Tech Savvy Is No Replacement for Good Networking

Job Seekers Need to Remember the Human Part of Job Hunting

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Put away "Programming for Dummies" and bring out the Emily Post.

While the print résumé is dying, or already dead, recruiters at major advertising firms caution against going for broke with technology and abandoning traditional job-search methods such as networking.

Unfortunately, young, up-and-coming designers or account managers are sometimes more interested in making their portfolios look good online than making the contacts that get it noticed in the first place.

"For me, the biggest component of recruiting is the personal, human part of it," said Jenny Hudak, VP-director of talent management for the strategy group at Leo Burnett, Chicago. "I do very little online, except e-mailing candidates."

Digits not optional
Yet recruiters grouse that some young candidates, more accustomed to digital, rather than verbal, communication, list e-mail addresses instead of phone numbers on résumés.

"If I want to talk to a candidate, I want to do it right away," said Monica Buchanan, VP-creative recruiter at BBDO, New York. "I don't want to send an e-mail and wait."

Jeff Calannio, founder of MyCredentials, is betting against them. Mr. Calannio launched his job-search website in early September. The site has functionality beyond the standard, including the ability to upload audio and video files. Job seekers pay for placement on the site and can request additional help in setting up their sites, one-on-one with an expert, or simply select a template.

"The résumé is only one of many tools now, and in general, people are starting to use more," Mr. Calannio said. "Some salespeople have business plans and marketing results, testimonial letters, client letters; there are things that come up in the interview cycle."

Job seekers get 15 days free and then pay a monthly fee for unlimited use; employers can browse the site free or pay to post a job listing. Mr. Calannio added that recruiters can use the site to peruse more résumés, thereby extending a wider net.

Red flags
While Ms. Buchanan agrees that more documents are being used while reviewing a candidate, the idea of looking at more résumés is abhorrent to her. And candidates who use portal sites raise additional red flags. If a person is tech-savvy, he or she wouldn't need to use a template, she argued. And if a site is truly creative, it's likely been built from scratch, meaning it will be a stand-alone, personalized site, rather than a templated microsite within a massive job-search portal. Besides, a personalized website is a benefit only if it looks good.

"If someone puts themselves out on Facebook, it can go well -- and can go horribly, depending on what your page looks like," Ms. Hudak said. "If you're going to do it, it had better look pretty good."

Brad Karsh, founder of JobBound, said it's important to remember technology is just one tool to help get a job.

When it all comes down to it, it's all about who you know.

"Young job seekers rely on tech without recognizing that networking is going to be the best way," he said. "The fact of the matter is, let's think about your business: What's going to make you successful? If you're a writer, you've got to write. It doesn't matter if you're good at the internet."

Who you know
Mr. Karsh estimated that two out of three people still get their jobs through networking.

"It's much more about meeting people," Ms. Hudak said. "If someone gets 20 books in the mail, people have good intentions to go through those kinds of things ... but the only ones they're going to look through are the ones when a colleague says, 'Hey, I know this person.'"

Ms. Hudak added that she's never hired someone with whom she didn't at least share an acquaintance.

A foot in the door and a little background information can help seal the deal, Ms. Buchanan said.

"There's got to be a little bit of homework," she said. "If a candidate can name even a few of our clients, I'm very impressed."

The paper portfolios should make their debuts only at a meeting with senior executives, she added. Until then, send links to work online that can easily be forwarded. It's just good netiquette.
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