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Why Networking is Overrated

Many job searchers should network less and answer ads more.

What three words of advice are job seekers most often given? Network, network, network!

Problem is, increasingly, that's bad advice.

The percentage of people who landed their jobs by networking has declined from 70% in the 1970s to under 60% today. But that's not the main reason that advice is bad for you. Most of that 60% have large, well-connected networks, and are great at networking. I'll bet you don't -- especially you new college grads. If you did, you probably wouldn't be reading this job-search advice column.

If you don't have a great network and dislike schmoozing, you'll land a job faster if you devote most of your job search time to writing top-of-the-pile applications for well-suited job openings. How do you do that?

Finding job ads that fit

In the old days, you'd try to find on-target want ads by scouring the newspaper. In the less old days, you'd visit Monster.com or Craigslist.org. Today, there's a better way: job-search engines. The three major ones are Indeed.com, Simplyhired.com, and Jobster.com.

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They work similarly: You enter keywords and a geographic location, and the job-search engine instantly screens millions of job ads on thousands of job sites, including, of course, Monster and Craigslist, plus thousands of employers' sites and hundreds of newspapers to find your target job openings.

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Indeed.com, Simplyhired.com, and Jobster.com each cover somewhat different territory, so it's worth using each of them weekly until you're hired. It's also worth checking individual employers' websites that you're particularly excited about working for. For example, if you're interested in working for America's largest employer: the federal government, visit www.usajobs.gov. Also, unless you're sure the job-search engines cover your professional association's and local newspaper's job listings, check those too. The job-search engines might not crawl those sites or post the results often enough.

Rising to the top of the pile

First of all, don't waste your time applying for jobs you're not well qualified for. If the employer was willing to hire someone who lacked many of the job's requirements, he would have hired his wayward cousin.

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If you do meet all or nearly all the job requirements, this cover letter greatly increases your chances of landing an interview:

Dear (Insert name of employer, or if necessary "Dear Hiring Manager"),

I was excited to see your job ad #4237B on Craigslist because I believe I'd enjoy it and I meet the requirements:

JOB REQUIREMENTSHOW I MEET THE REQUIREMENT
1. Insert requirement #1How you meet #1
2. Insert requirement #2How you meet #2
3. Insert requirement #3How you meet #3
Continue until you've covered all the major requirements.

Of course, there's more to me than I can convey in a cover letter. For example, people say they really enjoy working with me. So, I hope you'll choose to interview me.

Sincerely, Joe Jobseeker

Another winning way to a job

If you make a good first impression and can think on your feet, in addition to answering ads, contact employers who are not advertising a job opening. Make a list of 25 employers you'd like to work for, and phone or send each an email like this:

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Dear (Insert employer's name),

I'm a recent graduate of (insert alma mater, or your most recent job if it's more impressive than your alma mater).

I've read a fair amount about your organization and am impressed. (Insert one or two specifics.)

I'm wondering if you might be willing to meet briefly with me to see if I might be a suitable employee for you, or simply to offer me some advice as to where I should turn.

Here are a few highlights of my background:Insert three one-line bullets, each of which is likely to impress the reader.

Hoping to hear from you, Sincerely, Jane Jobseeker

The plan

Make a goal to answer 25 on-target ads and to contact 20 employers who are not advertising a job opening. I'll bet if you do that, you'll land a job much faster than someone who followed the standard exhortation to network, network, network!

Marty Nemko (bio) is a career coach and author of Cool Careers for Dummies.

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