Quintessential Careers Reports on the State of Internet Job-Hunting
by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
In 2001, as a service to our readers, the staff of Quintessential Careers began to conduct an annual review of the state of job-hunting on the Web. Because so much is written about the use of the Internet in job-searching (job boards, social media, resume posting, networking), and because job-hunting and networking online has become the norm for finding a new job, we developed these job-hunting annual reports for job-seekers. As we update our content, we intend to let these annual reports stand as historical snapshots of Internet job search at the time of publication; thus, updating is limited to removing non-functioning links and outdated advice.
Have you noticed that the Help Wanted portion of your newspaper classified-ad section is getting thinner and thinner? The Conference Board reported in fall 2007 that 73 percent of surveyed job-seekers were using the Internet to search for jobs compared to 66 percent in the same period in 2005. At the same time, use of newspaper classifieds dropped from 75 percent to 65 percent between 2005 and 2007. Online advertised vacancies were competitive, the Conference Board reported, with 2.78 of them for every 100 people in the labor force.
Job-seekers are continuing the steady migration to searching online that they began more than a decade ago. The Internet has revolutionized recruiting, but the process remains flawed for job-seekers, who still feel treated inhospitably when they apply for jobs online, as well as for employers, who lament that few applicants who offer themselves online are qualified. While the process continues to iron itself out at an agonizingly sluggish pace, both employers and job-seekers are looking for new ways to circumvent the normal channels. Many of these ways are part of Web 2.0 — defined in simplest terms as the-Web-as-participation. We offer four observations about current trends and one prognostication for the future.
Influence of the Millennial Generation
Generation Y, the Millennials, are major drivers of the next three trends. They are multimedia whizzes who can produce and upload audio and video as easily as their older counterparts type a letter. Fifty percent of them communicate via text-messaging, and most prefer that mode and instant-messaging over e-mail, according to recruiting guru, Dr. John Sullivan. The ways they communicate and keep in touch with others are inspiring new online ways to connect. Of the Millennials’ ubiquitous participation in social-networking sites, Steve Rothberg of CollegeRecruiter.com writes: “We have reached a tipping point in how this new generation interacts with each other.” He trumps Sullivan’s characterization of the generation’s communication habits by noting that connecting through sites like MySpace and Facebook is even beginning to supplant instant-messaging.
“Today employers are seeking out all the information they can on blogging and social media as they prepare to engage millennials,” says Matt Martone, manager of media sales for Yahoo HotJobs, as quoted by Lauren Mackelden of Online Recruitment Magazine.
The millennials’ thirst for media is fueling efforts among employers to, for example, put up on their Web sites video of what it’s like to work at their organizations. Companies like Goldman Sachs offer videos of what various aspects of working for the organization are like. In the audio realm, Walgreen’s is using podcasts for recruiting, Sullivan says.
Just as Millennials increasingly expect marketers to sell products to them though new forms of media — social media, text messages, Internet ads — they expect employers to sell them on working for them through employer Web sites. They expect info-tainment from employers, says Bernard Hodes Group, which provides recruitment advertising, employer-branding, staffing solutions.
Social Networking on Steroids
Social networking — and we’re now also using the broader term social media — is exploding. A 2007 survey conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity revealed that 65 percent of business professionals are clicking and connecting via personal and professional social networking Web sites, with 35 percent of them reporting they use networks to assist them in finding a job. LinkedIn and MySpace were among the surveyed professionals’ favorites.
Let’s look at some raw figures for three of the major social-networking sites as of late 2007:
- No. 1 business networking site with 17 million active users, more than the population of the Netherlands
- 4 million visitors each month and 35,000 new members daily
- Average user is approximately 39 years old, and about 12 percent are in senior-management roles. About half of users are interested in learning about new career opportunities
- Maintains an online resume of each user
- Reaches 39 percent of all adults
- 110 million active users (more than the population of Mexico, the 11th largest country), 61 million visitors each month, and 270,000 new members daily
- 66 percent of MySpace’s audience consists of people ages 25+
- Fastest-growing demographic is the 25+ age group with 30 million active users
- 95 percent of college students and recent grads are active users, according to Rothberg
- 62 million total users (according to Wikipedia), more than the population of the UK
- 17 million visitors each month and 150,000 new members daily
- 1 percent of all time spent on the Internet is on Facebook
These and other social-networking sites are exploding. Wikipedia lists more than 100 social-networking sites, and those are just the “notable” ones. Some recruiters are using them to find candidates, while job-seekers are using some of the sites to get “found.” BusinessWeek reports that 87 percent of recruiters use Google and social networks to decide about candidates. “In executive circles, having a LinkedIn profile is becoming as expected as being searched on Google,” says Deborah Wile Dib, a CEO coach with multiple certifications in personal branding, resume writing, and career coaching. “Not having one is almost a negative.”
As we noted in our last Internet Job-hunting Annual Report, employers also are using these sites to screen applicants, disqualifying many about whom they find unsavory photos and information. BusinessWeek says 35 percent of surveyed employers have eliminated candidates based on online information.
Social media is morphing into all sorts of new forms. Specialty social-networking sites are springing up, such as Secrets of the Jobhunt.
At the time of our last report, we’d never heard of YouTube. Today, video, photo, and slideshow sites are all part of the exploding social-media scene and are playing roles in the job search.
Another trend is micro-blogging at wildly popular sites such as Twitter — telling folks in just a few words what the user is doing at any given moment.
Disseminating expertise online is a growing way to get noticed by employers. LinkedIn, Amazon (Askville), and Yahoo all now offer areas where you can ask and answer questions. Answering showcases your knowledge, while asking offers an opportunity to pose such queries as: “Can anyone tell me how to break into pharmaceutical sales?” Being a blogger, especially in certain tech-leaning industries, and commenting on the blogs of others is another social-media route to getting known for your expertise.
As you might imagine, you can get quite caught up and lost in this world of social networking. Just completing and maintaining profiles at each site (not to mention keeping track of all your user names and passwords) could take up huge chunks of your time. If you want social media to boost your job search, you need to use it. You’ll want to maintain your networks, but get involved gradually and choose networking sites judiciously. Start with the best known and see how well they work for you. Remember, though, that you must give them time to grow, and you must work at maintaining them — enriching your profiles, inviting friends, joining groups within networks, and more. Peter Weddle, of Weddle’s newsletter about Internet resources for job search and career, recommends 30 minutes of online networking twice a week.
You’ll find that more and more books and articles are emerging that advise how to best use sites like LinkedIn and Facebook (including Jason Alba’s I’m on LinkedIn, Now What???, which we’ve reviewed). If services don’t already exist to help people craft their profiles, they soon will (just as such services exist for enhancing profiles for those doing online dating).
Of course, if you are in urgent need of a job, online social networking should be back-burnered in favor of face-to-face networking and conventional job-search methods. Candidates that recruiters actually source from social networks still represent a small percentage of the total, but as Kevin Wheeler writes on Electronic Recruiting Exchange (ERE), “Recruiting is moving rapidly from a find ’em and screen ’em, to a court ’em, stay in touch with them, and sell them profession. These networks will power that charge.”
New Online Outlets for Finding Jobs and Employees
In the time since our last report, we have heard increasingly of candidates abandoning job boards — of which there are now about 50,000 according to Weddle — and instead using no-frills search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Ask.com to find job postings. Another site that has recently been mentioned again and again as increasingly popular with both job-seekers and employers is Craigslist.
Employers, as we’ve noted in every annual report since our first in 2001, are fed up with getting inundated with resumes from unqualified candidates through traditional job boards. A commenter posting on a blog entry about problems with the big job boards made the amusing observation, “You can say that as part of their IT jobs, they must drink toilet water. You will still get a flood of resumes.” Employers are not blameless, however, as Davis Advertising notes in a report that indicates that less than 4 percent of Internet job postings provide users with a detailed job title, and 67 percent are poorly written or formatted.
Some job boards have become a major turnoff for job-seekers, who claim that every time they click on a page, attempts are made to trick them into agreeing to services such a loan consolidations. Others note a massive increase in spam after posting resumes on major job boards. The venerable Monster has faced security breaches in which users’ contact information was accessed.
This stalemate between resume-inundated employers and job-seekers who feel ill-treated online, essentially unchanged since we began these reports, is another reason social media is catching on. As Martone says in Mackelden’s article, “recruiting is about networking and communicating, not screening thousands of unqualified resumes. Web 2.0 is taking recruiters back to recruiting.”
Job-posting aggregators, such as Indeed, JobSniper, and Simply Hired, have gained in popularity since our last report, and niche sites, such as those for specific industries or geographic regions, are still often cited as effective. A fall 2007 poll by Beyond.com (which powers the QuintCareers Job Board) of 6,500 business professional members found that more than half of job-seekers who indicate that they have their resume posted online said that these niche sites are most effective. Weddle recommends regular use of two general-purpose job boards and three niche sites — one in your career field, one in the location in which you want to live and work, and one in the industry in which you have experience.
Company Web sites also can be effective — and huge numbers of job-seekers use them, according to a 2006 WetFeet study — but note the Millennial-driven demand for an entertaining, informative, and smoothly operating “candidate experience.” Increasingly, candidates expect these sites to help them determine where they want to interview and work, and at least a quarter of them will reject companies based on unappealing or hard-to-use Web sites.
We’ll likely see a fusion of job boards and social media in the future, and it’s already happening with, for example, Facebook’s open invitation to develop applications for the platform. Simply Hired, for one, has responded with the Workin’ It application that enables Facebook users to create mini-resumes and spotlight their achievements.