Why looking at job postings is a bad idea

The main reason is that it is a backwards notion.  Richard N. Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute, explains that the first way a job seeker looks for a job is the last way that employers seek job seekers.

When employers are filling a vacant position, they first look around to see if they know anybody who could do the work. This falls under the “least risk” category which is innate to being a human. Least risk is a survival trait. It also requires the least effort.

If they can’t find anyone that way, they will expand their nets wider.  Is there a former employee who might be available?  Do they know someone who knows someone? 

The final method that employers use is placing an ad.  This is the most risky and the most troublesome.  They never know who they might get; a pile of resumes takes a lot of time, never mind the interviews and shortlisting. 

 This information is very significant for a job seeker.  And it also explains why only 20% of jobs are ever posted. 

And why it will always be true. 

The strategy for job seekers then is to get closer to the inner circle where employers first look.  This is why we hear people say they got their jobs by word of mouth.

What an intriguing challenge!

And one where your innate strengths can help.  If you enjoying meeting new people, attending networking events might work for you.  If you have a preference to having deeper, one-on-one conversations, arranging a meeting might work the best.

The questions to ask yourself before you set out to find job that are not posted are:

  • What are my strengths?  To explore yours, check out this article here.
  • How can I contribute to the organization or company in ways where I am able to make a difference in my own uniqueness?  This means doing some research ahead of time to find out more about the people you are interviewing.
  • What are some questions that you are curious about?  Make a list before you meet with anyone.

This approach works well if you know what you want.  But what if you don’t?

Frequently I see people looking at job postings to figure out what they want to do with their life, what career to choose.

This is problematic for several reasons.  Here's why job postings are a bad idea for career exploration. 

Job postings show some gaps

But they certainly don’t show them all.  In thinking about the 20% rule above, that means 80% of jobs are not on the radar.  If you only use job postings as a way of finding work that fits for you, you may well be missing a big selection that you hadn’t even considered. 

Job postings can be discouraging

When you look at the job boards, you get a distorted picture of the labour market.  What you don’t get to see is the vibrancy and possibilities of a workplace that has never seen such diversity and so many choices of work.  The types of work that are advertised can too frequently give such a narrow view you don’t think there is anything else and you can find yourself disheartened.    

Job postings are only one side of the equation

What job postings show is some of the demand that is available.  But it doesn’t show who you are, what makes you tick, which is key to the other part of the equation.  As a career exploration method, looking at job postings takes you away from where you need to put your attention. 

Knowing the labour market has a place in finding work that fits for you – the idea is to find work after all – but if you only base your decisions on what you see in job postings, your degree of work satisfaction will be hit or miss.

Is there a place for job postings in finding work that will fit for you?  Perhaps in the career research phase.  But they will only be one element. 

When I talk to people about job postings, I tell them to place no more than 20% of their energy in this method – either as a job search method or career exploration aspect. 

Here is another important truth

The labour market is always in a state of flux.  What is in demand varies from province to province and from region to region.  And that state trickles down to the job boards, and in advice about what’s hot and what’s not.

Basing your career decisions solely on an ever-changing labour market is a bumpy ride.

So rather than focussing on jobs in demand, wouldn’t you rather spending your precious time and energy in seeking work where you can use your gifts and talents?

As it happens, that's what employers are seeking.