Yes, you can use job boards to apply for jobs. And you should.

But job boards should not be your primary tool for finding and applying for opportunities. Why? Jobs posted attract huge numbers of applicants, who are then screened using computerized Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). ATS rely in part on the presence of keywords in your resume to determine how well your resume matches a particular job ad. Your resume format is also factor, and can prevent the ATS from understanding or properly categorizing the information on your resume, so it’s best to at least use an ATS-friendly version of your resume. In short, applying through job boards means that you have to compete with hundreds (or thousands!) of other resumes and fight through the often-illogical ATS screening to get your resume seen.

It’s a frustrating process that it not likely to result in a job offer for you. Worse, it can suck time and energy away from more productive uses of your time, like uncovering and securing opportunities before they’re posted on job boards.

So when you apply using job boards—and you should—keep that in mind. Job boards have a place in your job search, but they should not your primary job search tool.

But there are some great other ways to use job boards as part of your job search and career development. Job boards are excellent research tools that empower you to:

1. Match Geography To Practice Areas. Thinking about moving? Or just unsure what’s available near you? Do location searches on the job board. Keep in mind some types of jobs tend to be clustered in certain geographical areas, for example, the Boston area and the Bay Area tend to have a lot of high tech employers, while oil and gas companies tend to be clustered in places like Texas and Colorado. So if you want to live in Idaho, it might not make sense to try to develop expertise in intellectual property protection of biopharmaceuticals, or in federal regulatory requirements affecting expansion into foreign markets, or in international bonds markets and hedge funds. On the other hand, there is a need for criminal, estate, school law, small business, real estate, land use, construction, personal injury, and family law attorneys everywhere.

2. Identify Technical Skills You Need To Develop. Think about where you want to be five or ten years from now. Do you want to transition in-house as an intellectual property attorney? Maybe become a federal prosecutor? Then check out those job ads now. They’ll tell you the skills and qualifications employers want to see, and then you can make a plan to develop them. You’ll be on-track or even ahead of the game.

3. Target Your Resume And Cover Letter. Remember the ultimate audience of your resume and career portfolio documents are employers. So those documents will work best if they’re targeted toward a type of employer and job. Here again, understanding what’s most important to employers—understanding what they want to see in job candidates—means you can tailor your resume for best effect.