January 01, 2000
Meetings & Conventions: - January 2000 Current Issue
January 2000

Searching for planning positions online

By Sarah J.F. Braley

O n Oct. 29, Laura Yarbrough, CMP, was working a meeting for Electronic Data Systems Corp. that kept her out of the organization’s Plano, Texas, office until about 1 p.m. By 2 p.m., the 16-year veteran of the company was on her way home with a cardboard box full of tchotchkes and a stunned look on her face. Yarbrough was a victim of downsizing.

Within days, Yarbrough posted her résumé to several employment Web sites. Welcome to the job-search dance of the digital-communication age, where the beat has not changed much but some of the steps definitely have. Like all other aspects of business, the process has been altered irrevocably by the Internet.

Electronic persona
According to Milpitas, Calif.-based Nielsen//NetRatings, which tracks U.S. Internet activity, the top job sites are getting plenty of traffic. In October, (, informally known as the “Monster board,” had 1.7 million unique visitors (a unique visitor is only counted once, no matter how many times he checks the site that month), ( had 634,400 unique visitors, ( saw 580,000, CareerMosaic ( had 519,000 and ( welcomed 367,000.

“Job searching on the Web is a great tool,” says Pam Dixon, author of Job Searching Online for Dummies (IDG Books, Foster City, Calif., $24.99). “If you don’t have a résumé you can e-mail, you’re in trouble.”

Searching for meetings jobs on the general employment sites yields mixed results (see “Keywords,” below). “ has given me the most feedback,” says a Chicago-area planner who is looking to make a job change. “It tells me how many people viewed my résumé. I also signed up for automatic notification so I get e-mails alerting me if a position has been posted that meets my criteria.”

Avis Naomi Smith, a corporate planner who was laid off following a merger, likes and because of their broad reach. “There are more job postings on these Web sites, perhaps offering a better chance for someone to view my experience,” says the Baltimore resident, who is looking for a senior-level position. “I have searched and located planner postings not noted on Meeting Professionals International’s or the Professional Convention Management Association’s job boards.”

General job sites might have many more opportunities listed, but for those seeking planning positions, industry boards have the most to offer. In the year-and-a-half that the New York City-based Meeting Candidate Network has run an online job board (, more than 700 jobs have been posted there. At any given time, between 60 and 70 jobs are listed in MPI’s job bank ( When visited recently, PCMA’s board had six planning positions, and three association planning jobs were listed at the Association Forum of Chicagoland’s site (

“I’ve gotten the most response by posting my résumé within Web sites of trade associations, like MPI,” says Avery Russell, a longtime events and TV production freelancer with residences in Maryland and New York City, who has decided to try his hand at a “permanent” job. Kenneth Hajduk, a seasoned association planner from Mount Prospect, Ill., also likes the industry sites best, although he has followed leads from PCMA, and The Wall Street Journal’s online classified ads.

Those looking to hire planners like the industry-related boards as well. “We’ve placed ads on, and we get less noise,” says James Etkin, CEO of M.E. Productions, a production and event company in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “We’ve also placed ads on the Monster board, and that’s a different situation. For every 20 responses, you get one that might be appropriate.” At least one must have been on the mark, however; Etkin says he has hired an employee from a résumé he found at

Private matters
When using the Web to attract the attention of potential employers, think long and hard before announcing your availability to the world. Dixon, who just finished revising her 1998 tome, Job Searching Online for Dummies, recounts plenty of horror stories about people who lost their jobs because their employers found their résumés online.

“People should worry a lot about a boss finding their résumés,” says the San Diego-based author. A CEO recently told her that he had someone searching online for the résumés of engineers who were working on sensitive projects. “When they were found, they were not fired immediately, but they were put on a list to be laid off. I don’t think those engineers ever knew why they were let go.” Dixon says only people who are unemployed should post their full résumés on the Web.

“If you put your résumé online, you are telling the world that you are looking for a job,” says Dawn Penfold, CMP, president of the Meeting Candidate Network. “On our site, most people just put in their backgrounds, not their full résumés, so they don’t have to reveal where they are working now.”

In addition to offering résumé services, some employment Web sites, including and CareerBuilder (, enable visitors to search job leads and then e-mail their information directly to a hiring official, bypassing the posting process.

Among other concerns: Being inundated with inappropriate job leads can get annoying. For example, if the keywords on an electronic résumé are in any way related to computers even something as innocuous as a planner indicating she works with databases the calls from high-tech recruiters can be overwhelming. Dixon also tells of a company in San Diego that collects résumés from the Internet and sells them to headhunters, corporations and recruiters.

“You’re not keeping your résumé to yourself just to avoid your boss’ eyes,” says Dixon. “You’re doing it to protect your privacy so your name, address and phone number aren’t floating around for everyone to see. Treat it like a credit card.”

Beyond the virtual search
Conducting a job search online does not mean you can neglect traditional methods. Networking always will be essential.

“Certainly, people are finding jobs online,” says Susan Whitcomb, author of Résumé Magic (Jist Works, Indianapolis, $18.95). But, she adds, posting a résumé and waiting for employers to find you “is really putting all your eggs in one basket and hiding the basket under the bed.”

In the next few years, the Internet could become the primary place people look for and find jobs, but for now, hiring experts say online searching should be about one-third of the process, along with responding to newspaper ads and working the “who you know” angle.

While revising her book, Dixon interviewed a number of people to see how they got their current jobs and found the Internet often gooses the search. One person started looking online but eventually got a job through a recruiter. However, he found the recruiter online.

“To ignore an online job search is to omit a minimum of 50 percent of the opportunities and contacts you could find,” Dixon says.

From the inside
Meanwhile, hiring officials are enjoying the world of candidates that has opened up on the Web. Many large companies, like Duke Energy Corp. in Charlotte, N.C., post job openings on their corporate Web sites, then let automated systems collect résumé submissions and drop them into an HR database.

“It has really revolutionized the way we do recruiting,” says Catherine Stancombe, human resources manager for the Fortune 500 utility company. “It has changed our process significantly, reduced how long it takes to fill a position and reduced our costs.”

Duke Energy gets about 15,000 résumés a year through the Internet. They are dumped automatically into a database that can be sorted according to job codes. Some experts say this practice may lead to the death of the classified ad. “We don’t have to do as many newspaper ads,” says Stancombe. “Predominantly, when we post a job to the Web site, people are coming to us.”

Smaller companies that do not post jobs openings on their own sites still are having success on the Web. Leslye Eichinger put a job for an account manager at Chicago-based McCord Travel Management on the Meeting Candidate Network site, and says she would do so again.

“The sheer number of responses met my expectations,” says Eichinger, manager of meetings and incentive services for the corporate travel and event management company. “What disappoints me, however, is that I outlined exactly what I was looking for in a candidate, yet 80 percent of the résumés I received did not match up.” She recently interviewed about 10 people after seeing their Web-submitted résumés and hired someone who had posted on, but only as the result of a fluke; the candidate had researched the company and approached the human resources department on her own.

Eichinger is also surprised by the casual feel of the résumés she gets online: “Some candidates seem much less formal when sending a résumé over e-mail. Looking for a job is still a professional venture, whether it is handled via regular mail, fax or e-mail.

“Overall,” Eichinger adds, “I would have to say that finding that perfect person to fit a position is a difficult task, be it via the Web or an ad in a newspaper. For me, the best method around is network, network, network.”


It is a two-résumé world. Job seekers need a simple, keyword-loaded one in ASCII (text-only) format for e-mailing and a prettier paper one for face-to-face meetings. Here are some pointers for compiling an electronic résumé, from Pam Dixon, author of Job Searching Online for Dummies, and Susan Whitcomb, who wrote Résumé Magic.

  • Front-load it with keywords(like “meeting planner” and “corporate”), either in paragraph descriptions or a short list.
  • The meat a career summary or job objective should be in the top half of the document, called the “first screen.”

  • If you have been working for years and years, list only the past 10. “You can subject yourself to ageism if your résumé goes back too far,” says Dixon.
  • Tie skills to the bottom line. Quickly describe money saved or increases in attendance, whatever will set you apart.
  • Keep it simple. People make snap decisions; if they like what they see in a quick read, they’ll call.
  • Never include your social security number.
  • Never list references. Recruiters may try to hire them instead of you.
  • Be honest. Even the smallest white lie can come back to haunt you.
  • Send the résumé in the body of an e-mail, not as an attachment. Some firms have rules against opening attachments.
  • Include a personal e-mail address. Never use your work e-mail.
  • S.B

    KEYWORDS How good are the general job Web sites at turning up positions for planners? M&C tested five popular sites on Nov. 8. The chart below shows the number of hits returned for specific industry titles. (Tip: Put the title in quotes so the search engine looks for it as a phrase.)

    It could prove fruitless to use the following terms; in our search, they got no results: conference organizer, conference planner, seminar coordinator, special events planner, special events coordinator, director of meetings, director of conferences, convention planner, convention coordinator, incentive planner.


    "meeting planner" 11 2 0 4 3 "event planner" 8 2 3 1 3 "event coordinator" 15 5 0 2 2 "event specialist" 3 0 1 0 0 "meetings manager" 6 0 0 0 0 Back to Current Issue index
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