Hunting for a job late last year, lawyer Gant Redmon stumbled across CareerBuilder, a job database on the Internet.
He searched it with no success but was attracted by the site's “personal search agent.”
It's an interactive feature that lets visitors key in job criteria such as location, title, and salary, then E-mails them when a matching position is posted in the database.
Redmon chose the keywords legal, intellectual property, and Washington, D.C.
Three weeks later, he got his first notification of an opening.
“I struck gold,” says Redmon, who E-mailed his resume to the employer and won a position as in-house counsel for a company.
With thousands of career-related sites on the Internet, finding promising openings can be time-consuming and inefficient.
Search agents reduce the need for repeated visits to the databases.
But although a search agent worked for Redmon, career experts see drawbacks.
Narrowing your criteria, for example, may work against you: “Every time you answer a question you eliminate a possibility.” says one expert.
For any job search, you should start with a narrow concept-what you think you want to do -- then broaden it.
“None of these programs do that,” says another expert.
“There's no career counseling implicit in all of this.”
Instead, the best strategy is to use the agent as a kind of tip service to keep abreast of jobs in a particular database;
when you get E-mail, consider it a reminder to check the database again.
“I would not rely on agents for finding everything that is added to a database that might interest me,” says the author of a job-searching guide.
Some sites design their agents to tempt job hunters to return.
When CareerSite's agent sends out messages to those who have signed up for its service, for example, it includes only three potential jobs -- those it considers the best matches.
There may be more matches in the database;
job hunters will have to visit the site again to find them -- and they do.
“On the day after we send our messages, we see a sharp increase in our traffic,” says Seth Peets, vice president of marketing for CareerSite.
Even those who aren't hunting for jobs may find search agents worthwhile.
Some use them to keep a close watch on the demand for their line of work or gather information on compensation to arm themselves when negotiating for a raise.
Although happily employed, Redmon maintains his agent at CareerBuilder.
“You always keep your eyes open,” he says.
Working with a personal search agent means having another set of eyes looking out for you.