How to Answer a Want Ad

Ask people what they're doing to look for jobs, and you hear about networking . Ask about answering a want ad, and they look surprised. Then they tell you they don't answer ads because 75% or 85% (pick one) of jobs aren't advertised.

Let's look at that attitude. If 85% of jobs aren't advertised, 15% are. Why put 15% of the jobs out of range?

Let's look more closely. Take out promotions from within and jobs created for the president's cousin, and the percentage (if it was ever valid) shrinks considerably. Now consider that employers pay big bucks to place ads in newspapers and on online job boards. They wouldn't do that if they weren't serious. Besides, every time a company advertises, it risks giving information to its competitors. If Microsoft placed an ad for a telephone designer, don't you think they'd notice at Nokia?

Why Answer Ads?
The reason employers invest in ads is because they expect good candidates to answer those ads. At some companies, advertising is the chief source of new hires.

Detractors of want ads generally advocate networking, or calling everyone you know for names of people who will give you more names, and so on until you find someone who knows someone who may be hiring in your field. This isn't a bad idea, within reason. It works especially well in prosperous times, but if you've been downsized, chances are that your networking targets will be on unemployment with you. Even if you connect with a manager who actually hires people, the odds that this person is hiring at this moment might be less than 15%. Why not answer a few ads while you're waiting? Advertised jobs are real jobs that need to be filled now.

Where to Find Them
Some industries and professions have daily or weekly newspapers where everyone advertises. For example, just about every law firm in the areas covered by Lawyers Weekly places its ads there, advertising people tend to turn to Advertising Age and nearly everyone who advertises for a senior VP will do so in The Wall Street Journal.

Most metropolitan newspapers run big help-wanted sections on Sundays. Many of them also have special sections during the week for particular professions or industries; e.g., business on Tuesday, health care on Thursday, education on Friday. Find out what day your field is featured in your paper.

If you care about saving trees, you can access most of these ads on the newspapers' Web sites. It's easy: Just type in "Linux" or "marketing" or "Hartford" or "Wal-Mart" for a quick, focused search. Unless your trade is very well defined, however, you should read the physical papers occasionally. You'll pick up the ads that refer to marketing as "business development" and you may also get ideas for jobs you hadn't thought about. Take that ad from a sports-management firm. Maybe you never worked in sports management, but how different could it be from being a literary agent?

It also pays to watch online job boards such as, and You can generally search them by job specialty or geography, and you can add restrictions like salary requirements. They probably won't yield as many perfect hits as the local or trade papers will, but they're useful for investigating salary ranges and scoping out what's out there. They also have lots of good advice on resumes, interviewing and anything else you want to know about job hunting.

Before you turn off the computer, visit the Web sites of the organizations where you may want to work. Many companies have cut down on advertising in favor of posting jobs on their own sites. Universities, retailers and law firms are especially big on this.

Getting Results
Answering ads takes patience, and many times you'll never hear back from a potential employer. You can improve your return by writing personalized cover letters that talk directly to each individual ad and making sure that your responses reach the hiring managers. If you're directed to write to "Box 2422" or, do that-but send a copy to the hiring manager. If you don't know who that is, call the receptionist and ask for the name of the director of corporate communications or Unix development or whoever runs the department.

Don't be intimidated if an ad asks for three years of experience and you only have two, or if it requests a degree that you don't have. Some companies inflate their requirements to cut down the volume of responses, and some don't know what they want. If your letter saying, "I don't have a graduate degree in sports management because I've been too busy playing professional baseball," strikes a chord, they'll grab you.

Don't hesitate to answer blind ads. Employers have good reasons for placing them, the chief one being to avoid having to answer phone calls and send rejection letters. Some companies mask their identities because they don't want the incumbent to know they're searching for his replacement, or because they don't want the world to know they're going into the phone business. Just be reasonably sure that the ad doesn't come from your present employer. Most newspapers will confirm or deny on the phone that a given ad was placed by Stone Soup Systems. Call and check before you answer.

Answering ads is a great way of networking. You get to interview with people you wouldn't otherwise have met and learn about jobs and industries you may not have known about. All it takes to answer ads is time. It can't hurt, and you may well get lucky. Remember, you only need one job.

Article provided by Homesteader

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