The Internet is the most powerful employment tool on earth. Hands down.
With the Web, you can access millions of job openings on thousands of sites. With email, you can quickly contact employers and ask for interviews.
Yet, if used incorrectly, the Internet can actually prevent you from being as productive as possible in your search for work.
Here are four mistakes that commonly befall job seekers using the Internet. Avoid them, and get hired faster.
1) Don't Email Your Resume Wrong
I've written before (http://www.startribune.com/stories/1416/4371900.html) on how to create a text version of your resume for emailing to employers. Because not everybody has Word or WordPerfect, the only way to be sure employers can read your resume is to email them a version in plain old ASCII text.
Make sure the resume you email looks good upon arrival, with no funny line breaks or garbage in the text. How? Use yourself and at least two friends as guinea pigs.
It's easy. Practice formatting and emailing your resume to yourself and others. Open the email. How does your resume look? Good? Good. Garbage? Reformat and repeat until your resume goes through cleanly every time.
2) Don't Forget The Email Cover Letter
When emailing your resume to employers, don't dash off email cover letter as an afterthought or, worse, fail to include one. Treat email as you would postal mail -- always email a solid cover letter with your resume.
Your cover letter has many functions. Chief among them are telling the reader what job you're applying for, where you learned of the job, and your specific qualifications for doing it.
And don't get sloppy with tone or punctuation in email cover letters. You're not banging out an instant text message to buddies. You're writing a letter to the person you want to work for. There's a difference.
3) Don't Be Passive
It's easy to sit back and wait for postings to appear on the big job sites, like Monster. But if you confine yourself to this passive technique, you're missing out.
That's because most jobs are filled by employers before they're ever advertised online or in the newspaper. By some accounts, this figure is as high as 80%. So it pays to be proactive -- use the Internet to get into the heads of hiring managers before they pay for a job posting online.
An easy way to do this is to use a networking Web site, such as Linkedin.com or Ryze.com. At Linkedin.com, for example, you can search profiles of 1,214,000 registered users (as of this writing) to find people who went to your school, have the same hobbies, live near you, etc. You can also find out where these people work -- and this is critical.
Because, once you find and contact someone who shares an affinity with you, and works in the company or industry you want to work in, you can make valuable connections that lead to interviews and job offers.
Tip: never approach networking as a one-way street. You become road-kill and get ignored that way. Instead, give back to the people you meet, online or off, before expecting them to favor you with job leads. You must prime the pump before you get anything out.
4) Don't Forget Who Really Hires
Throughout history, there is no record of any person ever being hired by a computer. It's people who hire people. Yet, some folks spend days or weeks searching for jobs online without ever meeting a hiring authority face to face.
This is a mistake that happens when you confuse process with results.
Using the Internet to find a job is a process. The results you want are a job. At some point, you have to get off the Internet, get off your duff, and go shake hands with live humans. Never lose sight of this.
That's what it all boils down to, doesn't it? To get hired, you have to meet and impress a living, breathing employer.
Go do it!
Kevin Donlin is President of Guaranteed Resumes. Since 1996, he and his team have provided resumes, cover letters and online job-search assistance to clients in all 50 states and 23 countries. Kevin has been interviewed by USA Today, CBS MarketWatch, The Wall Street Journal's National Business Employment Weekly, CBS Radio, and many others.