I've gotten all but my last two jobs by sending in resumes and cover letters. Networking got my last two jobs, so obviously that's an effective approach too, but I wouldn't say that sending out resumes is a bad way to find a job.
I've gotten several jobs by responding to ads in the newspaper (which asked for a resume and a cover letter); I also got one job at a university by looking at its job openings board and sending in a resume and cover letter.
When I was first starting out, I used the "broadcast" approach: I sent out more than 200 resumes to organizations all over my region, with a short cover letter introducing myself and asking them to keep my resume on file. I got a job that way. I got another really great job the same way -- there was an organization that I really wanted to work for so I just sent them an unsolicited resume. It happened to arrive a few days after someone announced they were leaving, and I was reasonably well qualified for that job. I stayed there five years and it was the best job I've ever had.
Unless you are in a very specialized field, I'd figure on sending out a few hundred resumes to get one or two interviews. But if you have specific skills to offer and are well qualified you'll be called in for a lot more interviews. My girlfriend is a legal secretary with a law degree and about 15 years of experience, and almost anytime she sends out a resume she gets called in for an interview.
Last edited by brad on Mon Mar 23, 2009 1:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.