Originally Published: Tuesday, 22 February 2000 Author: Kristina Pfaff-Harris
Published to: interact_articles_jobs_djn/Dream Jobs Now! Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Playing Detective: What to apply for?

Every job announcement you find will most likely have been placed by a company representative or recruiter who wants to display the job in the best light. To determine whether the glowing review of the company is valid or not, you'll need to do some more snooping around, and that means a bit of Net.Sleuthing.

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Playing Detective: What to apply for?

Everyone knows how to look for a job. You go to job search websites, read the ads in the newspaper, ask friends if their employer is hiring and just apply for everything even remotely related to your skills. Send out hundreds of resumes, and hope you get an interview. Bite your fingernails in anxiety. Pray.

While part of a job search involves the above (hopefully without the "hundreds of resumes" part), to find a job that's actually good you'll need to be a bit more methodical. After all, we're looking for our Dream Job -- not just any old thing to pay the bills, and that takes a little bit of planning.

By now, you've read our previous articles on getting a handle on your skills and abilities. (You have, haven't you?) Thus, you should have a list of keywords that will help you narrow down your searches and you're ready to hit the job databases. You've also decided what sort of salary you need, and which locations you'd be willing to relocate too, so you can narrow your search even more. Now it's time to hit the databases.

Previously, we discussed making a list of not only things you can do, but which of those things you most enjoy doing. So let's start with that. For example purposes, we'll use "perl" as our target job skill, and fire up the browser to the Linux.Com/Jobs search page. The first part is simple enough: we'll just enter "perl" as our search criteria, choose the location(s) we'd like, hit the search button, and voila! Look at all the jobs!

As you scroll through the many choices, try to pick out the ones that seem to have more of the things that you enjoy doing. Note the tone of the job announcements as well: does it sound like a fun, interesting, or exciting place to work? While some announcements will sound more conservative and stuffy than others, don't write off the company just because of this quite yet -- sometimes their lawyers or corporate heads make them write job announcements that way thinking that they sound more "professional." Still, try to get an idea of which jobs sound like what you'd like to be doing until you get a good selection of possible jobs.

Now, at this point you have two choices: blithely apply for everything that comes up, or try to narrow the jobs down to ones you think you're going to actually enjoy. Unfortunately, every job announcement will most likely have been placed by a company representative or recruiter who wants to display the job in the best light. To determine whether the glowing review of the company is valid or not, you'll need to do some more snooping around, and that means a bit of Net.Sleuthing.

One good way to begin your detective work is by checking out personal homepages. There are two main types of people you should be looking for. First are those who list the name of the company on their resumes as former employers. Pointing your browser to search engines like Google or DejaNews and running a quick search on the keywords "resume" and "Company name" should find people whose resumes list the company as a former employer.

This is a good place to start your detective work. Often, you can send a brief email to the resume's owner saying "Hello. I'm considering applying for a job with your Company, noticed it on your resume, and was wondering if you would mind telling me about your time working there." Some people won't respond, but others will be glad to tell you about their experiences. This can give you priceless insight as to whether you'd be happy working there or not.

The second type of people you want to look for are those currently working for the company. You can sometimes find these people by the same kind of keyword search for resumes, but also for searches on the company name. Some companies have links to employee homepages on their websites, so that you can click through, find contact information, and get in touch with them in that way. If you get a response, ask them about some of the things that are important to you such as work environment, benefits, cost of living in the area or even dress code. Again, you may not get a reply from everyone, but any replies you get gives you more information about whether this really would be your dream job, or just another paycheck.

If the company is in your local area, you might even consider calling them on the phone and just asking whoever answers, "Hi. I was thinking about applying for a job, and was wondering if you might tell me what it's like working there?" Even if the person isn't working on the same type of job as you would be applying for, you can still get some insight into how the company might be as an employer.

Of course, even when talking to "real people" about working for the company in question, you'll need to take what is said with a grain of salt. Former employees who were terminated may be bitter about their termination, and may put down the company for spite. Current employees may be afraid to say anything even slightly negative for fear of losing their jobs. Nevertheless, talking to people who've actually been there can give you a greatly expanded view of an overall work situation--much more so than the company's own press releases could ever do.

While you're researching the company, don't forget to check news sites as well. GeekBoys, SlashDot, CNN, LinuxToday, ZDNet and other such sites may have run articles about the Company's business practices, former employees suing for benefits, sexual harassment, and other such "bad press." Sometimes former or current employees may put up web pages about bad experiences they're had there. This too can be valuable information to help you decide whether to overlook a job or to send off a resume.

Finally, always check out the company's own website. Sometimes, the way the site is designed and worded can give you a hint as to what you'll be getting into. For example, view the Privacy Policy at Bomis.com: "Bomis doesn't personally care who you are. That's your business." "Bomis is your friend. Your real friend, not your Linda Tripp friend. Bomis promises not to tape your phone conversations." I love reading things like this! Rather gives you a feel for the atmosphere doesn't it? Or how about another company's online application form that asks applicants to rate their skills with StarCraft and Quake 2 right along with MySQL, Linux, *nix, Novell, and so forth? While some companies' websites are more staid, others like the above can help give you hints about the quality of life there.

Once you've done a bit of homework, you should be able to narrow down your database search results even more to jobs you really want to apply for, then, go for it! Knowledge, as they say, is power, and the more you know about a prospective employer, the better luck you'll have getting that Dream Job.

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