Networking, direct and targeted email are your most powerful tools when searching for a job, but there’s also value in answering ads and working with search firms. Although their impact is far less than your focused networking efforts, both channels are worth spending at least a little bit of time on.

When you’re budgeting your time for your job search, the bulk of it should go toward networking. After all, this tactic can help build the relationships that might not only land you your next job, but the one after that, too! When you cultivate a relationship with people who are in a position to hire you or recommend that you be hired, you’re banking toward your future. Even if the person has nothing for you now, if you nurture the relationship and stay in touch, you may be the first person they call when something does open up — and they may contact you before they even advertise the job!

Scale back on the amount of time you spend answering ads, but don’t ditch the tactic altogether. Be realistic about what you can get out of ads — since you’ll be competing against thousands of other applicants, the odds are against you even if you have a killer resume. Rather than leading to a job offer, answering ads has other benefits: it can help you learn more about companies or industries that are hiring, the types of jobs companies are looking to fill, industry and company jargon, and how companies title the kinds of jobs you’re interested in.

Working with search firms can also be worthwhile if you proceed with caution. Keep in mind headhunters are working for the company that’s hiring, not for you. Few will have any interest in you as a networking contact or in referring you to companies on an informational basis. But if their relationship with a client company is strong, a search firm can help pave the way for you to get an interview. Search firms often have access to positions that aren’t advertised, and can provide you with more in-depth information on the people who will interview you, the company culture, its employees and its structure.

When dealing with a search firm, consider these questions:

  • Does the firm work on a retained or contingency basis?
  • Is the firm a member of the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC), which sets the ethical standards for the industry?
  • Is the firm listed in the Directory of Executive Recruiters?
  • Has the Better Business Bureau cited the firm for any violations?

GetFive recommends you spend no more than 6 percent of your time each on answering ads or talking to search firms — unless you are getting meetings from those efforts. Meetings are the best way to move your job search forward, and lay the foundation for further career development.

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