Step 3: How to make recruiters and job boards work for you
This is step 3 of the road map to your first (or next) job.
If you’ve gone through steps 1 and 2, then you’ll have a professional resume and a rockstar LinkedIn profile to show it off.
Step 3 is about placing your resume in strategic places—the hands of recruiters and worthwhile job boards—to make those open positions ping your radar.
You’ve got a solid resume and an optimized LinkedIn profile. This step will help you amplify all the hard work you’ve put into those by setting up profiles across key job board websites.
These will make your resume available across a wider network of recruiters and notify you when relevant job postings go live, letting you jump on them immediately to get a leg up on the competition. It also expands your reach and frees up your time for more high-level career-building tactics.
We’re going to start with recruiters and then walk through the job board websites relevant to you.
Table of Contents
Sign up with recruiters
Set up a profile on Indeed
Narrow your LinkedIn preferences
Make use of secondary job boards
Sign up with recruiters
Only 28% of talent acquisition leaders view internal promotion as an important tool to fill positions, which means that—at the very least—the other 72% are looking outside of their organizations almost exclusively to fill positions.
of talent acquisition leaders think internal promotion is important.
That doesn’t bode well for their interns, but you can turn this to your advantage.
Many of them turn to recruiters to find those external candidates, either by paying an agency or hiring an internal talent acquisition specialist.
That’s what makes it so important that you try to make inroads with recruiters, even if only one of them pays off in the end.
Recruiters do a lot of the legwork for you, which makes them a genuinely useful resource in your job hunt. They come with built-in networks of business owners and HR professionals who need to spend their time running businesses or interviewing. Sourcing those candidates takes a lot of time and energy that many companies just don’t have.
How to handle yourself with recruiters
There are certain ways you should and shouldn’t interact with recruiters. Trust your gut, but use these as guidelines for how to get the most out of them while avoiding the big pitfalls.
How recruiters actually work
I didn’t use recruiters in my 9-month job search because I didn’t understand how they work. Recruiters don’t get paid by you, the poor job seeker—they get paid by the companies looking to source good talent!
How much faster would you find a good job if you had 3-5 people in your corner that got paid to get you employed?
That’s what it means to enlist recruiters. The company pays the recruiter a sum equivalent to some portion of your salary after you’ve remained at the company for a certain length of time, often 3-6 months. If it’s not a good fit and you leave the workplace, then the recruiter usually doesn’t get paid. That’s why they have incentives to make sure you and the employer are a good fit for each other.
Pro tip: If a recruiter expects to be paid by you, then run away and find other recruiters. Real recruiters bridge the gap between employer and job-seeker, and are accountable to both parties, but ultimately paid by the employer.
Focus on your target salary range
Joining new organizations is the most common way of raising your wage. Make sure your expectations match.
Be moderately flexible with scheduling
Recruiters do need to balance a lot. Compromise on timing for calls and interviews, but don’t bend over backwards.
Accept connection requests (usually)
Even junior and mid-level recruiters need to get a little scrappy to ger ahead. Connect with recruiters who ask!
Build relationships with multiple recruiters
Every recruiter has different clients and networks. Work with more than just one or two, or else you’ll miss out.
Don't disclose compensation information
Don’t let recruiters (internal or external) get your current wage level. This is a tactic to give you a lowball offer later.
Don't sign contracts where you pay the recruiter
Recruiters get paid by employers because they are the ones who need talent. Don’t fall into any traps like this.
Don't work with pushy recruiters
Good recruiters know how to listen. If one ignores you and steamrolls your questions and concerns, then leave.
Don't be kept in the dark for too long
Recruiters’ business depends on their resources (you), but don’t get caught in a game of telephone.
This is just the start, but you can read up on more of it from Liz Ryan at the Human Workplace. She’s a great resource on what to do and what not to do when it comes to dealing with recruiters, interviews, and negotiations.
How to find recruiters
The first thing to do is to make contact with the larger recruitment firms out there. Bigger isn’t necessarily better, but they will be able to cast wider nets—and that’s advantageous if you’re willing to relocate for a decent job.
Start with these large and established recruiter agencies, then search for local and regional recruiters in your area.
Start looking for local and regional recruiters as well. Check their reviews, ask your network which ones have a good reputation, and introduce yourself. Most of them will work harder for your business than larger ones—but beware of the agencies that just spam you with emails.
Set up a profile on Indeed
Indeed is probably the most effective job board in the world. It actually takes your preferences and resume keywords into account instead of just spamming you with postings far outside your level of expertise.
of all hires made through online job boards come from Indeed.
That’s no word of a lie. Indeed delivered 65% of all hires made through online job boards as of 2017.
Not all jobs come from online job boards, of course—but if you had to choose just one, then Indeed would be it. This platform simply has the best balance of quantity and quality job postings, as well as a good reputation across most organizations that have heard of the Internet.
It won’t be the same for everyone, but this is where I found my first role after being unemployed, too.
Everyone might have different experiences and the landscape does change, but I’ve had far, far more success with Indeed than any other job board. While it’s still difficult to find a good job when you’re fresh out of school, even I managed to find several promising opportunities that resulted in real interviews with legitimate and established businesses.
This is how you set up a profile, optimize it, and then set your notification preferences to make it as efficient as possible.
Upload and customize your online resume
This part is easier than you’d think. You can actually just upload a Word document and it’ll translate near-perfectly—you’ll only need to make some minor adjustments. Later on you’ll probably just want to add new sections or experience manually, really.
Click on the “person” icon and then click on “Resume.” This takes you to the resume builder screen, where you can edit your Summary section.
Don’t panic when you see the Summary section. Just use the summary or tagline that you wrote for your resume and/or your LinkedIn profile in the previous two steps of the roadmap.
After you have the job history section sorted you’ll want to move on to the secondary sections. Indeed has evolved its resume builder to resemble the one you’ll find on LinkedIn, and that’s a good thing.
The Skills section has a nice feature that lets you measure your level of skills through years of experience for each one, which is quite handy.
Essentially you want to recreate your LinkedIn profile here as closely as possible.
Why do it all again? It makes the best first impression for people who find you on Indeed instead of LinkedIn, and consistency builds trust on a subconscious level (a marketing trick).
Here’s what you should add to your resume on Indeed to match your LinkedIn profile:
Education & courses
Links (portfolio and LinkedIn)
Certifications & licenses
Awards and recognition
Publications and other work
Groups and volunteer work
It adds more data points to give you an edge. Most people won’t update their profile for years at a time, or they’ll simply add their job history and leave it at that. Adding all of these details makes you look far more accomplished on paper, and it also creates another node to build your professional presence online.
P.S. We’ll cover the portfolio website in the next part of the road map.
After that, head on over to the Search Preferences section and and adjust these two settings to your liking:
- Distance (how far you’re willing to travel)
- Job Age (how recent postings should be in your feed)
These are important. If you’re new to Indeed, then check out some of the older postings as well if they seem promising. After that, just focus on new listings.
After that, it’s just about getting your search started. Indeed has plenty of options to help you narrow your job search, including:
- Salary estimate
- Job type
- Company (a limited feature)
We’ll touch on this again when actively applying for jobs, but always pay close attention to company reviews while you’re picking out your desired job postings. Glassdoor popularized this practice and Indeed has copied it to great effect.
Historically, LinkedIn hasn’t been all that great for entry-level job hunting. It tends to appeal to established professionals with 4 years of experience or more—but it’s still the largest professional social network out there. It’s also made some legitimate improvements for entry-level job searching in the last few years.
That’s why it’s still a solid channel to let recruiters find you. This is how you do set it up optimally.
Updating it regularly with posts, certificates, and good-old-fashioned engagement is going to extend your network to the point where you’ll get the attention of some recruiters and other industry vets perusing your profile.
You can track how much attention you get on LinkedIn by looking at weekly and monthly profile views. Staying active by posting, sharing, and commenting goes a long way.
For now, the best thing you can do for yourself is to turn on the setting that says “open to opportunities.” This gives everyone the green light to contact you through the platform’s inmail (or just recruiters, if you wish).
I’ve had a few solid inquiries come to me this way, and it works even better with an optimized profile, regular engagement, and the occasional content publication.
From there you should set up a few job alerts. Just set up three to start, each with different titles for jobs you want. For example, if I wanted to search for a new job then I would choose a few titles in my general area of expertise with a variation here and there:
- Content Strategist
- Content Marketer
- SEO Specialist
- Search Engine Marketer
They all touch on many of the same skills, but diversifying the wording of the roles you can fill goes a long way. I’d recommend keeping the notifications set to daily and limited to the LinkedIn app, but you can also set these notifications to be emailed to you directly, either daily or weekly.
Filter out the useless results so that you can help LinkedIn learn what appeals to you and what doesn’t. You can choose what you don’t like about it when you delete it to help LinkedIn learn more about you, including:
- Job type
- Post date
Do that regularly and you’ll narrow the list down to only the most relevant job alerts, letting you focus your time and energy into making exceptional applications for the jobs that are right for you.
Make use of secondary and niche job boards
LinkedIn and Indeed are the two biggest watering holes for jobs, but they’re not the only ones out there. Landing your first job means covering as much ground as possible—both through finding opportunities and by letting recruiters find you.
Check out these additional job boards. Don’t put much effort into them unless they show promise, but it’s probably worth creating a profile on these networks just to play the odds.
ZipRecruiter is geared toward recruiters themselves. It enters your profile into 100+ job board websites to make it easy for recruiters to find a candidate.
This one fell behind and went under until Indeed bought it. Still not a bad idea to create a profile here, though. Some recruiters probably use it as their go-to resource.
It’s geared toward entry-level job seekers, making it a natural fit. It’s been criticized for a lack of filtering options, but it also alerts you right when jobs are posted.
LinkUp is a newer job board that plays it pretty straight and narrow. It only pulls job postings directly from employer websites, but not other job boards.
Niche job boards
It’s also worth pursuing one or two niche job boards tied to the industries that interest you. Don’t spend time on niches where you’re not interested in working, though.
This job board covers the non-profit sector. If you’re interested in fundraising, worthy causes, and community development, then check it out.
Environmental Career Opportunities
It speaks for itself, even if the website’s design looks like it’s from 1995. There’s room for liberal arts grads here with environmental advocacy positions, too.
This is great for writers looking to get into marketing and design. Marketing is a growing field, and you can learn some serious skills in this field even if it’s not your “forever” career.
Public Relations Society of America
A good amount of the jobs are geared for senior positions, and a few are only accessible to members, but there are some decent entry or near-entry-level positions here.
This job board is dedicated to the marketing and advertising industry. It’s a competitive industry, but that’s what the portfolio website is for—in the next step of the road map.
If you’re looking to work in the government sector, then you should set aside some time to apply for jobs on this job board. Don’t bet all your hopes here, but play the odds—as always.
Where recent graduates can pass (for now)
Job board sites are all over the web, but not all of them are made equal. In fact, some of the most famous ones gave me zero opportunities. These are the sites you can skip, either because they don’t fit your profile as a recent graduate or because they just don’t do what they promise.
Glass Door is geared for executives and upper-middle positions. While it’s great for you to learn all about the good, the bad, and the ugly of whatever company you want to join, it’s not going to have a lot of positions for you as a recent graduate.
Personally, I had zero luck with Monster. I searched for jobs every single day for 9 months… and Monster didn’t give me a single lead. This company will spam you, though—use a throwaway email account if you decide to try it out anyway.
Ladders exists for executives looking to make $100,000 or more. As a recent graduate, this is not your arena. Pretending to be an executive for a startup isn’t going to work, either… and if it does, then that company probably won’t be around long.
Dice exists for technology-oriented employees. You can totally try it out if you’re gunning for a job in the tech sector, but remember that 90% of what you see will be for programmers, digital security specialists, and engineers.
The finished product and next steps
By the end of this road map, you should have:
3-5 recruiters in your corner
Indeed job notifications set for 3-4 key words
LinkedIn job notifications set (& open to recruiters)
2-4 secondary job board profiles set
After you’ve put in the work approaching those recruiters and setting up those profiles, they’ll start taking on some of the legwork in finding jobs for you, as well as filtering them.
That’s going to free up your time to spend on high-value actions.
Instead of sifting through 20 different listings per day, you’ll look through 2-3 key job boards for the freshest postings and then spend the rest of your time on high-value aspects of job searching:
Writing cover letters
Growing your skills through projects
Building a portfolio website
Before all of that, we’re going to find your work experience so that you can improve your resume, build up your confidence, and eventually make a portfolio website for yourself.
The whole process happens in the next step.