In a 1982 press conference, President Ronald Reagan wondered why unemployment was so high when The New York Times could list 44 pages, The Washington Post 33 pages, and The Los Angeles Times 65 pages “of those tiny help wanted ads.”

Ah, those were the days! But, that was the 1980s, just at the dawn of the era of personal computers. And, that was the time when looking at the help wanted section of your newspaper was a major method of acquiring a new job.

Computers, the Internet, and the proliferation of company Web sites have drastically altered the way we find jobs. The online job search, combined with networking, now is the predominant method. But, using newspapers isn’t obsolete, and shouldn’t be ignored. Some recent studies suggest that 25 percent of new job offers still originate from newspaper ads.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind for using newspaper ads in your job search:


  • Compare Ads. Peruse a newspaper’s job section to compare ads for similar jobs from different companies. This way you can find key words to use in your cover letter and resume, and key qualities these firms are seeking in a candidate.
  • Ad Frequency. Regularly monitor your newspaper to see how often a company is trying to fill a position. If an ad for the same job appears often, it might mean the company isn’t happy with its applicant pool or that it has a high turnover rate. Either way, this might be worth investigating.

  • Special Sections. Major newspapers often will run special sections of help wanted ads that highlight specific job areas, such as high tech, biotech, pharmaceutical, health care, engineering, and higher education. This will provide you with plenty of opportunities to compare companies and positions.

  • Community Messaging. A company often reveals important messaging in a newspaper ad, such as “Live Your Mission,” “There has never been a better time to join us,” and “It’s easy for you to go to great lengths at …” You can then turn around this messaging and use it in your cover letter and during your interview.

  • Local Newspapers. Don’t forget to check your small local newspaper. You might find an ad from your favorite local company that is specifically looking for local applicants. This could end up being the matc