Finding a job via the web

Written by David Strom

October 1997

Need a new job? Think the Internet is the best place to help you get one? Maybe it is, but first you have to find the right job hunting site itself. With close to 400 sites and counting, it is hard to even know where to start.

I took a look in late September 1997 at seven of the better sites -- America's Job Bank, run by the US Department of Labor;, run by NetStart, an HR consulting frm;, run by Bernard-Hodes Advertising;, an independent entity that is owned and funded by several of the nation's leading newspaper publishers; independent site NationJob Network; and The Online Career Center and The Monster Board, both run by TMP Worldwide. I found a wide variation in the quality of information and the ease of use and navigation of the sites. Some sites had lots of jobs but were hard to find the right matches using their search tools; others had jobs so old they were starting to smell.

Each site had some worthy feature: America's Job Bank had over 2000 links to employer's web sites, along with information on overall employment trends - something you would expect from the US Government. CareerBuilder had some interesting interactive tools that human resource professionals could use to create job-oriented web sites for their own corporations. CareerMosaic had the best focus on electronics and semiconductor industry-related jobs in certain regions, while Online Career was strong for other types of technical jobs and the Monster Board for entry-level jobs.

Of the sites I looked at, CareerPath was the best overall: it has the widest job listings, drawn on an impressive list of daily print newspaper classifieds. When its redesign is finished later this fall, it will have the best system for notifying job seekers of new jobs as well as helping them post their resumes for prospective employers. Getting around its site is relatively simple -- rather than relying on frames, CareerPath uses a menu string across the top of each screen. I feel it is the best way to begin a job hunt on the Internet. CareerPath isn't perfect: later this year it will enhance its site by adding a second database of job listings from employers. Depending on how this will be implemented, it could be more cumbersome to search for job seekers than searching a single database.


Finding out the basic information on each site is not easy and takes a great deal more work than it should. For example, does posting and searching for a job cost anything, or are these services free? How many jobs are currently in the database? What is the oldest job listed (an indication of the turnover and relevancy of the database)? What specific features of the site are only available to those who have to first register?

Some sites charge employers to list jobs on a per job basis or a per job category basis. America's Job Bank and CareerPath don't charge employers, but for two different reasons: The former is run by the government, while the latter uses newspaper ads that for the most part have already been bought and paid for by the employer. And there are various pricing plans for quantity listings. Typical charges are $150 per month per listing. (See table below for details.)

CareerPath does a good job with dealing with basics. For example, the home page lists the current number of jobs available today at the top of each and every page, an important reminder of why anyone is using these services to begin with. They also have well-marked links to corporate profiles and don't clutter their home page with lots of ad banners and paid-for links.

Both NationJob and Online Career have readily available pricing pages. Most of the other sites either don't post pricing details or require you to send them an email with your query.

While all of the sites have search tools to find jobs, to get meaningful results from your queries can be particularly frustrating. NationJob offered me a job description for a litigation support staffer when I was trying to find something in management - this result was because the name of the employer had the word "management" in its title. Some of the search tools are located several screens beyond the home page, while the better sites (such as CareerPath and Online Career) had more easily available searches.



Cost per posting per month (for employers)

Number of resumes available online

Display job posting date?

America's Job Bank



Only distinguishes jobs more than a week old








Yes, in both search summary and individual screens



N/A (resume service begins 11/1)

Yes on individual listings. All jobs are less than two weeks old.

The Monster Board



Yes, but many jobs are old

NationJob Network


$100 including profile



Online Career Center




Yes, in both search summary and individual screens. See note below.


The job seeker is pressed for time - he or she doesn't want to spend it watching gratuitous graphics paint the screen, or try to find the right menu choice from a long list. Yet many of the job sites either don't realize this or are ruled by designers determined to present a series of pretty screens. Few sites have well-placed links to an index or overall map, adding to the confusion.

Monster Board, for example, has a navigation bar on the left, a series of menus on a column on the right, and another list of items in trendy Courier fixed-pitch type down the middle. It is almost too much to deal with. Online Career has a well-placed site map at the top of its navigation bar, and a search field for job seekers right at its home page. However, the search field is near the bottom of the screen, rather than at the top. CareerBuilder's home page is a crowded melange of frames, banners, and other graphics that make it hard to figure out initially.

Most of the sites I looked at are very dependent on frames for navigation and organization. I am not a big fan of frames and didn't like any of the implementations - they were just too cumbersome and clutter the screen. And for job seekers that want to return to a particular place on a site, having frames makes it all the more difficult to create a bookmark or figure out the right URL.

Two sites that so far stayed away from frames are America's JobBank and CareerPath. Both have navigation links across the top, where they belong. Both have clean and clear design elements that are easy to read and figure out.


The job sites in general do a miserable job of indicating when a job was posted, and can take some lessons from your local supermarket that stamp perishable products with the date that they need to be removed from the shelves. In some cases, such as NationJob and CareerBuilder, you don't have any information whatsoever about when the job was posted to the site. With some, such as Monster Board, I was able to find jobs that were posted in May - even though I was looking in late September.

Perhaps the most misleading situation of all was Online Career Center. The same job appeared a week later with a new date, but with the same job code and description - the equivalent of changing the date on a milk carton. This could mean that all of its dates are suspect, or that the job was reposted. But it is still somewhat misleading.

CareerPath's postings are from two sources: copies of ads that appeared in the nation's print newspapers and directly from employers. The posting date is clearly indicated at the top of each listing. All of their jobs are less than two weeks old.


Job hunting sites are doing more than just listing jobs. They are going after what is called the passive job seeker, those that want to float their resumes out in cyberspace and wait to see what interest develops. A few sites now offer job hunters the ability to post their resumes on-line, and allow prospective employers to search this database for candidates.

CareerPath is the only site that actually describes the process of producing an online resume - the others have done little more than enable file uploads. CareerPath tells job seekers up front that their identity will be separated from their job history, important for those concerned about their privacy or the chance that their current employer will view their resume. The CareerPath resume process has eight steps. While this may initially turn people off, each step is clearly explained and the user is led through a well-designed series of web pages to collect information about the prospect.

Most of the other sites have less than satisfying systems in place for uploading resumes. CareerMosaic offers a very simple web form that basically separates a seeker's personal information from the job history. But that isn't much more than doing a cut and paste.

Monster Board offers the most structured web form to post various bits and pieces of one's resume to their online system - which can be useful or not, depending on whether people will take the time to fill all these fields in. Monster even includes a field to upload a cover letter, something I found unique. They claim to have over 100,000 resumes in their database. Online Career Center offers the least sophisticated mechanism - a job hunter merely clicks on a "mailto" link and sends his resume as an email message to This has the potential that job prospects will upload their resumes as attachments that might be unreadable.

Both America's Job Bank and CareerBuilder lack any resume posting facility. Ironically, they both have lots of tips and tricks on how to prepare online resumes. These tips range from the obvious ("You cannot use bullets, bold or underline text in a plain text document" from CareerBuilder's guidelines) to the important (reminding job seekers that the SUBJECT line will serve as one's resume TITLE and will be the first information seen by employers when viewing a resume).


The best job sites have lots of outbound links to the corporations who have listed jobs with the site, and make it easy for job seekers to do the research on what these corporations are about. Some of the links are just to the home page of the corporation - that isn't very satisfying. CareerBuilder puts their own frame around the corporate web page, and also has links to their special human resources software. They have a nice series of search forms so you can find companies that match your criteria.

Most of the sites had less than satisfactory information or links to companies. NationJob, for example, makes it easy for users to see the individual profile of the company - within three clicks from the home page. However, the listing is just alphabetical, and many of the company's don't have any profile information. Contrast the missing information on ABN-AMRO Bank here with the details what is listed at Online Careers. However, this could be caused by the fact that ABN is an advertiser for Online Careers.

But Online Careers has another problem. Its corporate profiles are only available as a series of ads, linked by small button logos at the top of their home page. It is confusing, because they look like paid real estate and there is no comprehensive listing of all of Online Careers' member companies. Others have made it even harder to distinguish their corporate sponsors. For example, CareerBuilder's home page promotes a "Hot Company of the Week" which turns out to be nothing more than a company that has paid them money to buy that position and link.

Job hunters also look for companies in particular geographic areas, and not every site has made it easy to find matches in this fashion. Monster Board has a quick navigation frame link to their employer profiles that is either alphabetical or by US regions. However, its screen isn't very attractive or clearly laid out. And CareerMosaic has aggregated employers for the electronics industry and has nice sites for the Austin, San Jose, and San Diego areas. This is probably a good place to start if you are interested in these areas and this particular industry.


In theory, it makes a great deal of sense for a job web site to notify prospective seekers when a new job appears that matches their interest. The best system is to use some form of email notification, based on the same profile that a prospect enters when s/he is searching for a job online. However, this means that if the site's matching schema isn't very accurate (note my own example earlier of a match for litigation support when I wanted corporate management), then prospects will quickly get turned off and move to another site.

Of the sites I examined, two didn't offer any notification system at all (America's Job Bank and NationJob). And Online Career's site claimed they had notification, but whenever I tried to access it I got an error message saying the feature was under construction. CareerPath was planning on adding an email system this fall, but I didn't get a chance to test it out. (See table below for details.)

The downside of notification via email is that there could be potential problems if a job seeker uses his company's email system and receives the notification messages to this inbox. Many companies are claiming (rightfully so, in my opinion) that their email systems are their own property, and that employees shouldn't use them for their own purposes.

Given the amount of hype over push technology, I was surprised to see only one site - CareerBuilder - that has presently implemented anything of the sort. CareerBuilder uses PointCast's technology to send notifications of new content to their site. However, when I examined what is actually on the PointCast channel, it isn't broadcasting anything truly useful to a job seeker. It contains pointers to things that are readily available on CareerBuilder's home page.



Email notification


America's Job Bank




Personal Search Agent


Uses same search criteria as online search, up to five different profiles possible





Yes (by Nov. 1)

Uses same criteria as newspaper jobs database

Monster Board

Personal Job Search Agent

Up to three different profiles possible

NationJob Network

PJ Scout

Uses same search criteria as online search

Online Career Center


Job Seeker Agents weren't working when I tried in late September


There are many other job search sites out there, and I wanted to mention a couple of them and highlight good and bad points. Both Lycos and Yahoo have career-related information, and in Lycos' case this is highlighted from the home page's navigation bar. However, the Lycos careers page is nothing but the Point web site evaluation system, and is poorly implemented. Point scores web sites of all kinds for several criteria, and I have rarely agreed with its results. Only a few of my top contenders are listed in the Lycos "top ten."

Yahoo has its own system of free classified ads, for jobs as well as cars and selling just about everything else. It uses its classification schemes but is otherwise uninteresting and more hit or miss.

And probably the most interesting corporate job site is Texas Instruments'. On their site is a tool called FitCheck. This is an interactive questionnaire that you can take and find out whether TI is the right place for you to work. You answer a series of 30 questions about the kind of work environment, and then FitCheck tells you how TI and you agree.


The web can be a powerful tool for searching for a new job, but so far most of the better sites still need lots of work before they can be truly usable and useful. Out of the sites I looked at, CareerPath's site has the best combination of lots of jobs, simple screens, and ease of navigation.

David Strom is a frequent contributor to Infoworld, Forbes ASAP, Windows Sources, and ComputerWorld. He has has his own consulting firm based in Port Washington, NY and publishes the electronic newsletter Web Informant.