There are more than 60,000 job boards on the Web. Only a handful cater to engineers. Are any of them worthwhile?
DirectEmployers Association, jobcentral.com
Web destinations like Monster.com or CareerBuilder.com are probably one of the first stops for engineers on a job hunt or for those just trying to keep their options open. But engineering job seekers are likely to be disappointed if they confine their efforts to well-known sites advertised on Superbowl commercials.
“I have found employment using CareerBuilder and Yahoo! hotjobs, but only at the height of the tech boom, Since then, nada,” says David, an electrical engineer with over 30 years experience and many successful projects on his resume. “Back then, a resume I submitted several times to an online IBM pool eventually got me an interview. I got several e-mails from a Monster board resume. They didn’t work out, but one HR person remembered me when she changed jobs and called me. But if you post on Monster now, you’re deluged with fee-for-service, multilevel marketing schemes, work-at-home offers, and commission sales scams — and no legitimate contacts. As things stand, I have reason to believe online job search is ineffectual and largely a waste of time and effort,” he says. Nevertheless, David sees a few advantages in the big boards. “Most boards let you set up a screen for what you are looking for and have notices e-mailed to you daily or weekly. So when you get discouraged, at least there is this encouragement every day in your e-mail reminding you to put some effort into your job search. And it is free.”
Career experts say sites like Monster or CareerBuilder might be more worthwhile for entry-level job seekers in nontechnical fields. Another gripe about general-purpose career boards is that they contain a lot of pitches for career marketing services disguised as job ads.
And even professional recruiters express disillusionment with online job boards. “We used to use them a lot but most of the recruiters I know don’t bother with them much anymore,” says Allen Vohden of Vohden Associates LLC, an engineering recruiter in West Simsbury, Conn. “The problem is that a job posted on a major job board can draw 400 or 500 responses and almost none of them come from qualified applicants. You just can’t pour through 500 resumes in the hopes of finding one that fits,” he says.
This waterfall of unqualified resumes has pushed job recruiters toward social-networking sites. “The good thing about sites such as LinkedIn or FaceBook is that you are speaking with passive qualified candidates. We contact them rather than the other way around,” says Vohden.
But social-networking sites have their own set of drawbacks. “You sometimes need to custom-tailor a resume to emphasize certain things,” says sometime engineering job seeker David. “But LinkedIn connects you to former bosses, colleagues, and cohorts rather than to references you have some control over and to whom you can talk to in advance. I am not suggesting you should lie on a resume, but when your whole life is splayed out on a place like LinkedIn, it can be a problem if you want a future that looks slightly different than your past.”
Specialized sites If there is widespread disillusionment with job sites, you wouldn’t know it by looking at the huge volume of jobs these sites list. One way to cut down on the noise is to look at sites that tend to carry ads for more-experienced professionals. Some also specialize in engineering jobs.
One of the more well-known sites with potential for engineers is TheLadders.com. This site claims to host $100k+ jobs across every industry and sector. The site also claims it lists more than 30,000 new jobs each month. Listed jobs typically come from recruiters, not employers. And though some services are free, there is a catch: Interested parties can’t contact you unless you pay for a premium option that costs anywhere from $15 to $30/month. Another attraction of a premium membership, according to the site, is that paying members can search recruiters by industry or geography and contact them directly.
There do, in fact, seem to be engineering jobs on TheLadders. We found two or three positions advertised around a few Midwestern cities we entered at random. We had better luck around Boston where we found 25 positions advertised for mechanical engineers.
But it is not clear how exclusive these jobs are. Take, for example, one TheLadders.com offering we spotted in Stoughton, Mass., which was related to nuclear engineering. Entering the words “Stoughton mass. nuclear engineering” into Google brought up several pages of results. Most were for other job sites advertising what seemed to be the same job.
Another site that seems to host a lot of job ads from recruiters is craigslist.com. The site became the subject of controversy recently when the sheriff of Cook County in Illinois filed suit against it, claiming it created “the largest source of prostitution in America.” However, those who are strictly interested in the jobs section of the site will find a significant number of listings.
One difficulty is that the employers offering the positions remain anonymous. Many of the openings we saw seemed to be from recruiters. Nevertheless, there were a decent number of openings in engineering. Our random selection of Midwestern cities typically turned up more than a dozen recently posted positions for mechanical engineers.
Execunet.com is another site that deals with recruiters. It specializes in executives and managers. It contains some networking features and online forums, though none of them seem to be devoted to engineering. Jobs advertised there typically are pegged at $85,000 and up. Users can search job offerings by location and specialty, but only site members who pay a fee can actually get details about these positions. There are a variety of membership plans but a one-month membership costs $39.
When we checked Execunet we typically found about 10 or 12 jobs listed around a few random Midwestern cities. Most listed a minimum salary of $100k. It was hard to discern how many of these were really engineering jobs because the site lumps operations management and R&D in with engineering. So searches that turned up plantmanager jobs also contained positions for histology, logistics, and merchandising.
Indeed.com bills itself as a search engine for jobs. In one search, Indeed gives job seekers free access to employment opportunities from thousands of Web sites. The site claims to include all the job listings from major job boards, newspapers, associations, and company career pages.
When we checked Indeed.com we found a lot of postings coming from Monster, CareerBuilder, and HotJobs, as well as from recruiters and hiring companies. It was easy to get about 100 recent listings or so this way around most urban areas.
Indeed has the look and feel of general search engines. As with many of the major sites, you can save searches and have jobs delivered by e-mail alert or RSS feeds.
Another site with a similar approach is SimplyHired.com. We found jobs from many of the same sources as Indeed.com here.
It is possible to find online job sites with no connection to recruiters. One in this category is maintained by the DirectEmployers Association, a nonprofit that tries to increase labor-market efficiency. Its jobcentral.com site lists openings by date of posting. Clicking on a link eventually brings you to the employer’s Web site. One good thing about the site is applicants know up front which company is posting the job.
When we searched jobcentral.com we found more than 500 listings for engineering jobs. Users can sort job searches on the site by location and keywords. When we searched the same Midwestern cities we used on the TheLadders.com, we found anywhere from a few dozen to nearly 100 openings.
One site engineers might also want to keep in mind is www.USAjobs.gov, the exclusive job site for the U.S. government. Jobs posted on this site don’t seem to be picked up by any of the career search engines we checked. As with search engines, you can get alerts when a job meeting your criteria gets posted.
There are a few sites that specialize in engineering jobs. Perhaps the most convenient place engineers can check out such online listings is a site maintained by TenLinks.com. TenLinks started out with a page of top-10 links to articles on CAD and CAM. It has since branched out into other areas such as an engineering job-links page. On the day we looked at the site, it contained links to such sites as Engineering Central, EngineerJobs.com, Engineer.net, and National Engineering Search.
The good thing about Engineering Central is that the jobs posted there list the companies making the offer. To apply, you send an e-mail directly to the company, not to an anonymous e-mail address. The site lists positions both from companies themselves and from recruiters. It also hosts a salary calculator with data that can be parsed for geography and job title. Users can search jobs by keyword, location, or discipline and posting date. A random search for jobs in major metropolitan areas typically turned up two or three. More bustling locales such as Boston or Los Angeles turned up 10 or so, though many were from a small group of recruiters.
EngineerJobs.com claims to be the number-one ranked site for engineering jobs by Google. It contains jobs offered both by recruiters and by companies to which you can apply directly. You can search in and around 32 specific cities as well as by state or by discipline. In the random cities we checked the site typically contained more than 20 jobs in various categories, from both recruiters and companies.
Engineer.net says it lists U.S. jobs for aerospace, chemical, civil, electrical, industrial, manufacturing, mechanical, or software engineering. It hosts jobs from both companies and recruiters, but the location-sorting function on the site is a little strange. For some zip codes we entered, the closest jobs the site listed were over 370 miles away.
Finally, it looks as though TenLinks had trouble coming up with 10 good sites for engineer job hunting. Among its selections are a few sites on which engineering jobs searches are only a peripheral concern. That’s the case for JobsontheWeb.com which is a links page for job sites specializing in various kinds of employment. Ditto for National Engineering Search, a site run by an executive recruiting firm specializing in consulting engineering. Another page on TenLinks is one by MSC.Software which doesn’t seem to be a jobs site at all, but rather a billboard for outsourcing jobs to MSC.