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of Internet job search at the time of publication; thus, updating is limited to removing non-functioning links and outdated advice.
Are we completely egocentric to declare that Internet job-hunting is 10 years old just because Quintessential Careers is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2006? Probably. Sure, a number of still-existing career sites predate QuintCareers. But we think it’s fair to say that Internet job-hunting began to gain its first real traction a decade ago. Last year we reported a new maturity and positive outlook for job-hunting on the Internet after several years of turbulence. This year, the online job-hunt scene still seems to be on an upswing, but with a few twists. As always, we offer good news, bad news, cautionary tales, and surprises.
One surprise is survey research from Peter Weddle that contradicts many previous findings on the effectiveness of Internet job searching. We’ve reported several times that the percentage of job-seekers obtaining jobs through the Internet is in the single digits. In Weddle’s recent Source of Employment Survey, however, 34 percent of respondents said they found their last position on an Internet job board. The second most prevalent source of employment was a call from a headhunter/recruiter. Networking, which we’ve always touted as the best way to find a job, came in third, but with only 9.3 percent of job-seekers obtaining jobs that way. Do these figures mean the Internet is becoming a much stronger source of jobs than in the recent past? Certainly it has come to dominate recruiting and job-hunting in ways that might not have been imagined a decade ago.
We’ve touted employers’ own Web sites and job boards as up-and-coming sources for leads and positions, but apparently few job-seekers got the message that these sites were emergent since only 2.6 percent of Weddle’s survey respondents said they found their jobs in an ad on the employer’s Web site. Recruiting guru Dr. John Sullivan declares careers portions of corporate Web sites to be “no more than static and dull resume black holes.”
Even more telling may be the stats on venues that Weddle’s respondents plan to use for future job-hunting; 69.7 percent said they would use ads posted on Internet job boards, while only 7.8 percent said they would network at work or another business location.
One thing to remember about these surprising figures is that networking is hard; responding to ads on job boards is relatively easy. The fact remains, though, that the majority of vacancies are never advertised, so we still stand behind networking as the best way to find a job.
The other point to note about the stats is that you can almost always turn up contradictory findings. A similar study by ExecuNet of sources for job interviews (not actual positions like Weddle’s study) surveyed 1,483 professionals with an average salary of $193,000, discovering that the top three sources for job interviews are:
1. Networking contacts (46 percent);
2. Internet job listings (24 percent); and
3. Unsolicited contact from a recruiter (5 percent).
A separate ExecuNet survey of 181 search firms provides additional insight into the value of a strong network. According to this survey, during the past 12 months, 63 percent of all executive job openings were filled with a candidate that was sourced through networking. Other top sources recruiters relied on during the past year include internal resume databases, which helped fill 16 percent of all openings and Internet job postings, which accounted for 11 percent of executive placements. (Granted, the demographic difference between the Weddle and ExecuNet studies may account for the divergent results.)
Now let’s look at some other emerging and growing trends in Internet job search.
The passive candidate rules.
So, you say you really love your job and have no plans to look elsewhere? But wouldn’t you maybe be receptive to being wooed by an employer trying to lure you to its team? More and more employers are counting on your receptivity and are courting employed candidates who are ostensibly not looking for a job. Why? The theory is that you are a better candidate if you’re employed. It’s a vast oversimplification and exaggeration to say there’s something wrong with you if you’re not employed, yet many employers tend to think roughly in those terms. “Those with critical skills and those who are high performers are almost always employed and, as a consequence, seldom if ever look for a job,” reports Weddle’s newsletter.
For every year of this Annual Report, we’ve noted that employers are flooded with resumes, most of them from inappropriate, unqualified candidates. Failing to develop screening systems that can effectively manage the inundation, they are turning to the strategy of recruiting the passive candidate. Employers have also discovered that online recruiting may help them fill positions — but not necessarily with the best people. So they are more aggressively going after passive candidates, perceived to be better performers than those who are out of work or looking for a new job.
Weddle refers to the current “War for Talent” as replacing “the quantitative struggle for more candidates” with “a qualitative contest for extraordinary candidates.” That approach makes it much harder for active job-seekers, who are now often seen as second-class citizens. It also means that employers hunger more than ever for referrals of good people to fill positions. And it means that face-to-face recruiting is gaining new importance. After all, as Weddle points out, search engines and portals miss 84 percent of the workforce because only 16 percent of all workers are actively looking for a job at any given time, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If you are happily employed but open to being recruited, you may want to know about our next trend…
“Googlability” grows more sophisticated.
Back when Seattle-based Alice Hanson recruited for a large software company, she described how she found candidates: “The first thing I do is go to Google and look for resumes that are posted to the Internet. These are the first people I call because they are free,” she explained. “The next is members in professional organizations and people listed in ZoomInfo (a site that provides a compilation of any mention of a person anywhere on the Web in any search engine) and on Linkedin.com.”
Hanson continued, “We go through our own database of resumes and see if there are any ‘live ones.’ Then, we target competitive firms that we want to raid and cold call for referrals of people that they know who are looking and get their resumes. If all that fails, the last option is paying good money to search through Monster.com and specialty databases. Monster is the dead-last place we look.”
The average job-seeker probably does not think about the importance of Google and the other online sites the recruiter mentioned. Sullivan calls Google “the best-funded recruiting machine on the planet.” He also cites ZoomInfo as “the best source for finding employed top performers who are not actively seeking a new job … (i.e., the difference-makers).” Poor Monster. Of the giant job board, Sullivan writes, “Being big without demonstrating quality and the fact that people actually get hired and successfully perform on the job is no longer acceptable.”
Bottom line: Your online presence is more important than ever, and even if you are not actively seeking a new job, an online presence, in which you pop up in Google and other searches, can open up some unexpected opportunities.
As if to underscore the importance of Googlability, Mark Berger of Swat Recruiting offers a book to recruiters called Power Searching for Free Resumes on Google — A Guide to Advanced Search Techniques and Methods, providing “advanced methods utilized for locating qualified resumes of passive candidates on Google.” Similarly, you can search for a “Google CheatSheet for Recruiters.” It doesn’t take too much imagination to deduce that resources offering recruiters tips on finding candidates through Google might also prove valuable for candidates who want to be found on Google.
So, how else do you enhance your online presence and Googlability? That question takes us to our next trend…
Personal Branding becomes more important.
A significant way to build an online presence is through personal branding, which may include creating a blog, an online portfolio, an online resume, participating in online networking sites, such as LinkedIn, Ryze, and ecademy, as well as some creative new modes.
But, it’s not the means of delivering an online presence that is most important — it’s the content, and specifically, the personal-branding content. Deborah Wile Dib, a CEO coach with multiple certifications in personal branding, resume writing, and career coaching, notes that “companies and recruiters are looking for passive candidates and active candidates with strong brands — clearly defined value propositions and differentiators. They are looking for fit. They are looking for authenticity and passion — the courage of a candidate to be real.
“Candidates need to stand out from thousands, even millions, of others,” Dib continues. “How? Recruiters and companies want candidates who are less ‘transactional’ (translation: task-oriented) and more ‘relational’ (translation: branded, visible, active, networked). Companies and recruiters want candidates who can clearly and effortlessly articulate a differentiated and powerful value proposition (translation: the most compelling reason they should be hired!).”
New ways of building a branded online presence pop up all the time. Authors listed on Amazon.com can now create a profile on the site. Squidoo enables people to become “Lensmasters” and demonstrate their expertise in a field by creating a Squidoo Web page that the site says will “increase your profile.” The site’s FAQ goes on to tout that “a popular lens gives credibility to the Lensmaster. A popular lens reinforces your role as an ‘everyday expert.'” The Reach Branding Club offers “personal branding tools you need to take your business or career to the next level.”
For more about enhancing your brand, see our articles, Building Your Brand: Tactics for Successful Career Branding, A Dozen Things You Must Know About Communicating Your Career Brand, and Taking Networking to the Next Level: Getting Your Name Out There.
For more about portfolios, see our articles, Your Job Skills Portfolio: Giving You an Edge in the Marketplace, Expanding the Definition and Use of Career Portfolios, and Proof of Performance: Career Portfolios an Emerging Trend for Both Active and Passive Job-Seekers.
But building your online presence is not without risks, as we see in our next observation…
Posting damaging personal information on the Web grows riskier.
Several major media outlets this spring exhorted readers about the dangers of posting information online that could get them screened out by employers. Sites noted as especially subject to risky postings were those that primarily appeal to younger people — sites such as MySpace.com and Facebook.com.
In a survey by executive job-search and recruiting network ExecuNet of 100 executive recruiters, 77 use search engines to learn more about candidates. Of those, who use sites such as Google and Yahoo to check the background of job seekers, 35 have eliminated a candidate from consideration based on the information uncovered online — up significantly from 26 percent just a year ago.
It’s not just executive recruiters who want to ensure candidates have an unblemished online presence; Alan Finder of The New York Times reports that “many companies that recruit on college campuses have been using search engines like Google and Yahoo to conduct background checks on seniors looking for their first job. But now, college career counselors and other experts say, some recruiters are looking up applicants on social networking sites like Facebook, where college students often post risque or teasing photographs and provocative comments about drinking, recreational drug use and sexual exploits in what some mistakenly believe is relative privacy.”
Read more about the dangers of posting questionable information in Alan Finder’s New York Times story (fee may apply).
Employers and recruiters are deploying novel online approaches to locating the best candidates.
The “War for Talent” is pushing employers and recruiters to use or create new models to find good workers.
One is what Weddle calls “career community centers,” such as TalentZoo.com, whe e visitors a