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How to Organize Your Online Job Search

No one can accomplish a sustained level of success without being organized. Some people might stumble into good fortune but few hold on to it. According to experts, this is not just a truism for life but for actually getting a job.

"You can't 'post and pray' as a strategy for hiring and can't 'peek and pray' [as a strategy for looking for a job]," career expert Julia Holian says. "You have to be organized."

In conversations with Holian and others, we found the two main principles to use in job searches are to organize your mental and administrative processes.

Get your mind organized

Overcoming mental fears around starting your job search is the first thing you have to do to be successful, "says Dr. Katharine Brooks, a psychologist and career expert. In posts over the years, she has described the reasons why giving in to fear makes it harder to find a job. Mainly, she says, it saps job seekers' motivation because our brains are hard-wired to reject tasks that seem unfair, lead to rejection or social exclusion, lack control, or have other unknown elements. But she says there is a formula to organize your mind, which we lay out for you here:

  1. Acknowledge the emotion. If you're afraid your search will lead to zero job offers, for example, you need to say this to yourself at the beginning. Because once you acknowledge that great fear, you will realize doing the work consistently makes that outcome unlikely.
  2. Apply logic. This is the great mental wirecutter of the fearful. Following up on the above note, there is zero chance a person who applies to many jobs, for many months, and does everything right will not get a good job offer. It's just not possible!
  3. Figure out a map to get to your goal and learn how to do it through research. If you want a specific job, you need to know who is the type of person with that job. What is their level of education? How many internships did they have? What are their responsibilities? How many years has it taken to get there? You need to know everything you can about a position and what the path is to actually get a similar job.

This last recommendation from Dr. Brooks seems to us to be the most important part to a successful search. After all, you need to understand the realistic amount of time the job search process actually takes to do it right. It's the part where the mind meets your administrative organization. That means knowing you will write a resume and a cover letter for each job, for say, up to 50 jobs a month. (it's not as daunting if you put it on a calendar). And it means knowing, like another career expert Bill Kieffer says, that "many others are competing with you for the same job." So you need to be mentally patient.

Get your administrative process organized

Resume expert Arno Markus says keeping track of every part of your job-search process allows you to control and understand your progress. He recommends doing this through management tools like software programs, custom search bots that send jobs to your email and calendar apps. But you need to know what to keep track of first.

  • Jobs you've applied to, including titles. You may want to apply to multiple jobs at one company.
  • Jobs you've applied to that you haven't heard from. Make sure you follow up.
  • Jobs you're interested in. It never hurts to send a formal, professional email to a prospective employer.
  • Application instructions. Sometimes they vary widely!
  • Dates of application, including deadlines and a suitable time to follow up. Never wait until the last minute to submit to a job you really want.
  • Contact information of employer representatives. Everyone appreciates being called by their name.
  • Specific details about the position for reference, including a link to job description. Part of the learning process to learn as much as you can about a job.
  • Cover letters for each job. Always write a new cover letter!
  • Resumes for each job. Always amend your resume based on the job!
  • Prepared questions to ask during interviews. Practice makes perfect.
  • So you can write down what you learned from them and move on.

Management tools

Luckily, there are many ways to manage all this information. Check them out below.

  • Trello: Used by many people in their job search, allowing you to switch tiles, titles of tasks and features depending on how you apply organization needs.
  • Microsoft OneNote: Microsoft has worked to improve the simplicity and access of its tool base and this is one app that can be used on your computer (including the Mac) as well as on any smartphone, for on-the-go management.
  • Evernote: Popular management tool used by many employers, although their free version is small compared to others.
  • Sticky notes or paper notepad: Just make sure that you date all of your notes and that you supplement each with color tabs to know where everything is.
  • Google Drive: Creating folders in this document management system is easy and especially useful if you like to share your work with others who could help you.
  • Asana: This software is used by companies that you will likely be applying to so it might be a good idea to get a sense of how it works through the free account option.
  • Jira: Similar to Asana, this management tool is popular with new companies.

Job search bots

Bots are simple tech tools that do what you tell them to. Some are part of job search websites while others are stand-alone apps. What matters is that they help you find a job by culling and searching from dozens of sites with thousands of jobs.

The simplest bot is found in job search websites. Go to Indeed or a similar site, type into a box which types of jobs you are interested in, with specific relevant keywords, location, salary and other parameters, and boom — the site's bot will send you an email directly to your inbox as often as you want it to. In order for them to work best, you need to research which keywords work best for your job search. For example, if you are a former retail manager looking to get a new job at a company with better health care, you might want to add "great medical benefits," "management" and "retail" as keywords.

Bots are also good for keeping tabs on industry changes. If you want to get into digital marketing but there are more content writing positions open, you might want to create a bot for "content marketing and writing." That way you can monitor whether new marketing jobs have digital elements and might want to change your job search focus.

There are other bots outside job search websites. These are called AI assistants and popular ones are Stella, Mosaic and Woo. The latter allows you to create an assistant that anonymously sends your information to employers based on parameters you decide on, such as companies willing to pay you above a certain salary threshold.

Calendaring and scheduling apps

Calendaring apps are necessary to know when, where and what time you're supposed to be working on getting a job. These are the best and most well-known.

  • Google Calendar: Best for people whose main email suite is Gmail.
  • Apple Calendar: For Mac aficionados.
  • Outlook Calendar: Fewer people use this but many businesses still do.
  • Woven: A startup that is gaining traction with other startups.
  • Meetingbird: A fun quick calendar client that works with other software.
  • Boomerang Calendar: You can set up notifications and calendar events just like Gmail, but it is a bit more muscular in its feature set.
  • Calendly: Allows other people to see your schedule to set up a meeting with you.

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Jose Fermoso

Jose Fermoso

Career Advice Contributor

Jose Fermoso is a reporter and editor for international publications, including The Guardian, Wired, and Medium/s One Zero. He is a graduate of the prestigious Rhetoric program at UC Berkeley. For 14 years running, he has been writing stories to help people understand new technologies, cultural trends, and the fast-paced…

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