Reality Check: The 80/20 Truth Behind Finding a Job Online

By: Sam Huleatt

In recent years colleges have spent thousands of dollars on job listing websites such as and Many young people (and many ‘not so young people’) have wasted entire submitting resumes to listings on, and However, the percentage of alumni actually getting a job from these online sources is never reported. Why? The answer is that the chance of landing a job on the internet is EXTREMELY low. Furthermore, colleges do a disservice to their students and alumni by not addressing the facts.

The Facts: 80% of the jobs available at any one time ARE NOT listed on websites or in papers. This ‘magic 80%’ of jobs can only to be discovered via strategic networking. Furthermore, this 80% of jobs are the ‘superior’ positions; jobs at the best companies, jobs with the most responsibility and the best salaries. The Pareto Principle is in effect.

So why do you not know about the superior jobs? Why are these jobs not listed on The reason is simple. Great positions don’t need to be advertised because they attract candidates without effort. Take the management consulting field as an example. Job opportunities with a top consulting firm are extremely competitive; few positions are available at any one time since turnover is low. However, suppose that an ‘associate position’ becomes available. Even without an advertised opening, hundreds of candidates have already sent unsolicited resumes to the HR department. And, since hiring is always best done through people you trust (the ‘friends of friends’ effect) the hiring manager will first comb his or her own contact list before they even touch a resume. If the hiring manager does not have someone in mind, the next group of people to learn about the opening will be current employees. Larger companies normally have an internal job board; otherwise general word of mouth marketing among employees may generate an additional list of candidates“ all of whom are given priority over an anonymous online resume submission.
So, how can a school help its new graduates and young alumni get jobs, if subscribing to most job-listing websites is a waste of time? First, some job-listing services are superior to others, especially those with ‘niche’ postings. For example, allows schools to list jobs specifically offered by that school’s alumni. This approach will definitely produce superior success rates, since the playing field is much narrower. Still, the ‘niche’ method can be limiting, especially for schools with smaller alumni populations to draw from. Also, as globalization increases, employers may be less likely to hire someone simply based on the fact they went to the same undergraduate school.

The real opportunity then is for schools to emphasize the value of ‘networking’ and developing the skills and techniques necessary to seek out the 80% of unlisted jobs. ‘Knowing who to know’ can also lead to ‘preferential treatment’ once a resume has been submitted. Preferential treatment occurs when a resume is submitted directly to a recruiter by a friend, colleague or current employee. These ‘friendly resume submissions’ tend to be looked at in much greater detail and often placed immediately on top of the pile.

In addition, a ‘friend of a friend’ resume submissions is taken more seriously since these ‘friends’ tend to follow-up on the status of a submitted resume. Even if the applicant is ultimately not given the job, this follow-up process can result in critical feedback, or suggestions for other available positions

New websites and apps provide mechanisms to take advantage the distribution and networking opportunities that have formed around Twitter and Facebook. Such services can facilitate the power of the social web by leveraging your network of contacts and helping you connect with new people and opportunities.

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