There may have been a time when you could find a job simply by applying directly through a company’s website, or by relying on the big job sites like Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com.

But if there ever was, it is long over, another casualty of persistent unemployment and an economy where many people have given up on looking for work. While there are no hard numbers, the high end of estimates from recruiters, hiring managers and human resource professionals was that fewer than 10% of people get hired by simply applying online.

According [to an] interview we did with a recruiter, about one in 33 candidates gets hired through an online source,” said Chris Forman, CEO of StartWire, an online job search organizer. “It's more effective to combine networking and online job search. You should take all of the information available and apply to positions through online job search, and then network your way into the position.”

Keep in mind, too, that those online job postings are only the jobs being advertised. Newly-created positions are often filled with internal candidates, and by some industry estimates, between 80% and 85% of openings are never advertised at all.

Don’t Apply Through The Big Job Sites

Even if you find the position you want through networking, you still need to go through the application process. Doug Berg of SuccessFactors says that whether you apply cold or after getting a tip through a connection, apply directly through the company’s website.

“Many candidates may search for jobs on job boards or maybe even on LinkedIn and, in most cases, create an account on the sites and apply for positions directly through them. This, unfortunately, does not put them directly into the company’s system for consideration and, in many cases, will not notify the recruiter responsible for the specific job that they have applied,” Berg said. “This means recruiters have to travel to all the various job boards to see if people have applied, which, quite frankly, is not going to happen given the busyness of recruiters during the day.”

Network Online and Offline

Not surprisingly, Forman and everyone else we talked to said networking was crucial for people on the hunt. Forman encourages candidates to apply for jobs online, as many firms won’t start the application process until someone is entered into the system. Then, he said, it’s crucial to combine a mix of online and real-world networking to get the interview.

“If you are on a job site and see a position you are interested in, but don't know anyone at the company, then social media is a great opportunity to connect,” he said. 

The LinkItBook Method

Paul Cameron, a headhunter for DriveStaff Inc., says candidates need to find companies that hire “people like them.” He advises people looking for a new job to start with a search of LinkedIn for people in their area who have jobs and skills similar to the job they’re looking for and the skills they have.

“Where did they work?” he said. “There's a nice list for you of companies who hire people like you.”

The next step of the strategy Cameron calls LinkItBook is to use LinkedIn to find the key people in the target company. He tells job hunters to follow them on Twitter and search for mutual connections using Facebook.

“Comment and compliment the posts. This shows you are interested in them, which helps them to be interested in you,” he said. “It gets your name in front of the employer in a positive way, so when you do apply online, they already know of your name and already like you. It helps to eliminate cold calls and applications.”