Although perfect for used bookshelves and missed connections, Craigslist may not be the place to find your next job.

In fact, career counselors say, the whole mini-universe of online job boards — such as Monster, CareerBuilder and HotJobs — is a great place to mis-invest your time during a difficult hunt. Employment guidebook author Margaret Riley Dikel calls it a “black hole,” and Ford Myers, president of Career Potentials consulting firm, agrees.

“Very, very few online applications are ever read or responded to,” Myers says. “Good jobs don’t get posted in the first place.”

But with unemployment rates high, and the average Joe staring at the horizon for months before the job boat lands, career counselors say they’re not surprised to see more people surfing online ads.

Studies in the U.S. show that 10 per cent or less of jobs are filled through online ads, but if the occasional application is one small part of your search strategy, you might as well do it right.

Start by composing a list of companies where you’d aim to work.’s jobseeking expert Alison Doyle recommends a research trip to the nearest Chamber of Commerce, plus a quick LinkedIn company search by industry and location. “Check the company website and see if you can apply directly there,” she suggests.

Back on the job boards, resist the temptation to rapid-fire the same cover letter and resume at every link.

“It is absolutely imperative to customize the cover letter,” Dikel warns. A little resume tweaking — like bumping up the most relevant, if not recent job — can make a difference.

Moreover, Dikel notes, a human may never lay eyes on your application, so use the same keywords they use in the ad to pass the computerized scan test.

Plus, take the qualifications seriously: If the ad asks for five years’ experience piloting a space shuttle and you’ve got one summer at Space Camp, don’t waste your time.