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Getting the Most Out of Online Job Websites

New features help you network, research companies and salaries

Person using a laptop computer to search for a job on a website.

Social media and career websites make job hunting easy, fast and effective. — Istock

En español | If you've been job hunting in recent years, chances are you've tapped into one of the many online job boards. You probably created an account, uploaded your résumé, and even connected with some of your professional contacts.

Yet if you haven't visited these sites in a while, you might want to check back because some of their features have changed.

You can find out which companies are hiring right now, and sleuth out whom you know who might be able to help you get in the door for an interview. After all, data show that a lot of jobs are landed through referrals and relationships.

Here are some of the latest features to experiment with on the more popular career websites.

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LinkedIn. You've probably used the site to post an online work profile, connect with other professionals, tap into industry or interest discussion groups, or follow companies where you might want to work. Recent improvements have made scoring key connections even easier.

The "How You're Connected" tool, which LinkedIn began rolling out at the end of January, helps you find "who" in your network knows someone you would like to connect with and "how" they know each other.

When you view a profile of someone with whom you aren't connected, a list of mutual connections pops up on your screen. And it shows how the two are connected. This insider knowledge can help you pick the best one to introduce you. For example, it might be more strategic to ask someone who's been a work colleague with a potential contact for an introduction versus a college fraternity brother.

Another new LinkedIn feature, the "LinkedIn for Volunteers, " can be tapped to hunt for volunteer opportunities. It culls feeds from several sources, including Taproot Foundation, BoardSource and VolunteerMatch. These are unpaid positions in fundraising, marketing or grantwriting.

"If income is needed, they're not great," says Susan Joyce, online job search expert and editor of Job-Hunt.org and WorkCoachCafe.com. "However, volunteering usually offers excellent networking opportunities, skill updates (and proof of updated skills), and a chance to feel good about yourself." You can sign up to follow the nonprofits on LinkedIn, which can help you learn more about the group and potential paid positions down the road.

You also can add volunteer work to your LinkedIn profile in the "Volunteer and Causes" section. "Highlighting your passion and commitment to projects signals to employers that you don't spend your time away from work on the couch but rather at charity meetings and events," says LinkedIn's career expert, Nicole Williams. According to LinkedIn, 42 percent of hiring managers surveyed said they view volunteer experience as equivalent to formal work experience.

While LinkedIn is free to use online (as are most of the job sites below), you have the option to purchase an upgraded premium subscription for between $19.95 and $49.95 per month, which allows you to contact recruiters, see who's viewed your profile and participate in webinars.

Life Reimagined for Work. This AARP site offers a trove of resources for job seekers, career switchers and anyone who has an itch to start a business. One of the features is a job-postings partnership with LinkedIn. After connecting with your LinkedIn account, you'll be able to view openings from corporations such as Google and AT&T that have signed a pledge to "level the playing field for experienced workers." You'll also want to check out the 2013 AARP Best Employers for Workers Over 50 list, whose companies and organizations value an experienced workforce.

Indeed. You can slice the postings by criteria such as geography, industry, experience or salary. Career coach Rita Carey of RCM Associates also recommends craigslist. "My 50-plus job seekers have definitely found success with it."

Indeed (which also powers AARP's job search) lets you track job listings, including company career pages and job boards, and newspaper classifieds. You can post your résumé after creating an account. You can also read reviews by current and former employees rating work-life balance, compensation and benefits, and job culture.

Indeed's "find trends" button on the top of the page analyzes its millions of job postings to show what industries are hiring, job titles, top locations and top keyword searches. You can click to exact job postings, sort by salary and get new jobs sent to you by email from that search.

Next page: Connect to online job boards and niche websites. »

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