Job Hunting Online: Escaping the Nine Circles of Application Hell

"I have to question why someone would be concerned about just putting someone's name and e-mail addresses as a contact," she said. "If they're someone who shouldn't be called, you need to pick new a reference."

As for those who'd rather not give out their own e-mail address, residential address or phone number, get yourself a P.O. Box (about $50 to $100 a year through the post office), set up a free e-mail account you'll only use for your job hunt and look into Google voice (free), which gives you a phone number you can forward to any private number you choose -- and lets you block callers you no longer want to hear from.

Verify Before Your Apply

I hear many job seekers lament that they've gone through the online application process with employment agencies that have never yielded anything more than an avalanche of self-promotional e-mail spam. Likewise, I get a lot of grumbles about job applications that seem to be nothing more than gateways into subscription Web sites offering various paid job-hunting services.

There's an easy way to avoid these time wasters: Check with your fellow industry members. Ask which agencies and services they'd recommend, and which they'd run from, screaming. Also see what Googling the agency or site name along with words like "complaint," "consumer report" or "scam" turns up.

In other words, don't let desperation cloud your common sense.

"You've got to do your homework," Fife said. "Stick to the major job boards [CareerBuilder, Vault, Indeed, and so on] and the industry-specific job boards [JournalismJobs.com, DentalAssistantJobs.com, GreenJobs.com, and so on].

And always check the company's Web site to see if the job is still listed."

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Michelle Goodman is a freelance journalist, author and former cubicle dweller. Her books — "My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube" -- offer an irreverent take on the traditional career guide. More tips on career change, flex work and the freelance life can be found on her blog, Anti9to5Guide.com.

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