Five Secret Weapons For Your Online Job Search:

by Liz Ryan


Technology is an awesome thing when we’re talking about putting people on the moon and discovering wonder drugs and therapies to help people feel better. Technology is horrible for managing person-to-person interactions and other human activities. Job search is a perfect example. Technology has killed anything human in the job search process. This column is about bringing some of the human energy back into your job search.

I’m sure employers thought they were terribly up-to-date and forward-looking when they installed those godforsaken Black Hole recruiting systems, also known as ATS (applicant tracking system) software. They suck, like Black Holes out in space. You send a resume into one of those things and its atoms get shredded and sent down a wormhole to another dimension. Every time you pitch a resume into a Black Hole, a little bit of your soul dies.

There’s a better way to job-hunt. Here are five small but powerful weapons to use in your job search and take back a piece of your humanity. Technology has turned what used to be a friendly job-search process into a cold and sterile, mechanical and mojo-crushing affair. That’s okay. We can have our revenge. We can use technology to beat Godzilla at his own game, one job-seeker at a time.

Let’s go!


“Who’s Around?” is the name of our favorite LinkedIn search. It’s easy to conduct a “Who’s Around?” search. Just jump to the Advanced People Search page on LinkedIn by clicking on the word “Advanced” next to the blue box and the search bar at the top of the page.

Once you’ve reached the Advanced Search page, type in your location and any keywords that relate to your job search. You’re looking for other people in your geography whose profiles include the keywords you selected.

How will that help you? This “Who’s Around?” search will make you aware of local employers who have employees that work with the same tools, technologies and topics that you do. You’ll create your target employer list in no time using the “Who’s Around?” search to become aware of employers (by way of their employees’ LinkedIn profiles) that might not have hit your radar screen otherwise.


Blind job ads, the ones that don’t identify the hiring employer, are very un-Human-Workplace-like and if you go to work in a place that posts job ads like that, I’m relying on you get them to stop. Still, you might want to go after a job that you see advertised in a blind job ad, so you’ve got to know how to un-blind an ad in order to use the Pain Letter/Human-Voiced Resume approach and reach your hiring manager directly.

Here’s how you can un-blind a blind job ad. This works about seventy-five percent of the time. Look at a blind job ad and search for any phrase that isn’t pure boilerplate language like “We seek a hands-on Marketing Manager.”

Look for any phrase that has the slightest hint of distinctiveness in it. These are likely to be phrases lifted from the employer’s standard branding materials or its website.

Take that ever-so-slightly distinctive phrase, put quotation marks around it and pop it into a Google search box. Maybe the phrase you found in the job ad describes the organization. “Family-owned distributor of leisure publications.” Bada bing, bada boom, thanks to the quotation marks that keep the distinctive phrase intact in the search, Google finds the identical verbiage on the About Us page of the website for Celestial Books. Once you’ve ID’d the employer, you can find your hiring manager’s name on LinkedIn.


Godzilla and his minions have made online job-hunting a tedious and discouraging affair, but you can leave the Black Hole alone and reach your hiring manager directly with your Pain Letter and Human-Voiced Resume. You can find your hiring manager on LinkedIn. Think about the job you’d want in your target organization. Let’s say it’s Purchasing Agent.

Who manages a Purchasing Agent? Most likely it’s the Purchasing Manager, Procurement Manager, Director of Materials, Operations Director or VP of Operations. You can have fun trying various titles in your LinkedIn People Searches until you spot Mr. or Ms. Right. Now you can compose a Pain Letter that addresses your prospective new boss’s Business Pain directly, and get back the time you used to waste responding to job ads.


To write a Pain Letter that’s relevant to your hiring manager’s situation, you’ve got to have some idea of the Business Pain your target employer is facing. You can’t be in business without having problems. It’s the nature of business! You solve one problem, and you get a new one. Every business, large and small, has a problem or more than one, and problems are the only reason any organization hires a new person. If things are working perfectly, they’re not going to pay an extra salary.

Here’s a chart that gives you some starting points to identify your target employer’s Business Pain. This chart looks at the type of organization you’re planning to approach and suggests Business Pains that the company might be facing.


Business Pain Chart One Business Pain by Organization Type
Organization type Business Situation Likely flavor of Business Painô
Startup organization Growing fast Infrastructure isnít holding up
Startup organization Grew fast, then stalled Marketing isnít sufficient/isnít working
Startup organization About to go public Culture is about to change! Thatís a Business Painô unto itself
Government agency Funds diminished (true for every govt. agency, or nearly every one) Many of our employees donít know how to innovate (we havenít talked about that a lot in the past) to do more with less
Government agency Looking for new revenue sources (a university, e.g.) Little or no expertise in product design and marketing
Large corporation Product is not the newest or Ďsexiestí on the market We donít have an internal product-development mindset that will allow us to compete with much smaller, nimbler competitors
Large corporation Need to appeal to a global audience Our employees are too focused on their own desks and job descriptions (because we taught them to be that way)
Not-for-profit agency Reduced funding (nearly universal) Little or no expertise in shifting frames to generate new revenue


Our last tip for job-seekers who want to take back the control of their job hunts and get great jobs is to add a human voice to the online job application. Here are two ways to do that.

When the online job application asks you to list the Tasks and Duties at a past job, skip the Tasks and Duties and talk about the mark you left on the job, instead.

2001-2004 Customer Service Specialist, Acme Explosives

Tasks and Duties:

I came into the job fresh from the military and learned everything there is to know about stick dynamite. I answered the phones, attended Skype meetings and set up Acme’s first customer-service escalation plan. I trained new employees and helped Acme grow from $10M to $18M in sales.

Tell us what’s in your wake at each job you’ve held. We can figure out your tasks and duties from your job title.

Report Your Salary Target, Not Salary History

Employers ask for your salary history, but why? That’s none of their business. Are they going to tell you what they paid the last guy in your job? Of course not. What’s private to them is obviously private to you, too. Keep your salary history to yourself.

On an online job application, put your current salary target (let’s say it’s $45,000/year) in the box marked “Salary” for every job you’ve ever held. If you worked next to me at Burger King in Cedar Grove, New Jersey in 1978, go ahead and put $45,000 in the “salary” box for that Burger King job. Do the same for every job you’ve ever had. In the first available Comment box or field, write “All salary figures reported in this form reflect my current salary target.”

All they need to decide whether your salary is a match with theirs is one figure, and that’s your current salary target. Don’t listen to weenies who tell you that you’re bound to give up anything an employer asks of you, private-information-wise. That’s hogwash. Mojofied job seekers like you know better than to grovel for a job. After all, if they don’t get you, they don’t deserve you.

Our company is called Human Workplace. We’re designing the Human Workplace blueprints for recruiting, HR practices, leadership development, internal communications and sales & customer service training, together with eyes-forward employers around the world.


Our CEO and Founder, Liz Ryan, is a former Fortune 500 HR SVP and opera singer. Liz also draws the images you see in our columns and in our curriculum.

We launched the Human Workplace movement in 2012 and have 250,000 members in over 200 countries so far! Follow us on Twitter: @humanworkplace

Join us! We’re excited about our new content bundles that teach job-seekers how to navigate LinkedIn and the online job search world. You can dip a toe in the water with our Online Job Search Starter Kit, wade into the pool with our Online Job Search MEGA Collection or dive in and swim with us in a Human Workplace 12-week virtual coaching group!

Ready to put a toe in the water?Our instant-download Online Job Search Starter Kit has four ultra-practical Human Workplace job-search tools in one downloadable kit — $70+ of eBooks bundled for $6.99!

Try some non-traditional Human Workplace job-search advice and beat the job-search mojo-depletion blues!

If you’ve read some of our eBooks and want to teach yourself the methods you’ve been reading about with our materials, get the Online Job Search MEGA Collection. This downloadable kit includes a huge amount of curriculum, eBooks and tools on LinkedIn and online branding, choosing a career direction and more. Wade in!