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How to Tell the Good, From the Bad & Ugly in Job Postings


9/24/2008 1:42:39 PM

By Peter Weddle -- Over half of all U.S. workers now say they are either looking for a new job or intend to do so in the next year. They will also undoubtedly make the Internet a central component of their search. But, once they get online, what exactly will they do? There is certainly a wide array of job search tools available on the Web. They include:

  • archiving a resume in an online database for employers to review,
  • reading the advice and information that’s available at career portals,
  • networking with peers in association discussion forums, and
  • reviewing the jobs posted on employer Web-sites and commercial job boards. While all of these activities are popular, the last has truly caught the public fancy. According to an 8+ year survey we at WEDDLE’s have been conducting, the one thing most Internet job seekers do when they go online is look at job postings.

    These announcements, however, are very different from traditional employment ads. They don’t appear in the format of a print classified and aren’t restricted to the tight space constraints imposed by newspapers and journals. As a result, you’ll need a new set of rules for reading and evaluating job postings if you’re to avoid wasting time on mediocre employers and focus your attention and efforts where they can best advance your career. I’ve devised he following five rules to help you do just that

    Rule 1: Look at the level of effort the employer has devoted to writing the job posting. Most commercial sites allow employers to use up to 1,400 words (the equivalent of two typed pages of text) to present their opening. That’s plenty of space to describe both the key characteristics of the position as well as the organization’s mission and culture. If an employer is too lazy or unwilling to take advantage of that space and simply re-posts classified ad copy in cyberspace, you have to ask yourself whether it really values the people who work for it. Informed candidates make smart employment decisions, and keeping you in the dark simply increases the likelihood that you and/or the organization will make a mistake.

    Rule 2: Evaluate what the posting says the position can do for you. Employers that focus exclusively on a position’s “requirements” and “responsibilities”—what the job will do for them—fail to understand that employment is an agreement between two equal parties. Both have to get something out of the deal, or it’s unlikely to last. What should you look for? The best postings will describe a number of key factors:

  • What you will get to do,
  • What you will have a chance to learn,
  • What you will be able to accomplish, and
  • With whom you will get to work. That’s what a job will do for you. Rule 3: Check the “candidate friendliness” of the posting. Employers that write helpful postings are implicitly saying something about their culture. If an organization goes the extra distance to help virtual strangers (i.e., online job seekers), it’s likely to go even further to support and advance its employees. How can you spot that kind of employer with a job posting? Look for those that:

  • provide all of the information you need to make an informed decision about the opening,
  • anticipate your questions about the job and provide complete and candid answers before you even ask,
  • offer a question and answer feature with which you can address any issue not covered in the ad, and
  • include detailed instructions—written in English, not techno-babble—about how to send your resume over the Internet when applying for the job.

    Rule 4: Look carefully at the details. The best job postings are rich in data. They include specific information about the organization, the opening and the way you will be treated should you choose to apply. You, in turn, can use these details to assess your fit with both the position and the organization. What data do you want to see?

  • Salary information in numbers, not empty phrases like “competitive” or “based on experience,”
  • A detailed description of the skills and experience you will need to be successful in the position, Complete information about the organization’s benefits, advancement policies and work arrangements (e.g., is telecommuting or a flexible workday possible), and
  • A statement that indicates how your privacy will be protected should you decide to apply for the position.

    Rule 5: Return the favor. Don’t become a “graffiti candidate,” one who sprays their resume out to every job posting they read. It takes time and effort for an organization to write a good job posting (which is informative, detailed and helpful to you), and that investment deserves a quality return. So, don’t respond to ads when you’re clearly not qualified for the opening or don’t live in the area where it’s located. All that does is undermine the employer’s satisfaction with the results and diminish its commitment to writing a good job posting for its next open position.



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