Pick up any newspaper and thumb through the classified ad section in search of a job related to your interests, skills, and experience. Chances are you will identify several interesting jobs, but few of them will relate to your skills and experience. Believing that most job vacancies are found in the newspapers, thousands of job seekers explore the classified ads each day and often respond to ads with a resume, letter, or phone call.

Unfortunately, two things happen at this stage:
  1. Many other people also respond to the same ad and thus face a great deal of competition for a single position.

  2. Lacking the required skills and experience, they stretch their qualifications in the hopes that the employer might hire them anyway.
In some cases, an ad may not be for an actual job. Some employers place ads in order to collect resumes or sell candidates on self-employment schemes. Don't assume just because an ad appears in the newspaper that it represents a legitimate job vacancy.

Your chances of getting a job by responding to classified ads are not very good - at best, a 5-percent chance of getting a positive or negative response from an employer! However, many job seekers spend most of their job search time on this single, ineffective job search method. When they donít get a response, they conclude there are no jobs available for them at present.

Hereís the truth about classified job ads:
  1. They represent no more than 15 percent of available job vacancies. Most of the jobs (50 to 75%) are found on the "hidden job market," which primarily operates by word-of-mouth, and are found through networking.

  2. They tend to represent jobs at the two extreme ends of the job market - low-wage, high-turnover positions and high-wage, highly skilled positions. In other words, they represent difficult-to-fill positions.

  3. They create unrealistic expectations - false hopes that you will actually get the job or that you are basically unqualified for most jobs.
Donít waste a great deal of time on classified ads. Explore them for a few minutes each day, but move on to more productive job search methods.

If you see a job that seems to be a perfect fit, you can increase your odds of getting a job interview by doing the following:
  1. Respond immediately with a phone call and ask for an interview.

  2. Follow the application instructions. How does the employer want you to contact him Ė by e-mail, fax, or mail your resume or call for a telephone screening interview? What does he want you to send him - resume, letter, references, examples of work?

  3. Dissect the ad carefully and then write a cover letter in which you respond to each requirement with corresponding examples of your qualifications.

  4. Follow up your application within five days with a phone call, fax, or e-mail. We prefer a phone call. This will be the single most important action you can take to move your application to the top of the pile and get it read and remembered. Ask if the employer has any questions about your application, restate your qualifications and interest in the position, and ask for a job interview. If you don't ask for the job interview, chances are the employer won't contact you for an interview! Your phone call also gives you a chance to be interviewed over the telephone by the employer - the first screening step in the job interview process.

SOURCE: Adapted from Ron and Caryl Krannich, Ph.Ds, The Ex-Offender's Job Hunting Guide (Manassas Park, VA: Impact Publications). Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.