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Searching for work: A job seeker’s cry for help

searching for workLast week I put on my virtual job seeker hat to immerse myself in the current world of searching for work.

It kinda sucked.

Step 1: I picked a job title that I know fairly well – marketing director. Step 2: I started where most job seekers start – on a search engine (in my case, Google). Step 3: I typed in the job title and the location. Again, a typical starting place for most job seekers.

In both cases, page 1 of search results was dominated by Indeed, LinkedIn, and  In other words, an aggregator and two general job boards (although I changed my mind about that later – more further on). No sign of any niche site, association, hub, or other type of source specifically focused on the jobs. Ok, I could live with that. Just give me the jobs, right?

Well…not so fast, Mr. Jobseeker! Searching for work isn’t that simple!

Problem 1 appeared when I clicked on the first aggregator listing for marketing director jobs (in this case, it was Indeed). It took me to a landing page for marketing manager jobs in Des Moines, with the search tool already filled out. Ok, if Indeed said ‘manager’, then it must be ok, right? This would certainly give me the good stuff.

Um, not really. Instead, the majority of the listings were jobs that had ‘marketing’ listed somewhere in the job description – jobs ranging from ‘communications consultant’ to ‘leasing and marketing supervisor’.

So I took another look at the aggregator search tool and decided to change it to ‘marketing director’. My options got a little better. I even found a job that called itself a ‘marketing director’.

A question: Are most job seekers savvy enough to make the aggregator search tool changes I did, or do they simply plow through the listings, getting more and more frustrated as they went further? I suspect many won’t figure out that they should make the change. It would have been nice if what I typed into Google had actually transferred over to the aggregator.

Anyway: I clicked on one of the marketing director jobs. It took me to the Indeed job description page for that job and prompted me to apply via Indeed. Fine. Easy enough.

I went back and clicked on the link for the LinkedIn results. Again (wiser this time), I modified the LinkedIn search to include ‘marketing director’. I was given some jobs that were spot on, and jobs that weren’t (i.e., manager of a donut shop). The problem? The search was grabbing anything that had ‘marketing’ or ‘director’. Unless I’m a job seeker with some search engine smarts, I’m going to get frustrated.

Once again I returned to the search engine and tried the link for Once again I modified the search to include the job title. Interestingly enough, I was given the most relevant jobs of my 3 tries thus far. Go figure. I push onward to apply – and discover that seems to an aggregator site for CareerBuilder (and looking at their About page, seems they are indeed located in Chicago). I imagine someone outside of our industry (i.e., a normal job seeker), might be confused.

So what do I make of this?

  1. For a somewhat general search like I conducted, niche sites are invisible.
  2. It’s annoying as a job seeker to end up on landing pages that don’t match what I was searching for.
  3. Each site seemed to offer different jobs – despite aggregator claims that every job is gathered on one site.
  4. I’m in the industry (and a former marketing director) and I found the process tedious. Do I have to become a search engine wiz to get decent results?
  5. There is (ahem) room for improvement. That means plenty of room for opportunity on the part of the industry.
  6. I did not conduct this on a mobile device. But I will – soon.

Your thoughts? I’d love to hear them!

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Doc, it’s really easy to sit back and criticise the job search offerings, but as you are someone who has been around for a while, what would you actually prefer? Would you prefer to be searching the paid listings on Monster, CareerBuilder or Dice? What you have now is web wide search for thousands of director employers at your fingertips. Thing about it. It’s awesome. So you searched for Marketing Director jobs on Google and landed on an aggregator that gives you thousands of Marketing jobs in your locale and you are complaining because you need to tweak “Marketing Manager” to “Marketing Director” – are you seriously complaining about this? – Again what would you prefer? Browsing the paid listings from Monsters advertisers? Come on… it’s easy to complain but the job search tools and power that are being made available today are pretty damn awesome…

  2. MGooseman – Thanks for the comment. For me, the bottom line is results – am I as a job seeker getting what I need? I think the industry can do better. – Jeff

  3. I have to agree largely with what you say. I used to scream (in the proverbial sense), in frustration at the way in which job board aggregators set their search parameters, Google included, and then only pick out words from those parameters, whether singly or together, and throw back almost everything you are not looking for. For instance, Customer Service Administrator; if you break that down into just 3 words, which is what the majority of searches do, then your results revolve around everything to do with “customer”, then “service” and lastly “administrator”. Rarely will you find results that incorporate the entire search term.

    Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and whilst it may sound biased, since I work for them, have cracked it by incorporating specific job search titles of 2 or more words into each keyword term, so if you search for Marketing Director, that’s what you’ll get, this works similarly with Customer Service Administrator.

    I would suggest that searching directly using a job search engine is probably going to be much more fruitful than setting keyword searches via Google, but that’s my humble opinion.

  4. This time last year I was an active job seeker. I suspect I do fall into your definition of “search engine wiz”, but I tend to assume most people my age (I fall into the Gen-Y/Millennial age group, for whatever that’s worth) have a similar level of skill with search engines. Without even thinking about it, I would certainly alter the search criteria, and try variations of job titles or industry names when searching on a large site. And I did use niche job boards to browse for jobs, but thinking back, I honestly can’t recall how I discovered them initially.

    Searching for something like “[industry] job boards” or “[location] job boards” does turn up niche job boards, and sometimes articles/blog posts with lists that include niche job boards. But a year ago, Indeed didn’t seem as ubiquitous in the first page of Google search results as it does today. I tended to avoid Indeed as a job seeker, because it had that whiff of spam that reminded me of Craigslist. But that could just be me!

    As a general rule, because of the ease with which *everyone* can create, share, redistribute, and duplicate content today, the entire Internet is a whole lot bigger than it was even a few years ago. That can make it a lot harder to find what you’re looking for, no matter what the subject of your search. I think there’s a lot of value in curating content and helping people sift through what’s out there–and obviously, that’s something niche job boards can do for their job seekers. Having more lists/directories of job boards and job search sites for particular industries/career types would also be a great service for job seekers.

  5. As a Recruiter in a very niche field I find it tough to find the correct job seekers in the same way that Jeff describes trying to find the right job. The problem is that the big sites (Indeed for example) are so generalized it makes looking for candidates a much longer and trying process.

    And, as pointed out, the niche sites that we use to find these people get buried under pages and pages of seemingly unrelated jobs that just share a common key word but are on a much bigger (and more featured) job site.

  6. Disclaimer… I work for

    Couple of comments:
    – Challenge yourself on “how job seekers start their search”. Indeed is the undisputed leader in job search traffic with 155 MILLION unique visitors per month (5x LinkedIn), and 68% of those visitors are coming directly to us without going through free search engines or a paid referral (ads/banners).
    – You typed “sales director des moines” (without quotes)..the results are determined by the search engine of which we have no control. However when I did the same in Google:
    — Indeed dominates the top 5 organic results… this goes to our SEO/SEM capabilities. LinkedIn #6.
    — my #1 result was Indeed “marketing manager” as you say. But my #2 was “marketing director”. A job seeker would just click on the 2nd results.
    — you would get different results if you put quotes around your search terms. Likewise if you put in the word “jobs”.
    – when I clicked on the second result – the one that said “marketing director”, my Indeed search results WAS populated with the correct search terms.
    — And once at Indeed, there is an “advanced search” with easy to use fields (non-Boolean) to say things like “must have in Title”, etc.
    – You may want to try to contact Indeed to get updated on how our search algorithms and SEO/SEM works. Too much to type here, but there are many tens of variables beyond job title and location that produce the results. For instance, once you got to Indeed from the search engine, we look at your IP address, geolocation (if enabled),have you been here before, what did you click on, etc. On the last point alone, NOT clicking on jobs tells us you aren’t interested in those job titles so we present you with different ones on the next refresh.

    Again way too much to type here, but month over month Indeed proves to be the job seeker’s destination of choice over boards, search engines and “social” sites. That’s because we are fast, simple, easy and comprehensive. No doubt we are giving the job seeker what they need no matter how they get to us.

  7. Classified systems are an outdated form of advertising. And although advertising as a whole has evolved significantly for the sake of effectiveness with improvements in speed, personalization, and form factor, job boards seem to be stuck in an era of consumer dissatisfaction.

    It leaves a tremendous amount of room for improvement with current technological innovations. Algorithmic matching, personalization, social graphs, and big data are supporting the expedition to the frontier of recruiting.

    With decreasing usability of the large boards you mentioned, they’ll soon start dropping out of search results. People (users) are realizing there are better options out there and Google will notice that.

    It’s exciting to be working in the recruiting/hiring space with our fresh outlook.


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