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The Best Job Search Software

Automate your job search. The advertising hype for some job search software would have you believe that all you have to do is install their software on your computer and the job of your dreams is instantly yours.

If only it were that simple.

Job search is a rather complicated process for which basic computerization can assist. But that's all it can do--assist. Even the best job search software can do little more than help you prepare your presentation material or help you find the front door. From there you are on your own.

But with these obvious limitations in mind, there are some true winners in the job search software market. At $40 to $100 plus for some of the available software (not counting the time expended in working with them), the investment can be considerable, so it's prudent to make the investment wisely.

Following is the best software in each job search category:

Career planning and exploration - CareerPath (OnTrack Media, 415-885-4920) is the most complete software for individual career planning, although more powerful (and much more expensive) software is sometimes available institutionally through Career Planning offices and libraries. CareerPath provides valuable tools for both planning and exploration. The planning segment helps you create a comprehensive personal profile based upon your interests, experience, values, and abilities. This profile is then utilized in the exploration segment, with detailed information on over 3,500 careers available for further evaluation. It should be noted that no software can replace the interaction of an experienced Career Counselor, but this software will work well as a complement to your personal planning sessions.

Resume and cover letter preparation - WinWay Resume (WinWay Corporation, 916-332-2671) is the clear winner for both form and substance. You are provided with over 250 resume and cover letter samples, along with many powerful formatting functions. But its greatest attribute is the ability to export the final document to other word processors. This is important because it allows you to do the initial formatting with WinWay, then modify the output using the extended capabilities of your favorite word processor. And you are not restricted to having access to the software for making future updates, which provides needed portability for the finished resume, a feature which is sorely lacking with most resume preparation software.

Employer database - Hoover's Top 2,500 Employers (Hoover's, Inc. 512-374-4500). Instead of buying commercial database software, modifying it to fit your job search, then loading it up with employer data, you can accomplish all these steps and more by using Hoover's Top 2,500 Employers. This database is sold in book format which includes the software at a very reasonable (under $25) price. The database provides you with a company snapshot, including key contact information and the number of jobs added in the last year. The information is accessed with a FileMaker Pro database front-end, allowing for easy searching and formatting of employer information. In addition, it provides links to all the best career-oriented Web sites. Speaking of which, Hoover's maintains an excellent employer database on the Web at www.hoovers.com. The only limitation with the software is that there are only 2,500 employers. Although that may seem like a lot, that only averages 50 companies per state. You'll need far more employer information than that to be truly effective in your job search. But Hoover's provides a cost- effective start in reaching out to many of the largest employers in the U.S.

Personal information manager - Maximizer (Modatech Systems International, 214-929-7111) is the most comprehensive software for managing your daily activity, although it has the obvious limitation of any PIM software--you need to have your computer up and the software loaded to use it. That's fine for the previously listed software (which are computer intensive), but my true recommendation in the category of personal information management is to make use of a paper planner, such as a pocket Day-Timer or Franklin Planner. They slip in your pocket and are available for an update on a moment's notice, which is typically more effective for college student job search than to be computer- bound with a PIM. If you don't currently have a pocket planner, call Day-Timers at 800-225-5005 and tell one of the very polite order takers that you would like to order one of their free (can't beat that price) Pocket Day-Timer Sample Kits. They will promptly send out to you a two-month supply of planners in a variety of styles and full instructions on how to use them profitably. That will give you enough time to get used to the system and decide which style you like best in case you want to order more.

Interview preparation - No winner. Quite frankly, no software can adequately prepare you for your interview. Most software on the subject merely provides you with the standard template of interview questions. Yet they all lack interaction and true feedback. You will be much better prepared for your interview by spending time in a live mock interview (especially if it's videotaped for later review) with a counselor from your Career Placement Center.

Remember that any job search software, even truly outstanding software, can only assist you. The job search is still your own. And the success will be all yours.