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Not Every Job Board Has Your Best Interest in Mind. Here's How to Avoid Them.

Some job boards have different motivations than you as a job seeker, but you can learn to spot these sites and avoid them so you can focus on what matters most.

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I've spent a fair amount of time with online job boards, both as a job seeker and in my current role. At first, it seemed strange that I'd see an ad somewhere for a job that appeared to fit my skills perfectly only to find out that when I clicked the link, it took me to a completely different job. Then, after following a seemingly endless parade of redirecting links and filling out dozens of application forms, the site would ask me to upload a resume anyway.

The novice job seeker might write these off as glitchy links, but the reality is a bit more complex than that. Many job-search sites essentially harvest clicks off each other. They also get the unwary on a hook for newsletters or alert emails just to check out their supposed matches. Before they know it, their inboxes are being flooded with irrelevant job posts. It's enough to frustrate even the most stalwart searchers.

That said, the algorithms the sites use aren't bad any more than a lamp or car is bad; they're just tools. The people behind many of these algorithms aren't bad either. But, unfortunately, even though they're not malevolent, their intentions don't always align with those of job seekers.

Related: 4 Ways Ghosting Job Seekers Perpetuates Oppression

What are these misaligned intentions?

If there's an ulterior motive out there for job boards, it's revenue. Have you ever wondered how free job boards make their money? They make it off their algorithms that put you into a never-ending loop of clicks. Any experience other than a painless job search means some different priority is at play. While it's not inherently bad for a job board to make revenue off of clicks, the clicks should result in happy job seekers finding the right position.

Specifically, clicks drive revenue. For example, they might have 10 different postings for the same job so the provider gets more clicks. This might put them higher on a rankings site, or it might just mean more ad revenue. Some of them might be scammers hoping to cash in on a desperate job seeker. Still others might be after the same formula we see on social media: an algorithm that's designed to keep us coming back for more.

There's also a disturbing amount of so-called "ghost jobs" out there. The reasons for these jobs are numerous: A company could be building a pipeline of resumes for the next open job they have, or it could just want to keep its name at the top of people's minds when it comes to hiring. There could be legitimate reasons, but those don't help the average job seeker.

Related: The Standard Job-Search Process Is Broken. Here's How to Fix It.

What's so harmful about these intentions?

The inconvenience caused by all these bad algorithms is annoying, but is it truly harmful? We've found ways to live with spam, pop-ups and other threats online; are fake job posts really that big of a deal? As it turns out, there's quite a bit of harm behind these fraudulent job postings.

First, it's bad for our health. These job postings seek to maximize attention, just like the social-media sites that figure out how we each get our dopamine rushes so they can feed us that content. Picture the quick hit of dopamine you get when you receive an email that just so happens to give you that specific job in just the right location. All those constant rushes can make it easy to get addicted to surfing these boards.

Likewise, it's a waste of time. If you're looking for a new job, you probably don't have the time to chase empty leads. While you're filling out endless applications, you're distracted from legitimate searching. The fruitlessness could even lead you to give up the search altogether.

Finally, these sites are a genuine cybersecurity concern, as you're giving up plenty of personal data while you're filling out all those applications. Some of these sites are expressly set up to trick you into giving up your data. It's quite obvious that this is not only unhelpful for job seekers, but also harmful to them.

Related: Overcoming (and Embracing) Mental-Health Issues When Looking for a Job

How to avoid these algorithms

Now that we've established why these algorithms exist, it's time to find out how to identify and avoid these problems. You should see it as a red flag if you find yourself being redirected to external sites several times. Being redirected to a different job than the one advertised when you clicked is yet another sign of a suspicious algorithm.

If you find yourself filling out a seemingly endless supply of forms, that should be a red flag as well. If those forms end with you being asked to upload a resume anyway, you know you've found some bad intentions, and you should abort immediately.

If you want to avoid these sites altogether, you can be a more proactive user of your own data. For example, keep your search on a limited number of job boards and upload only the necessary information for your profile. You can also be rigorous in setting the search criteria for your profile and resume so you know companies can find you.

One last tip is to keep your human independence from computer-generated algorithms. On LinkedIn, for instance, you can like certain content to see it more often. However, LinkedIn will still use an algorithm to determine your news feed. Instead, you can bookmark the pages you want to see on your internet browser. These small steps aren't entirely foolproof, but they can help you avoid becoming just another blip in the algorithm machine.

Spot, avoid and protect your best interests

Though they may have different motivations from you as a job seeker, these job boards and their owners aren't necessarily bad. Most other job boards have no intentions other than helping job seekers find work, and the misalignment of goals comes instead from an employer posting an opening on the board for reasons other than to fill the stated position. Being conscious of the possible conflicts of interest and knowing some of the tricks these sites employ can help you spot them, avoid them and get after what matters: landing a good job.

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