What is online job hunting?
There are several elements to using the Internet to find work. To begin with, you can register with many services that will e-mail you updates of the latest jobs to come in. Or you can e-mail your CV to agencies that have advertised a job you are interested in.
You can also research the companies that you most want to work for, plus those that you are due to interview with. You can also read up on the latest trends in IT so you can impress your interviewer with your knowledge of the latest buzzwords in e-commerce.
Why do it?
The greatest advantage the Internet provides is one of speed. In theory, the agencies that e-mail you job updates should inform you of the latest vacancies as soon as they come out and before they have been advertised in major magazines.
There is also personalisation. The best recruitment sites should alert you to the type of job you are looking for, saving you time sifting through vacancies that do not interest you. Then there is administrative convenience. It is much easier simply to e-mail your CV to a Web site than it is to go out and use the post box every day.
You can also, and this is a dubious benefit, register with a wide range of agencies or employers in far less time than if you were visiting offices in person.
However, you may find that it is useful to get to know the agency you are dealing with and for them to know your needs.
Where do I start?
Amid the plethora of job hunting sites some are better than others.
Tony Ahmet, marketing manager at Computer People, suggests beginning with Jobserve, computerweekly.com, Jobworld, Stepstone, silicon.com, plus your favourite recruitment agency.
Others advise you to start with names that you know from the offline world that have a reputation to protect. That way you are less likely to fall prey to the bane of online job-hunting - poor or non-existent services from Web site operators that have little knowledge of the IT job market and little experience of recruitment services.
You could take recommendations from friends and colleagues, if appropriate, and try the major search engines.
Look for the sites that have the most jobs of the type you are looking for, and for those with a regular flow of new jobs.
How do I apply online?
Ideally, you should use a common format, such as Microsoft Word, as your CV is likely to be passed around a variety of people if you have skills in demand.
An application should be formal, attractive and clear in its presentation with content that is relevant to the post you are looking for.
There are two points-of-view on the subject of gimmicks such as photos, audio and video clips. Some say this gives a potential employer the chance to see whether you would fit in before inviting you to interview.
However, John Eary, head of skill source consultancy at the National Computing Centre, says it gives the recruiter the opportunity to exercise some form of discrimination against you, whether it is a legal form such as ageism or otherwise. This discrimination may not always be conscious - recruiters may not realise that notions they have about the right age for the job are harmful both to the employer and to the applicant. Eary says this discrimination is more likely to occur in sifting through forms than when talking to people at interview.
What about online tests?
You may have to do online tests as part of your application for a job, particularly if it is with a large, multinational firm.
However, any employer that relied on results posted to them over the Internet would be extremely foolish. They would have no way of knowing whether you had received assistance from a more highly qualified person in completing the test. You may very well, however, have to go in to a recruitment agency to take a test before your application is forwarded on.
How do I apply at work without getting caught?
Silly question. Everything you do on the Internet at work can be tracked by your employer. While limited use of the Internet for non-business purposes is usually condoned, firing off hundreds of CVs using your employers' resources is probably a sackable offence.
Do employers prefer online applications to CVs?
At the most junior levels of the job market the answer is a definite "yes" to online applications. A few major multinationals will now only accept applications online for their graduate intake, following the example of some universities in the US.
In general, online applications make it easy for the recruiter and the employer to store and share CVs with other interested parties.
However, for most senior posts, traditional methods are still preferred.
What are the dangers?
The main danger is that of wasting time that you could put to better use. Internet job hunters have complained that many sites repeatedly advertise the same jobs, offer inflated salaries to make jobs look more appealing, employ poorly trained recruitment staff and make claims about the security of personal information that they cannot keep. Trust the worst sort of job sites and you could spend months firing off CVs and still getting nowhere.
Is it a better way than conventional methods?
Internet job hunting by itself cannot replace face-to-face contact with employers and recruitment consultants, but it is a useful aid to finding a new job.
Using the Internet speeds up the process of finding out about jobs and getting your details to employers. However, you would be wise to make use of advice from the best sort of recruitment consultant who should make a genuine effort to place you in your preferred work environment.
Ann Swain, chief executive of the Association of Technology Staffing Companies, says: "Permanent recruitment really does need to have a selection process that goes beyond software and with many contracts lasting for as much as six months this can be true for contracts as well.
"The Internet will never replace the service levels that agencies can provide and that job hunters should expect," she concludes.