passive job search

Posted: August 20, 2015
By: Clay Cerny


A mother called me regarding help for her son who graduated from college in June. She asked if I was a recruiter and could find a job for her son. I explained what I do as a resume writer and career coach. Then I cautioned her that few recruiters place new college graduates. Those who do usually recruit on campus before graduation. The mother then told me that she and her son wanted to find a recruiter because that would be the easiest way for him to find work.

I’m sure this mother loves her son, but she’s doing two things that are not helping him. First, she’s pushing him to follow a passive job search. That path doesn’t work for most people. It’s especially hard for new grads. Worse still, she’s the one making the calls and trying to find a job for him. That’s his responsibility. What she is doing may be an act of love, but it is one that will hurt her son’s career. He needs to do the heavy lifting and take charge of his future.

Posted: March 19, 2015
By: Clay Cerny


Here's a great quotation from Eleanor Roosevelt:  "In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves.  The process never ends until we die.  And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility."

We live too often by cliches.  Eleanor Roosevelt was a liberal, but her words her demonstrate that we are all responsible to make -- and remake -- our lives.  A client recently came to me and said he wanted to a resume so a "recruiter can find me a job."  I told him that plan wouldn't work for two reasons.  First, he wasn't advanced enough in his career  to make it worth the recruiter's time and effort.  Second, a good job search is all about taking charge of how we look for work.  My clients who do work with recruiters are very proactive in how they deal the recruiters.  In the end, as Roosevelt said, our professional and personal happiness depends on the choices we make.

Posted: September 30, 2014
By: Clay Cerny


One of my clients recently said people won’t need resumes soon. He had read “something on the Internet” that said employers would “find” 80-90% of employees on LinkedIn or through profiles on job boards. The problem with this kind of thinking is that it leads to a passive job search, waiting for a job to find you rather than looking actively to find a job.

I don’t buy the claim that there will come a time where most hiring will come through recruiting. There are two problems with this approach. First, recruiters would spend a lot of time having to weed through people who are in jobs and don’t want to move. Second, what would happen to salaries? If employees knew employers had to come to them, they could ask for more money. Under the current employers have the ball in their court. They can set the terms of employment, especially if the person they are interviewing is unemployed or anxious to leave his or her current job.

My biggest problems with stories like the one my client read is that they give the wrong idea about how to look for a job. Executives and professionals at the top of their fields should work with recruiters.  They are most likely to be found on LinkedIn.  For the rest of us, a good job search must be active. Following the great advice of Richard Nelson Bolles, I recommend using at least three ways to look for work. For most people, that means networking, responding to posted jobs, and pursuing jobs with companies that you most want to work for. LinkedIn is a great tool for doing all of these things. Think of it as a resource for an active job search. If someone finds your profile and calls you for an interview, that’s a bit of good luck. Don’t count on it. Stay active and manage your career. That’s the best way to find a new job.

Posted: May 13, 2014
By: Clay Cerny


Too many people have the wrong idea about how to look for work.  They update their LinkedIn profile and wait for a call.  They send their resume to some recruiters, and then they wait.  It's time to stop waiting.


Career coaches have a name for the kind of job search that relies on waiting:  the passive job search.  Workers on all levels -- entry to executive -- find a new job faster and get more offers when they perform an active job search.  This method requires that the job seeker take charge and look for the job him or her self.  It's hard to make the contacts needed for networking or spend nearly an hour to fill out an online job post, but that's the best way to reach employers and market your skills.  Track what you've done to move your job search forward.  When you get stuck, try to find new ways to locate and contact potential employers.  Looking for work is hard and often frustrating.  However, if you follow a passive job search because it's easy, the only thing you might achieve is waiting for the phone to ring.  Get active.

Posted: February 1, 2014
By: Clay Cerny

Many clients will tell me that they want to find a job through a recruiter.  Often that is not a realistic option.  Recruiters usually work with professionals who have high incomes or special skills.  They make their money as a percentage of their clients’ first year salary.

Do not confuse recruiters with companies that provide contract work or temporary positions.  This type of job often limit employees in three ways.  First, the work they provide is short term.  Second, pay is limited since the contract/temporary employment firm takes part of the fee from employers to cover its cost.  Third, employers often will not hire temporary or contract employees to full time positions because they have to pay a fee to the company providing the labor.  Is it ever good to work on a contract basis?  Yes.  If a firm offers great pay or a path to full time employment at a great company like Microsoft, a contract job can be a way to move forward.  For many workers, especially those making less than $15, it is often a dead end.

If you have a high salary or unique skills, try to find a good recruiter.  But don’t let that be the only way you look for work.  Continue to network and respond to posts for open positions.  If you are considering working for a temporary or contract firm, think carefully about the arrangement.  In most cases, it is more beneficial to take charge of your job search and find a full time job where you are employed by the company you are working for.  Some companies are now only hiring employees through contract firms.  If possible, avoid such arrangements.

Posted: December 5, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

What’s the worst way to look for a job?  By waiting for someone to find you.  Job boards like Monster and CareerBuilder and social Media such as LinkedIn let us post our resumes, which is a good thing.  Some employers will use those tools to recruit employees.  However, most employers still expect prospective employees to come to them through networking or by answering a job post.

Posting your resume and waiting is called a passive job search.  As the name implies, you’re doing little to find the employer.  When you network and respond to job posts, you are conducting an active job search.  Job seekers who post and wait often get no calls.  Or they wait much longer to get a job than those who apply for jobs and do whatever they can to work their network.

When clients ask me about the best way to look for work, I say they should put a priority on networking while still applying to job posts and identifying companies that need their skills.  I do not tell them not to post on job boards, but that action should be a low priority.

LinkedIn is a little different than posting.  It’s important to have a good profile because some companies use it to double check your resume.  LinkedIn also offers several tools that enhance networking and enable posting for jobs.  Learn how to use this tool as part of an active job search.

The most important thing you can do to find a job is to know what you want and work hard to get it through an active job search.  If an employer happens across a resume you’ve posted or your LinkedIn profile, call yourself lucky.  Every job search involves some kind of luck.  The more you look for work in a focused, persistent manner, the luckier you will be.

Posted: September 12, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

Clients will often call me and ask me about how they can use LinkedIn or work with a recruiter.  After I ask a few questions, the truth usually comes out: They are reluctant to look for a job.  I don’t mean this as a criticism.  I know no one who wants to perform this task.  Looking for work sucks, but it’s the only way for most people to find a new job.

When a job seeker relies on a headhunter or a LinkedIn profile to find her  next employer, she is conducting a “passive job search.”  A few people find a job using this method.  Most people, however, have to take initiative to network and reply to job posts, which is call an “active job search.”  Employers tend to look for employees only when they are high skilled or have an unusual skill.  Otherwise, they expect job seekers to come to them through network contacts or by responding to job posts.

Technology has made our lives easier in every way.  It has made finding a job slightly easier, and it has given us tools like LinkedIn that we can use to improve networking.  That said, we still need to be proactive in finding employers and convincing them that we are qualified for the position they need.  In most cases, the job won’t find you.  You have to find it.

Posted: March 14, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

Over the past few months, I’ve noted how some of my clients have found jobs by posting on job boards such as Careerbuilder and Monster.  During a recent seminar, I learned a potential danger of this strategy.  The presenter talked about how his former employer had the HR department screen posted resumes for the names of current employees.  He didn’t say if those employees were fired, but employers in several states (often called “at will”) can legally dismiss employees who are looking for work.

What should you do?  First, look at the options and settings for posting.  Some job boards will let you post anonymously.  If you do this, be sure to make both your name and company anonymous.  Other boards will let you block a company from searching your resume.  However, if your employer is using a third party service, that option will not protect you.  Take the time to check all of your options before posting.

How serious is this threat?  Consider it as a risk and proceed carefully.  I have never heard of an employee being fired for posting a resume, but it is a possibility.  One way around this problem is to maintain an updated LinkedIn profile.  Since LinkedIn is a social network, it is a way to let other professionals see your value without telling a current employer that you’re looking for a new job.

Posted: March 12, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

I attended a great seminar on LinkedIn yesterday.  Over the next few weeks, I hope to put what I learned into practice and share it with blog readers.  LinkedIn is a great tool, and everyone who wants to move ahead in his or her career should be using it.  That said, there is a right way to use the tool and a way that is less effective.

Job seekers should use LinkedIn as a tool for an active job search, a way to contact people you know and connect to others through them.  In an active job search, you will be meeting people and talking to them on the phone.  You will not be looking for email that will never come.  LinkedIn also provides strategic information about companies, alumni networks, and professional groups that can give us both information about potential employers and ways to reach them.  Should you still respond to job posts?  Yes, that’s part of an active job search.  Anytime you are contacting a potential employer or someone who can help you make a connection, you are being active in the job search.

In the past, I’ve condemned passive job search in which job seekers post their resume and wait for the phone to ring.  Over the past 5 years, major job boards such as Monster and Careerbuilder have improved the search functions of their databases.  Some of my clients have gotten jobs by posting resumes.  LinkedIn ups the ante.  More employers will search LinkedIn, and jobs seekers have more ability to sell themselves.  Every job seekers should make an active job search the first priority.  However, it is also important to practice smart passive job search techniques.  A good job search will include both active and passive job search strategies.