Career Strategies for Librarians
Find a Job in 10 Minutes a Day: Persistent Job Search Via an Aggregator
by Sara R. Paul
Actively looking for a new job can be an incredibly long and arduous task. Suppose you have 45 job
websites and email listservs that you check on a regular basis. Going to each website and combing
through emails every day could take hours. However, by using RSS feeds to concentrate all the listings
in one place, you can eliminate a great amount of time and effort. Those 45 job sites can be checked in a
matter of minutes.
When embarking on a job search last winter, I had very specific ideas about how much time I wanted to
spend perusing job boards on a daily basis. My goal: to pull all relevant job listings into a feed reader
with as little effort as possible.
RSS (“Really Simple Syndication” or “Rich Site Summary”) is a machine-readable data format that
websites use to syndicate their content. The content is syndicated as an RSS feed to anybody who wants
to subscribe. In order to subscribe to an RSS feed, users subscribe via a feedreader (also known as an
aggregator) to retrieve the material pushed from the feed-offering website (for more info on RSS, see the
article RSS For Non-Techie Librarians).
Any feedreader/aggregator can be used for this purpose. I conducted my search via Bloglines because I
had already used that service for a long time. Bloglines is a web-based, server-side
feedreader/aggregator. It stores all of my feeds and preferences, which means that I can check for
updates from any computer.
Before I began, I took a couple minutes to build a list of keywords. As with any online search, results are
only as good as the query. Since individual companies and organizations write job postings, they can be
represented in a multitude of ways (there is no proper indexing, and certainly no controlled vocabulary).
Identify general occupations that interest you, not specific job titles. Think librarian or knowledge
manager, not rural public library director or electronic services law librarian. I was afraid that I might miss
a great job, so I tended to err on the more general side.
Step 1: Importing Personalized Feeds from Vertical Meta-Search Engines
In the last couple of years a category of search engines dedicated to job hunting has emerged. Vertical
search engines are subject-specific search engines. Meta-search engines query more than one online
index at a time, pulling the results together into a single list for you to review. Thus, vertical meta-search
job engines, such as Indeed, Yahoo! HotJobs, JobCentral, and SimplyHired, allow users to query
multiple job sites via a single interface. They each gather job postings from numerous external websites,
such as Monster, CareerBuilder, Craigslist, newspapers, professional associations, and company
websites. The engines all allow users to subscribe to personalized search results via RSS feeds.
Though it is easy to group these five major meta-search job engines together, there are some big
differences among them. Yes, they aggregate many of the same sources, but the relevancy rankings and
advanced search capabilities vary widely.
Yahoo! HotJobs uses aggregated “web results” as a way to supplement paid listings. Thus, the paid
listings are always the first hits in search results, regardless of their relevancy. One nice feature is the
ability to narrow your search results by date posted, experience level, company name, and commute
JobCentral is the product of the Direct Employers Association, an organization whose goal is to help
corporations increase their recruiting reach. The results of a search on JobCentral are garnered from
listings provided by the 750 member companies. The site qualifies as a meta-search engine because
with each search you can see, and click through to, the number of jobs in inventory at JobCentral,
SimplyHired, Indeed, Google Base, and Jobster.
I felt that I had the best results using Indeed and SimplyHired. These two engines are the most similar:
both aggregate from outside sources, and employers don't pay to be listed. In addition, each has a clean,
user-friendly interface that allows for advanced searching. To conduct a simple search, indicate the type
of position you are seeking and the geographic area.
Use the advanced search forms to further refine your query. SimplyHired’s advanced search form
enables users to exclude words, require postings that include salary info, define education or work
experience, or search by type of company or the date the job was posted. Indeed’s advanced search
options include filtering by words or phrases, specifying words in the job title, specifying the company,
and defining the maximum commuting distance.
On the search results page there is a link to save your search as an RSS feed.
Clicking on the link will produce a unique RSS feed. Cut and paste the RSS URL into your feedreader in
order to persistently search using the same critera. As new jobs are added that match your criteria, the
feed will automatically update in your reader. Whenever you check your feedreader, newly posted jobs will
be listed there.
Based on my research, I was worried that the vertical meta-search job engines did not really aggregate
everything. To cover my bases, I created and subscribed to personalized RSS feeds from individual job
boards, such as Monster, Craigslist, and GoogleBase. Of course, some job listings came across my
reader multiple times. I figured that ignoring a couple duplicates would be better than missing the job of
Step 2: Setting Up Bloglines Email Addresses
The next challenge was to assemble all of the relevant email-based job listings. Many library school
programs, local library organizations, and recruiters have mailing lists to announce open positions. I
knew I did not want to subscribe to these using my regular email address and that adding yet another
email address to check every day would be too tedious.
Luckily, Bloglines has a feature that allows you to create dummy email addresses. Any email sent to a
Bloglines address renders in the feedreader just like any other feed.
To create a unique Bloglines email address, select “create email subscriptions” on the lower left frame.
You can name the email address, which is especially useful if you plan on joining multiple lists. Suppose
you want to join LIBJOBS. In the name field, enter “LIBJOBS” and then click on “create email subscription.”
Bloglines will then generate a unique email address (usually your screen name followed by a random
number at bloglines.com).
Simply use the Bloglines email address as you would any other. When you check your feeds, email
addresses are signified by a little envelope icon. Clicking on it displays the emails exactly like an RSS
When you have completed your job search, you can delete the email addresses from your reader.
Step 3: Scraping Pages Without Feeds
Many great job sites do not have RSS feeds, which meant that I was still spending time checking multiple
websites every day. Fortunately, there are services that “scrape” websites and generate feeds from the
content. FeedYes, Feed43, Dapper, and PonyFish all work by "scraping" the links and text off a given
page and creating an XML feed.
I found FeedYes to be the most user-friendly and accurate. To set up an RSS feed through FeedYes,
users follow a three-step process. First, enter the URL of the webpage from which you want an automatic
RSS feed to be created.
Second, indicate which link is the first that refers to the content section that you are interested in. For job
posts, this means pointing to the area where the job are listed (thus ruling out headers and other static
links). On the AALL job site, it is the first job posting, “Access Services Librarian.”
Finally, indicate the last relevant link in your selected content section. The last relevant link on the AALL
job site is the post for “Director of Library Services.”
At this point, you can create an RSS feed.
Once you finish the setup process, you will be given a unique RSS URL that can be saved in any
aggregator. The feeds that you create are aggregator-independent, meaning that it does not matter which
brand of aggregator you are using.
Step 4: Personalizing Feeds
Some of the job boards do not limit jobs based on the job type or geographic location. For example,
Lisjobs has a single feed, with no way to personalize the output. You can fix that with filtering services
such as FeedRinse or ZapTXT!
ZapTXT! watches your feeds and alerts you via SMS, IM, or email whenever one of your keywords
appears. (Note: since it does not provide RSS as an output option, you would have to create a dummy
Bloglines email and subscribe that way). FeedRinse works a little bit differently, by importing your entire
OPML file and then applying filters. The free version of FeedRinse lets you apply up to five filters on RSS
feeds. The "rinsed" results can be used in any feedreader.
FeedRinse worked great for sites that have one RSS feed for all job listings. Simply enter the URL for the
webpage’s RSS feed.
Then, impose your own set of restraints, so that only those listings that include keywords (such as your
geographic location or area of expertise) are delivered. For example, I set FeedRinse to send me items
that contained the word "San Francisco" in the post.
I should mention that you could do a very crude keyword search of your subscribed feeds via Bloglines. I
found this to be very inefficient, as it only creates a search feed across all subscriptions (you can’t specify
which feed or folder to search).
Popular Library Job Sites Distribution Capabilities
Librarians are lucky to have a wealth of job boards to turn to when looking for a new position. Some of
the popular boards have RSS capability. Below is a breakdown of which sites have RSS feeds and
whether they can be personalized. I have also noted if the site has email alerts, which can at least be
centralized in an aggregator via a Bloglines email addresses.
SLA and ALA (Joblist) are the only two sites that provide customizable RSS feeds.
Hopefully, the other library sites will realize what a great timesaver RSS is for job searchers and will
incorporate feeds into their sites!
Ultimately, all of these efforts paid off. I found a great new job via a posting I retrieved in my aggregator.
Best of all, I managed to keep my perusal of the job boards down to about ten minutes a day!
About the Author:
This article is about how Sara R. Paul arrived at her current position as Reference Librarian at Paul,
Hastings, Janofsky & Walker in San Francisco. Previously, she was the Reference Librarian at the district
attorney’s office in New York City.
Article published Dec 2006
Disclaimer: The ideas expressed in LIScareer articles are those of their respective authors and do not
necessarily represent the views of the LIScareer editors.
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