Blog Post

Why Online Job Hunting Feels So Weird

There’s no doubt that there’s plenty of job competition in the online space. Slow economic recovery in many of the countries where so-called “information jobs” are offered means more people competing for fewer roles across the board.

As an independent operator, I take jobs when and where they come up, and sometimes that involves using employment websites and formal job-seeking channels. I’ve found that embarking on an online job hunt takes more than just a great resume, time, and resilience. Personally, I find the whole process pretty strange, but the characteristics of web-based recruitment set particular challenges for the independent web worker.

A Virtual Product

At its most basic, employment is the commoditization of skill. If you enjoy your work, and you enjoy being paid, you’ll likely be happy to package yourself in a certain way for a certain job possibility, role or employer.

But for web workers, the application, interview and selection processes may all be virtual. Jobs are offered by third-party recruitment agencies who advertise the positions through websites. Frequently, applicants may not know which company they’ll actually wind up working with if they get the job they’re applying for.

Operating on such limited information can make us feel a bit like virtual products: A carefully selected combination of skills and talents packaged to fit the job description. If we are to the recruiter what an e-book is to a reader, our resumes and folios are the Photoshopped mockups of a physical book that reassure buyers of what they’re getting.

To get around this feeling, I’ve tried to develop an extremely strong resume that reflects myself, and my skills, very clearly. If the ad provides a contact that I can ask for more information, I call them to find out whatever else I can about the role. Finally, I focus on securing work that takes in as much of my offering as possible, so that I feel more fully applied in my work — like a chef, rather than a vending machine.

My Careering Career

Anyone who’s worked on the web for more than five minutes probably has a complex history, skill set, and range of talents. When you think of the roles you’ve had, and the companies you’ve worked for, the path you’ve taken to your current position may look more like crazy paving than the yellow brick road. To combine all of those experiences into a coherent resume can be extremely difficult.

A good place to start may be a recruitment agency in the field you want to work in: They can provide invaluable feedback to help your resume more concisely detail your past, and position you to get wherever it is you want to go. Alternatively, a professional resume service may be able to assist, but look for one that has proven experience preparing resumes for your discipline or field.

Remote Worker, Remote Perspective

As a remote web worker who lives in the country, rather than the suburbs, I’ve noticed that when I read those big, flashy job ads from my tree-house in the countryside, I can find myself feeling less than adequate.

It’s easy to feel removed from the fast-paced, big-city hubbub when, well, you are. Although you might work for clients that are bigger, more demanding, and more interesting than those offering the jobs you’re considering, appearances matter. And job ads always make the hiring company sound stellar.

Sometimes, it’s all too easy to be intimidated by recruiterspeak — so much so that you may not even bother applying for the job. I usually get around this pitfall by reminding myself how high-powered some of the jobs I’ve had have looked on paper. “Stakeholders” is just another word for “the people you’ll work with”, after all.

Your Details On File

Submit your resume for any position, and if that role was advertised through a recruitment agency, your details will be kept on file. Many companies that advertise their own jobs also keep applications “just in case”.

This explains the unexpected calls I occasionally receive from recruiters “updating their databases” who think I’m still with a company I last worked for three years ago, or — even less likely — expect I will know their brand and remember submitting my resume to them!

It’s good practice to keep a list of the agencies to which you’ve submitted your resume, so that when you are actively looking for work, you can send them all your most current resume. But whatever you do, you can’t make them call you!

Try to be kind when someone you don’t know, from an agency you’ve never heard of, calls (or worse — texts) you about “a job I thought you’d be interested in.” It’s true that if they put you up for the role, they may request a hasty meeting to look you over before you meet their client — but, again, try to be kind. Yes, maybe they just want to get a human being in a chair at the client’s office so they can get their commission. But you can, and should, be as discerning as you like in your hunt for your next web job.

How do you find job hunting online? Do you reply on web-based job seeker services, or are you more focused on using your personal networks to find work?

Image by stock.xchng user Cieleke.

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3 Responses to “Why Online Job Hunting Feels So Weird”

  1. Hi Georgina,
    Thanks for your insightful post! I read this right after I put up a post on my blog about job search sites (geared at development job seaching) at I think your insights on online job hunting also apply to the general job-hunt, it can feel quite overwhelming to think you’re coming up against a ‘whole world’ of experts in the job field to put it mildly :). I also really like your lessons learned on social marketing and glad to have found this site.

  2. Gee, I can relate somehow to your post. Being a freelancer makes it difficult for me to create my CV since I’ve worked on stuff that demand multi-skilled workers. Yet, I don’t feel inadequate when I see local job ads; I feel otherwise. It’s easier for me getting hired online through many legit freelancing sites on the Web. Besides, I love variety and flexibility when it comes to work.

  3. Hi Georgina. Your article is bang on. On-line gives incredible access and reach but it can feel impersonal and vacuous. I launched a site in New Zealand 18 months ago and I am trying to make the recruitment of employment & services personal. I believe the net offers us this opportunity if we embrace it and are not afraid to be personal in the public realm. I have the .co domain name, so plan to launch globally… If you get a moment I’d love your feedback on what I’m doing ‘down under’. All the best to you Georgina, Cheers, Philippa