3 Ways to Apply for Jobs: Which is Best?

Common wisdom tells us that only using one job-search method isn’t wise. For example, only applying online or only networking. Using these methods alone will garner a poor result for your job search.

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A poll I’m conducting—it’s four days old—reveals that a combination of applying online and networking is the best way to land a job. The results show that 14% believe only applying online is the best way to go, 19% feel only networking is the key, and 67% concur that using both methods is ideal.

Applying online only

Let’s look at the first scenario, where a job seeker only searches online for positions. Sites like Indeed.com, LinkedIn.com, CareerBuilder.com Monster.com, and the like entice the job seeker because the process is easy, albeit statistically unsuccessful.

Our job seeker discovers the wonder of creating a resume on Indeed using the job board’s template. In addition, he’s asked if there are certain skills he possess that should be on his Indeed resume. He can even take tests to determine his proficiency in certain areas of expertise.

Once this is accomplished he can select whether to make his resume public. He chooses to make it public and believes that his Indeed resume will be searched for by hiring authorities. This part of applying online is done.

Everyday he is notified of jobs that “meet his qualifications,” but often this is not the case. Approximately 95% of what he receives in his inbox are garbage; they are far from what he’s looking for. The ones that meet his qualifications are seen by thousands of other job seekers.

To be more proactive, our job seeker goes on the aforementioned sites, believing that the more online jobs he applies for, the better chance he’ll have of landing a job. The hiring authorities will be calling him for interviews; all he has to do is wait. Over the course of a year, he’ll apply for more than 200 jobs.

Networking only

Job-search pundits have shouted from the rooftops that networking is the best way to find a job, and they’re probably right. But to use it alone; how would this look? Here’s how it would look.

  1. Our job seeker identifies 10-15 companies for which he’d like to work.
  2. He researches those companies to see if they’re worth pursuing. The list is a live document, as some companies are performing poorly and have to be replaced by other companies.
  3. Then he reaches out to people at his desired companies with LinkedIn Inmail, or if he doesn’t have a premium account, he requests to connect. A good number of them, including recruiters, decide to connect with him.
  4. He DMs them multiple times over the course of five months. They, in turn, corresponds with him. He’s building relationships.
  5. When he feels like the relationships have nurtured, he reaches out to his connections and asks for a telephone conversation or even an in-person meeting.
  6. Slowly and methodically he builds foundations at his desired companies.
  7. Periodically he pings his bona fide connections asking if positions he is pursuing are developing in their companies. He can do this because their relationships are strong.
  8. And if he is really good, he’ll write proposals that address the companies’ pain points, which he knows about because he has had networking meetings.

Sound like a lot of work? Hell yes. Worth it? Hell yes. Our job seeker might not land a job doing this with eight of his 15 companies, but he’s developing relationships that can be life lasting; relationships he can leverage when time arises. Or, he could land a job at one of his 15 targeted companies by following this plan.

What people see as networking is often a different picture. They see attending large networking groups (via video platforms for now) where it seems that no one knows each other. This is probably what the people who voted in the poll for networking only imagine networking to be.

Consider networking as a living organism that nurtures in time or suddenly results in opportunities through superficial contacts. It’s important to have a strategy when networking, such as described above, but networking is more than slowly building relationships.

Applying online and networking

I’ll repeat that, “Networking is more than slowly building relationships.” I explain to my clients that networking happens in many different forms. Networking before and after applying online are two forms. Networking one’s way into a position without applying is also possible, usually with higher-level candidates.

Our job seeker discovers through applying online and networking that his job search becomes more successful. He doesn’t use the “spray and pray method.” Rather, he carefully selects the jobs he sees on the job boards—or hears about before they’re advertised—and writes resumes that are tailored to those jobs.

He identifies who the decision makers are and delivers his resume to them along with applying online. Knowing that the company has a strict process that requires online applications be sent through HR, he complies.

Perhaps the decision makers will read his tailored resume before receiving his applications, perhaps not. But at least his presence is felt. In one particular instance, a person from the hiring committee tells him that she’s received his resume, and instructs him to follow through with the process.

Our job seeker also contacts someone he knows in the company to tell her that he’s applied for the position. He asks her if she would put in a “good word” for him. She’s a stand-up person and agrees to meet his request. At this point he has all bases covered.

By using a combination of networking, applying online, and networking some more, our job seeker lands a position of his dreams. Does it always work this way? No, networking happens in different forms.

What some career-search professionals say

To answer the poll question–Which way do you lean when it comes to networking or applying online?—it’s well worth hearing from some people who are in the business of helping job seekers.

You’ve read the three scenarios of our job seeker, so it’s not by design that I include quotes that only support of the third option. To a person, no one who for the first and second options, wrote their opinion on this matter. Could this be that there is no other option than the third?

Hannah Morgan: I don’t think it is one vs the other. It is both. A better question to ask is do you network BEFORE a job opportunity is posted or AFTER. My answer would be both. However, when will the hiring manager have more time to have a conversation? BEFORE there’s an opportunity posted. So that’s why proactively targeting companies and people BEFORE a job is available is a recommended strategy.

Laura Smith-Proulx, Executive Resumes, CCMC, CPRW, NCOPE: Many of my executive clients work diligently at both of these #executivejobsearch tasks. It’s interesting that you posted this question, because when recruiting was a bit slower, networking paid off more quickly. Now that competition for top candidates is more fierce, I’ve seen postings for what were typically more elusive C-suite opportunities. My husband just landed a prime opportunity solely through networking – but that’s his forte. Well-networked candidates (those typically not lured by postings) are now telling me they’re intrigued by throwing their hat in the ring for an advertised job.

Virginia Franco: Aim to NOT make applying online your first point of entry and focus 90% of your time on outreach, networking, etc. IF/WHEN you see a job that seems like an ideal fit, however, then indeed apply and follow the steps you outlined.

Thomas POWNER ➜ CPRW ➜ CEIP ➜ CCMC ➜ NCOPE ➜ CDCC (He/Him): Combination is the best action. As a third-party recruiter, I typically won’t speak to a candidate for a job that has an online posting until they apply. That being said, networking in combination will most likely get your LinkedIn and resume reviewed quickest.

Adrienne Tom: I just shared a post this past weekend about my husband’s job search during the pandemic, which speaks to my answer to this poll. I believe in the power of BOTH online applications and networking. My husband only applied to 3 roles (over 2 months). He initially found all 3 roles online and applied online….BUT, he leveraged the power of networking and relationships to help his applications. In the one role he ultimately accepted, he established an internal champion that helped watch for his application, put in a good word for him, and provided him with key intel.

Maureen McCann, Executive Career Strategist 💎 (She/Her): Both. You can be in an active and passive job seeker simultaneously. One does not exclude the other. You can be actively working a lead on a job by networking with the CEO of the company, then out of the blue get a call-back from an application you submitted online through LinkedIn for a different job altogether.

Sonal Bahl: I advise my clients to do both. They (and I in the past) have had massive, and I mean, crazy, success with online applications. I know this isn’t what the ‘without applying online’ brigade preaches, but when one is in transition, it’s wise to avoid putting all eggs in one basket only.

Marti Konstant, MBA: Job Search Strategies are evolving. For mid-career job seekers, having some sort of connection and conversations into the organization can be augmented by applying online. Online only without the power of personal will make for a looong job search.

Jessica Sweet, CPCC, CEIP, LICSW 🇺🇦: It really has to be both. In addition, you need to work to catch the eye of prospective employers, through a great LinkedIn profile, and hopefully also a content strategy that showcases your thought leadership in your space.

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