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Working the Web: High-tech job hunts

About two years ago, Margaret Medor heard an online job search service mentioned on the news.
Written by Margaret Kane, Contributor

Medor, who worked at the time for the New York City Department of Housing, Preservation, Development, said her interest was piqued."I wanted to see if I was still marketable after working for the city for ten years. I wanted to see if I was still needed," she said.

So she went online, and put a copy of her resume on the site, CareerMosaic.com. About two months later, she got a call from the Parsons Group, a New York company that specialies in providing financial consultants and temporary workers. She's worked there ever since.

She's not the only job seeker to turn to the Internet. Job search sites have exploded in popularity in recent years -- two of them will advertise during the ultimate consumer ad fest, the Super Bowl -- and all sorts of tools have sprung up to help companies, and workers, use technology to make the search process faster and easier. "With the Internet, you can log on and in five minutes search and come up with probably 50 jobs in the area you're looking for, get down to the ten best and apply to all of them, all within 10 minutes," said Richard Johnson, CEO of New York-based HotJobs.com. "You don't have to send away for an annual report to research a firm, you can go to the company's Web site directly and look for information."

Workers also change jobs more often than in the past, and many fields face shortages of qualified workers, so companies are searching farther and wider to find the right people. Both workers and companies benefit from Web technology, observers say. Using the Internet makes the job hunting process both faster and more efficient. What once took weeks or months can now take days, or even hours. And piles of resumes that would have taken a human resources representative weeks to work through can now be screened by a computer for specific keywords.

Companies and job seekers no longer have to gear their job searches to the Sunday paper, either. The speed and ease of the process has also brought in people who wouldn't have looked for a job before. A few years ago, Medor probably would have gone about her hunt differently. "I would have gone and bought the (New York) Times or gone to a local library or job search area, picked some companies and send the resume coldly and hoped that someone needed me," she said. Faced with all that work, "I probably wouldn't have done it at all," she said. But putting her resume online took less than 10 minutes, she said.

Some of the changes are more subtle. For example, some of the classic resume advice given to college graduates -- use nice paper, make sure your name is highlighted -- no longer applies. And while turning everything into ASCII text may not look as pretty, it does help companies weed out the "fluff words," said Jeff Taylor, founder and CEO of Monster.com (formerly Monsterboard.com), a job search site owned by TMP Worldwide. "But it lets companies get to the meat of who I am, not whether I have a typo on my cover letter," he said.

The advent of Web-based technology opens up options for small businesses, too, said Tom Marsh, director of marketing at Hire Systems, a Californian firm that hosts human resources and hiring applications. Small businesses often can't afford the sophisticated human resources applications employed by large companies. Marsh says small companies can list positions on their Web site as easily as big ones, helping them level the playing field, to some extent.

In addition to keeping a resume online for companies to scan through, some job search Web sites are developing agents that search out jobs for users. A user sets up requirements that specify a location, and job type, and get an email whenever a match comes up. That way, users can constantly keep tabs on what's going on in their field. That's important in an environment where people change jobs frequently, said Bruce Skillings, executive vice president at CareerMosaic. "My father had one employer, I may have had two, and my daughter will change jobs every two years. People aren't afraid to look anymore," he said.

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