how to find them? Niche boards aren't as in your face as the massive job websites, so you have to know to go fishing for one that's relevant for your skills. To start, talk to your co-workers or other people who work in your industry about where they look for jobs, or ask hiring managers where they post open positions. Consulting Google also works; type your industry plus "jobs" into the search engine, and "chances are, if [niche job boards are] on the first page [of results], they're worth using," Russell says. You can also browse lists of niche sites like this one from Internet Inc.com, but recognize that they're not all-inclusive.
Keep your guard up for spammy sites, says Jeff Dickey-Chasins, a consultant who blogs about job boards. "There are plenty of sites out there that just sort of exist for traffic reasons." Owners of those sites make money off Google advertisements, so if the site you're using is over-populated with Google ads or others that are unrelated to employment, it's a good sign you should look elsewhere, he says.
Many successful niche job boards start out as community sites, often blogs. Site owners add a job board when they realize companies could benefit from tapping into their audience, which includes experts on that particular topic. By charging companies to post openings, site administers can make some cash, typically between $100 to $300 monthly per post, Dickey-Chasins says.
That's worked for Andre Blackman, who recently launched a job board on his blog, Pulse + Signal. After blogging for a year and a half about new media and technology in health care, Blackman, who works in digital communications, saw a need for a place where companies hiring in the field could connect with job seekers who have the right skills. He used software called Job-a-matic to create a job board, charges companies $50 a month to post openings, and imports some relevant jobs from SimplyHired. In the month since Pulse + Signal Jobs launched, he's already heard from hiring managers who are interviewing candidates they found through the site.
"In time, I'm hoping this would be one of the first resources that people in this kind of field go to," says Blackman, whose blog scores about 3,000 unique visitors each month. "A lot of the smaller projects or initiatives or companies want to make sure they go after people who are like-minded."
For job seekers, that's yet another benefit of the niche job board. Simply applying via a niche site can show that you know the industry, says Ford Myers, a career coach and author of Get the Job You Want Even When No One's Hiring. "[It says] you're a member of our club," Myers says. "You wouldn't even know about our job board unless you were in our club ... You know the secret handshake."
Like many career coaches, Myers advises his clients not to put much stock into job boards because they offer so little return. "It's OK to use the job board as a research tool, to find out more about a company, to find out which companies are expanding," he says. "Then to go around to the back door and get in through networking.
Even when applying through job boards, the cardinal rule of job-hunting—network, network, network—still stands. If you don't already have a connection at the company where you'd like to work, make one. Figure out who the hiring manager is through Google, LinkedIn, or the company website, and CC that person when you email your cover letter. Use social media to your advantage: Look on LinkedIn or Facebook to see whether anyone in your extended network works at the company, and use Twitter to learn what the organization wants in employees. Figure out where company employees hang out—either online or at in-person professional events—and make an appearance.
"[By using niche sites,] you up your chances that you're going to find the jobs you're looking for," Dickey-Chasins says. "That doesn't mean you can't find those kinds of jobs on big job boards—you just have to look a little harder."
What's your favorite niche job board? Leave it in the comments so other job seekers can check it out.