Boomers Looking Online for Work: Some Things to Consider



icons-842879_640I began looking for my first “real” job weeks before I graduated from college with a social work degree. This meant scanning the classified ads in the local newspaper. I found an ad for an entry level social worker position. I completed the lengthy job application on my typewriter and carried it back to the local state employment office. I turned it over to the personnel clerk who placed it in a manila folder on her desk. I waited for a phone call or letter requesting an interview with me.

It seems rather simple now, even quaint, doesn’t it?


If I were looking for a job today, would I start with the newspaper classified ads? Definitely not.

I would go online but it’s a big place. Where would I go? It feels like a gazillion job boards exist online. And furthermore,

  • How would I know which job board could best help me, an experienced worker in her encore phase of life and work?
  • How much information and what kind would I need to put online in order to be considered, interviewed, and hired?
  • Do I want to use the services of free or fee-based job boards? How do their benefits, and outcomes, compare?    
  • How should LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or other social media fit into my work seeking scenario?
  • If I want to earn money but not in a full-time job, how do I direct my work search online?
  • Finally, how should I conserve my time to achieve the best outcomes? 

todo-list-297195These and other questions are driving internet research that Lisa and I have started on seeking employment in today’s digital world. Lisa’s blog post on job boards last week provided the history, context, job board types, role and impact of ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) on job seekers, and job board hiring effectiveness. She concluded with pros and cons. To review:

  • Pros of using job boards: free or low cost use; wide exposure; access to many job listings in different sectors; greater focus possible with niche job boards
  • Cons of using job boards: ATS stops 90% of the job applications on major job boards from being viewed by hiring authorities; job board listings are often outdated or no longer available; job seekers may be more successful using their time to strengthen their social networks

In addition to knowing where to look online for jobs, I am finding other challenges in my early research on job boards.

Job Search Privacy? Not so much—What used to be a transaction between job seeker and prospective employer is now subject to the requirements and disclosure protections of the job board. Your profile, resume, cover letter, and work samples may be viewed by employers, recruiters, and others who have access to the job board data base. Job boards vary on settings you can choose to reveal your personal data. While you may close your job board profile/account, your information could already be cached by others including job search engines. This level of access to your job hopes and credentials might be de rigueur but it makes me uneasy.

Dates and hourly rate required—One freelancing job board I looked at requires dates on employment and educational credentials in the profile. You also have to submit an hourly rate in your public profile. These requirements contradict conventional wisdom for seasoned workers looking for new employment. Usually, boomers are advised to downplay dates and only focus on the last 20 years of their career. And why put up an hourly rate that either attracts or repels potential employers when they control the salary for the job or project anyway?

Minorities and women fare poorly with salary history questions because they have often settled for lower wages to get employed in the past.  According to Jena McGregor in the Washington Post in 2015, interviewers who ask the salary history/requirements question perpetuate the wage gap for perfectly competent but badly paid workers. Specifying an hourly rate upfront also belies my experience in negotiating salaries and freelance contracts. It’s not a good idea as a freelancer to be tied to a rate that appears in a job board data base.

Race to the bottom on earnings—Case in point:  this same freelancing job board posts employers’ help wanted ads and their budgets for the work as well as job seekers’ proposals to do the work. Freelancing jobs could last hours, weeks, or months, be part-time or full-time, be fix-priced or based on hourly rates.

For 30 minutes, I watched job seekers from around the world respond to logo and website design projects with $50 price tags, or less. Job seekers promised $7 and $10 hourly rates for high-quality work. This is not a living wage in the United States even if you work 40 hours a week. The most confounding proposal to me came from an American physician bidding to write content for a health website at $12 an hour! I was reminded of our blog posts in 2015 on contingency work (here and here) and how people believe that a high volume will make up for low hourly wages.

Keywords and Applicant Tracking Systems—Lisa intends to look at this issue in greater depth. What concerns me now is that job boards have automated the winnowing out of candidates based on a matching of keywords in resumes to job descriptions, both of which may be poorly written. This process screens out HUGE numbers of candidates from basic consideration for jobs and may explain why some estimates show that job boards provide only 10-20% of all job hire sources.

Sources of job hires—A 2015 survey by SilkRoad, a “talent acquisition, talent development, HR core” company, asserts something else about job boards. SilkRoad’s data showed that Indeed, a job search engine that gathers jobs from the web and employers’ listings, “is the leading source of external hires” for employers in this country.  Not only is Indeed the largest online source of job hires, the SilkRoad survey of “12 million applications, 600,000 interviews and almost 300,000 hires” claims that Indeed is the largest source of job hires, online and offline, as indicated below.

Notice that it refers to “external” sources of hire.  Other studies, including one by Jobvite distinguishes between applications by source type and hires by source.  Jobvite’s assessment in 2014 asserted that employee referrals are the single largest source of new hires, not job boards.


Is this a smash-mouth competition between “talent acquisition” competitors? Or is our picture of searching online for jobs incomplete?  Probably a bit of both.

Readers might want to visit this blog post “Job Boards: Still Sucking Wind” at Ask the Headhunter by John Corcodilo from 2012.  He questioned the calculations job boards use to report their successes. For job search engines like Indeed, he wondered “what would happen to Indeed’s ‘success rate’ if the job boards from which it scrapes jobs go belly up.”

Lisa and I tend to believe that referrals and personal networks yield far more positive results than job boards but we are still researching! One more point:  the statistics of the SilkRoad scope of data surveyed above–12 million applications, 600,000 interviews and almost 300,000 hires–shows a massive number of applications and a much smaller number of hires surveyed. Maybe the hires number is not related to the number of applications.  But 300,000 is  2 percent of 12 million, not quite as good as my 1 to 30 odds of being hired for my first job. And since that first job, all the other jobs and work I have done as a freelancer have come from referrals, not newspaper ads, employment agencies, or job boards.

In closing this post, I have far more questions than answers.  But just as we advocate for focus and infotention in our regular work, boomers must do the same in focusing their time to seek and find employment that satisfies and rewards them. Targeting work interest areas first and then triangulating employment options with information from job boards, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media, and relying heavily on one’s relational networks, seems to be the way to go … but it still seems ridiculously complicated.

We hope to keep learning and sharing practical insights. And we hope you will share your experiences and ideas in the comments or by email to us at

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Generous artists at Pixabay released their pictures free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0 for use in this post.

Other Resources

Women’s Learning Studio blog posts

Jobvite: Jobvite Index

SilkRoad: Top Sources of Hire 2015–The Definitive Report on Talent Acquisition Strategies 

Indeed Blog: Graphics on Indeed’s Job Hire Success

Washington Post: The Worst Question You Could Ask Women in a Job Interview

Ask the Headhunter blog: Job Boards: Still Sucking Wind


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  1. […] pointed out last week in her blog Boomers looking online for work: some things to consider, the Jobvite index shows that employee referrals are the best way to get hired. I wondered, between […]

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