The Want Ad Paradox

We all know the story – Networking is the best way to get a job.  Indeed every study I've seen indicates this is true.  I know people whose jobs have come from networking – in some cases, people I helped out.

So you know the drill, Networking good.

However, I also know people that have gotten great jobs via want ads, the whole standard mail a resume thing.  Good jobs.  Career defining jobs.  The majority of their jobs.

So I asked myself about why some people really DO make want ads pay off again and again, and I've come to the conclusion that there's a Want Ad Paradox – and some people manage to navigate it.

The Paradox of Want Ads in a nutshell is this:

  1. Want ads are incredibly inefficient methods of finding employment because everyone applies to them and not all jobs are posted.
  2. Want ads can be low labor to apply for if one is prepared – if you have a premade resume and a generic cover letter you can get resumes out quick.  I once, during a job search covering multiple cities, got out over 80 resumes, and got over 8 initial interviews out of it as well as a few follow ups.

So the paradox is one of inefficiency versus ease.  In short, Want Ads are inefficient, but easy to use.

People effective at using Want Ads are people who have perfected the search process, have a good resume or set of resumes, and a good cover letter or set of cover letters.  In short, they overcome the inefficiency of want ads by being able to get good resumes and cover letters out fast and efficiency.

I'm still big on networking, and frankly think that it's going to get more important over time.  But the Want Ad search, done right, has a place in people's career searches – if they know how to make it work fast and efficiently.

ADDENDUM: I'd also note one advantage of the Want Ad search is you'll meet many recruiters, whom you can network with or find out about unposted and new positions.  That may up the value of the search for people – and ironically turn it into networking.

– Steven Savage