What to do about job ads

Less than 5% of all jobs are secured through answering ads.  On the surface, this would seem backwards since the companies who are placing the ads are looking for people, right?  Not necessarily.

It is important to understand the reasons companies place ads in the first place, so you can navigate these with proper expectations.

Marketing.  Have you noticed that some companies always appear to be hiring?  Just because they have an ad, doesn’t mean they’re serious.  Back in December, a survey by Right Management found that 84% of workers planned to search for a new job in 2012.  Running regular ads is a fairly low cost strategy, especially by larger companies to help build their brand in the marketplace.  They usually have the online systems and HR staffs in place to help screen applicants to give just enough customer service while minimizing human contact.  Sure, they might interview some folks from time to time as real needs surface in the organization, but overall they look at ads as part of a bigger plan.  A thirty second advertisement during the Super Bowl in 2012 cost about $3.5 million.  Daily online and print employment ads cost a fraction of that and probably end up reaching a wider audience with so many people searching.  While applicants see these organizations as destinations, companies see this as smart business.

Database.  As stated above, sometimes the primary objective of the ad is not to fill a position today.  Sometimes, companies are simply trying to be proactive by building a database for future use, so they’ll be prepared with potential candidates for either future expansion or a needed replacement.  Just realize that while you may be searching for a new job now, some companies are preparing for later.

Due Diligence.  Have you ever interviewed for a position only to be beaten out by an internal candidate or inside referral?  Ever wondered afterwards why they even bothered to advertise the position or interview others if they already had their person?  Many companies consider this process as doing their due diligence.  While it is possible they may go with one of these outside applicants if something goes awry with their primary candidate, unfortunately most of the time they end up becoming “sacrificial lambs” in the process.

Window/Bargain Shopping.  There are companies that are simply curious to see what kind of talent is in the marketplace.  Others are interested in talking with those working at their competition and learning other pertinent information.  Some are looking for “bargains” by finding people willing to accept less money in order to have employment.  Hopefully you’re starting to get a sense of why so few people end up getting their next job through an ad!

Desperation.  Have you known companies who struggle with keeping their people?  There are organizations out there that have very unhealthy cultures and are simply bad places to work.  They do have jobs available, but most people don’t want them.  Since these places can’t rely on networking or internal referrals, they’re forced to advertise in hopes of getting someone just as desperate as they are to take the position.  Of course this usually leads to dysfunction, and it is only a matter of time before the position is open again and the cycle continues.

They’re serious, and it is for real!  Hey, it does happen.  People do get hired into good jobs through ads, but because of the sheer volume of folks that apply and interview for each position combined with the preference of most companies to hire a known person, it can feel like an uphill battle throughout the entire process.

So, what to do about job ads?  My advice would be to first treat them as job leads, not job orders.  Don’t rush to apply, but instead take the time to investigate them.  Have you gone through your network to see who you might know at that company that you can talk with?  If not, perhaps there is someone on LinkedIn whom you’re a secondary connection to whom you could be introduced to by your primary?  Ideally you want to interview from the inside, so take the time to see who might be able to personally refer you and hand your resume to the hiring manager or HR department, rather than firing it off blindly and hoping it gets consideration.  Don’t ignore ads, but realize what they are and don’t rely on them either.

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