Cornell University Johnson at Cornell University

Job Talk

The more things change...

By Irene Kim

Drawing of a laptop computer
Job searches, the Web, and you
While the Web is playing an ever-greater role in the job search and application process, it certainly hasn't replaced the traditional methods of communication: resumes, cover letters, networking, and face-to-face interviews.

Streamlined hiring
One-third of the Johnson School's on-campus recruiters require students to apply online in addition to the resume they provide to the Career Management Center. More employers are choosing the online process, in part because of an Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program ruling, effective February 6, 2006, requiring any employer who has a federal contract to provide race and gender information about all its applicants, says Kim Alexander, associate director of employer outreach for the CMC. "This means that resume submissions alone are not enough," she says.

General Electric (GE) has required all job seekers to apply online since January 2006, says Michael Chen, president and CEO, Global Media & Communications, Corporate Financial Services. "We generally require candidates to upload resumes, answer some questions, and in most cases complete some other forms."

Some employers, particularly those hiring for technical positions, use software to search applications and resumes for key words representing relevant technical skills, notes Karin Ash, director of the CMC. She adds that some online applications ask specific questions to elicit the information usually addressed by a good cover letter, such as "Why are you pursuing a career in investment banking?"

A powerful job-search tool
The power of the Web works both ways: Employers can make sure they gather the information about candidates that they want and need via online applications; job seekers can find open positions and research potential employers. As Chen notes, GE's Web site is a place where potential candidates "can refer time and again for information on our businesses and opportunities."

The Web can optimize job seekers' chances of finding the ideal job, says Shannon Murray, director of Cornell Silicon Valley, a program that fosters collaborations among Cornellians in the San Francisco Bay area. "Large companies list their job openings through their Web site; tools like monster.com can be useful for finding a specific type of job; for startups, frequent the sites of VCs," he says.

While the Web is a powerful tool, it has to be used in conjunction with the old standbys: resumes, cover letters, networking, and in-person interviewing. In addition to a solid resume, an outstanding cover letter is imperative, says Murray. "Research the company and job and prove that your experience has uniquely prepared you for this one position."

After winnowing down the list of possibilities to two or three truly suitable positions, it's time to tap your network. While the Web is great for finding suitable positions, it isn't good for getting noticed by the hiring manager, Murray points out. "Call everyone you know, and many you don't," Murray says. "Do whatever it takes to get the in-person interview." Ash agrees: "It is often critical to make phone or face-to-face contact with the hiring manager to get noticed among hundreds of applications. At least ask your personal contact to speak to the hiring manager on your behalf."

And of course, no amount of Web expertise can substitute for a strong presence during the interview. "You leave a more positive and lasting impression in person, followed by phone and lastly by e-mail or letters," says Ash.