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Frustration #1: Want Ads

The Job Hunter

By Rabbi Mordechai Kruger

(Continued from last week)

I wrote last time about want ads, which are read by multitudes of job hunters but help very few. Their ability to bring in piles of applications is their drawback, and relying on responding to them to find a job is a really bad idea.

First, there’s a secret everyone needs to know. The companies that place the ads rarely actually use them to find the person they hire. Hiring, especially for the middle-class jobs that most 5TJT readers might be looking for, gets done through networking, personal contacts, or recruiters/head-hunters that have a personal relationship with the company. These will all be discussed in future columns. The point for now is that want ads are not the method that companies use to find the people they want. So why do the ads get printed in the first place?

Once upon a time it made sense that someone who wanted to hire should tell as many people as possible. That way there would be a lot of applicants, with a better chance that the best candidate available would be among them. So want ads were a great idea. But today, the ads bring in so many applicants that the whole system breaks down. So what purpose do want ads, especially the ones in high-visibility locations, serve? One major answer involves lawsuits.

Employers live in fear of spurious (or sometimes not-so-spurious) lawsuits. Discrimination in hiring is fertile ground for suing. So employers want to prove that they gave everyone a fair shot. Hence, the want ads, and the impersonal, hopefully bias-proof evaluation based on key words. But in fact they often have already identified the candidate they want, or they will find him through channels that they know and trust. The whole process is a charade to protect themselves from lawsuits.

There are, of course, some positions that are filled from want ads, using these very high-tech methods. And the research shows that the people hired using them are far less likely to succeed in the job. But people believe in their technology, especially if they paid a lot of money to get that sophisticated software package.

I’m not saying that job hunters should not respond to want ads. I just want every job hunter to understand what they accomplish and what they don’t. That way, the job hunter will be willing to do the real work of job hunting. Too often, job hunters are afraid to take the extra steps needed. Sending impersonal résumés to unknown destinations is safe, low-risk, non-threatening. You don’t get a response, no big deal. Doing the face-to-face connecting, researching, stepping up to the active pursuit of a real career risks rejection, criticism, embarrassment. Well, they say that ships are safest in port. But that’s not what ships are for.

Doing the job of job hunting is scary if you are alone and unguided. Happily, there are good books that can help you, like the vital What Color is Your Parachute? (always, the latest edition). And there are job coaches. The difference between employment agencies, headhunters, and job coaches will be the topic of my next column. v

Rabbi Mordechai Kruger is the founder and director of Pathways to Parnassa, an organization providing job-search and career coaching to our community. He can be reached at

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Posted by on May 30, 2013. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.