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of Internet job search at the time of publication; thus, updating is limited to removing non-functioning links and outdated advice.
On the exact day that we published our 2010 Annual Report on Internet Job-Hunting, HR thought leader Dr. John Sullivan was beginning to observe a trend that provides the framework for this year’s report. Noting that “the practice of 1:1 or personalized marketing is a well-established concept in customer relationship management circles, and is becoming more of a mainstream practice thanks to many emerging technologies,” Sullivan wrote in One-to-One Recruiting: The Importance of Personalizing All Aspects of Recruiting: “Recruiting leaders need to examine every program and process to determine how each can appear more personalized to candidates.” The March 2010 article was the first of several he would write between then and now on personalization in recruiting.
Some of that personalization relates to the depth with which employers and job-seekers can get to know each other now. “Social media sites allow you to go beyond the traditional resume and gather information that can be beneficial in accurate candidate assessment,” Sullivan writes in another article. Sullivan’s articles in the past year have been laced with the concepts of “conversations” and “relationships” between candidates and hiring decision-makers — enabled by social media. “One of the most powerful capabilities of social media,” he writes, for example, “is the fact that it allows you to build close relationships and trust.”
Against the backdrop of the personalized recruiting process and job search, we present the trends in Internet job search over the last year in three major areas:
Social Media and Job-Hunting
Social-media recruiting continues to grow. In a more recent article, Sullivan notes that “practical personalized recruiting is only possible using the Internet and social network tools.” That’s a big reason social-media recruiting continues to grow.
Almost three-quarters of surveyed employers are using social media for recruiting, said a 2010 report by Jobvite, Social Recruiting Survey Results, and perhaps even more striking, more than 58 percent of surveyed employers successfully hired a candidate found through a social network.
The same survey notes that, by far, LinkedIn is the network hiring decision-makers use most for recruiting and from which they report the greatest success in hiring. Lesson for job-seekers: Be sure you are on LinkedIn. Employers also reported robust use of Facebook and Twitter to find candidates, but they were less likely to hire job-seekers found in those venues.
Significantly, more than a third of those surveyed said they planned to spend less on job boards in the coming year, while a whopping 92 percent said they used or planned to use social media in hiring. Respondents also ranked the quality of candidates found on social networks much higher than those found on job boards (which ranked dead last out of nine sources of hire, with employee referrals ranking No. 1). Seventy percent said they always or occasionally search online profiles when reviewing candidates.
To get a good idea of exactly how employers recruit with social media, look at some hiring organizations that are cited for their effective social recruiting. UPS, for example, hired 955 workers in 2010 through social-media efforts — via Twitter, Facebook, text-messaging and the biggest chunk — people who went to UPS’s mobile-friendly careers page from a mobile device, wrote Todd Raphael on ERE.net. Microsoft is also known as an employer successfully using social media to recruit. Sullivan characterizes the software giant’s strategy as “building relationships over time with multiple targeted segments.” David Earle describes the approach in greater detail in a case study in which the company targeted certain populations of professionals, joined online communities encompassing those groups, started its own communities for target populations with no active community, communicated with community members, provided useful information, identified prospective candidates, and invited those folks to submit resumes to Microsoft. “Today,” Earle writes, “by all signs, social networking is an integral component of Microsoft’s ongoing success at recruiting the industry’s best talent.”
Lessons for job-seekers: You certainly need to be at least somewhat active on the “Big 3” social-media venues, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as a few niche venues relating to your profession. Sullivan also cites location-specific venues, such as Foursquare and Facebook Places. You also need to consider engaging your mobile device in your job search.
Much more is written about increasing use of social media among hiring decision-makers than is communicated about the growth of job-seeker use of social media for employment-hunting. We do know a bit about the demographics of job-seeking social-media users. Based on a report from the Pew Research Center, Earle reported on Staffing.org that online job-seekers are fairly balanced across age groups up to about age 62, when usage drops off. He also noted that job-seekers use Twitter more as they age, and blogging among the adult population has remained steady.
The downside of social-media recruiting: Employers and technology are growing more sophisticated in their ability to learn everything about a job candidate. A new company Social Intelligence, for example, searches “hundreds of billions of Facebook posts, tweets (Twitter updates), blog entries, videos, photos, comments, and other forms of user-generated content available publicly on the Internet” as it “collects, verifies, analyzes, and evaluates information about a job candidate.” That’s exactly the kind of aggregation of personal information that sent “an absolute chill” down the spine of resume designer Dawn Rasmussen, as she writes in A Chilling Trend Job Seekers Absolutely Need to Know. She quotes the late Mark Hovind of JobBait.com:
In the future, job seeking will be a platform which aggregates a person’s entire background into one location, including employer, supervisor, or manager ratings, dollar figure that they are worth, and any other relevant social data that could be an influencing factor on hiring decisions.
Tools like Social Intelligence suggest the future may be closer than Hovind realized. Client employers determine exactly what Social Intelligence looks for in their background searches, but examples include “racist remarks or activities, illegal drug use, potentially violent tendencies, and explicit photos or videos,” the Social Intelligence site states.
Beyond this kind of social-media background check, which typically takes place only after the employer makes an offer to the candidate or is close to making an offer, a new phenomenon, the “back-door reference check,” is often taking place earlier in the hiring process. Jason Warner, a principal at Recruiting Toolbox wrote on ERE.net:
… hiring teams are now using their social network to conduct unauthorized references on candidates in numbers never before seen. … never before have we seen this back door reference mechanism be executed so efficiently. Now, it’s simple for hiring managers to find references in their social network and invite them to chime in on candidate viability. Because social media brings such efficiency to managing relationships, it also proliferates the number of backdoor references.
Lessons for job-seekers: Not only do you need to keep your online image squeaky clean, but you also have to worry about what people in your online social network might say about you to an employer during a back-door reference check.
One small bright spot in an era when an employer can amass enormous amounts of personal data about job-seekers via social media is that the reverse is also true. Candidates now have unprecedented tools for learning more than ever about prospective employers; Jobitorial, for example, can help a job-seeker get the scoop on a potential boss or employing company. Warner noted:
… it used to be that company employment brands were shaped primarily by company-generated points of view. … employment brand statements, images, and related collateral would mold candidate perceptions of the value proposition offered. Indeed, this has not changed. But what has changed is that now candidates seek to validate the claims by seeking Social Proof: “who do I know in my network that can substantiate these claims?”
Not only can a candidate discover through his or her network whether an employer is blowing smoke through its PR, but he or she can experience a disconnect when the personal experience of socially experiencing the employer ultimately leads to the impersonal experience of dealing with the same frustrating online application process that has existed for more than a dozen years. Here’s how Warner described that disconnect:
When [candidates] want to learn more or get introduced, they don’t pore over corporate career sites or apply for jobs online; they find people who work there to learn the truth and get connected. But at most companies, once connected with their network inside of the company, candidates are at some point forced back through the same funnel that has existed for 10-15 years.
Many job-seekers are so accustomed to the social-media experience that they no longer have resumes and expect their online profiles to stand in for the time-honored documents. That works in some situations and with some employers, but not with many others.
You should be aware of one other somewhat dark (for job-seekers) aspect of employers’ current zeal for social-media recruiting: They really prefer to find candidates who aren’t looking for a job, the prized “passive” candidate. “Social media is a great tool to identify and build relationships with employed top performers who are not actively looking for a job at this time,” Sullivan wrote. Remember all those headlines in the past year about employers stating in job postings that they did not want the unemployed to apply? The bias against the unemployed and active job-seekers is real. (“Once you’re unemployed more than six months, you’re considered pretty much unemployable,” said former human-resources executive Cynthia Shapiro in Reader’s Digest. We assume that other people have already passed you over, so we don’t want anything to do with you.”)
But job-seekers can turn the tables on this bias against active candidates. Employers don’t want people who are looking for a job? Fine. Go after employers who aren’t offering (or at least publicizing) job openings. Learn how to do that in these articles on Quint Careers:
- How to Tap Into Jobs in the Unpublicized Employment Market
- Cold Calling: A Time-Tested Method of Job-Hunting
Another helpful resource on this technique is The New Rules of Online Job Hunting by Michelle Goodman, especially the section subtitled “Waiting for Hiring Managers to Contact You vs. Seeking Them Out.”
Online Job Boards
Job boards: Controversy surrounding the .jobs domain has rocked the job-board world. When we left off in last year’s annual report, a partnership of Employ Media (the registrar that provides DirectEmployers with .jobs addresses) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) was preparing to unleash tens of thousands of new job boards under the .jobs domain amid protests and concerns from many players in industry, especially job-board owners. Despite a vigorous campaign against the .jobs rollout by the Dot Jobs Opposition Coalition, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) approved the expansion of .jobs sites in the fall of 2010, and the rollout began early in 2011. As this annual report goes to “press,” ICANN issued (on Feb. 27, 2011) a breach-of-agreement notice to Employ Media, giving it 30 days to correct the breach and come into compliance. As Sarah Needleman explained in an article in the Wall Street Journal: “The dot-jobs domain was originally limited to only employers’ names, as in Disney.jobs or Whirlpool.jobs. But last fall ICANN approved the expansion of the domain to include generic names like hospitality.jobs and virginia.jobs.”
Many job-board owners have felt threatened by the .jobs expansion, in part because of possible confusion over the names of job boards. Needleman cited an earlier Wall Street Journal article quoting Eric Shannon, owner of DiversityJobs.com and other niche job sites, “saying he feels ‘threatened’ because if someone were to buy the rights to diversity.jobs, that person could essentially create a duplicate of his business.”
The entire saga is fascinating for fans of corporate intrigue and drama, but what does the presence or absence of the expanded .jobs board mean for job-seekers? We turned to the “Job Board Doctor,” Jeff Dickey-Chasins, who has written a sidebar to this article, Is the Expansion of the .jobs Domain a Solution in Search of a Problem?. If the .jobs expansion is allowed to stand, he says. “I don’t think it will matter for job boards or job-seekers. Individual job sites that focus on specific niches will continue to do a better job for most job-seekers because of their focus. They won’t be trying to spread their efforts across 40,000 sites.” For those who would like more background on the controversy, these articles are helpful resources:
- Employ Media Public Response to ICANN Notice
- No Limit on Whose Jobs Go on .Jobs, Says SHRM
Job-board owners continue to push back against the notion that job boards are dying, while job-board problems persist, and aggregators threaten.
We almost feel we could run the same material in this annual report every year about job boards because most of the same issues and job-seeker complaints have remained constant since our first report in 2001 (titled Are the Major Job Boards All They’re Cracked Up to Be?). In fact, two years ago, based on pronouncements from a number of experts, we declared that job boards would someday be extinct. Today, job-board owners and other experts still push back against the obituaries for job boards, and as demonstrated by the final section of this report, the boards continue to improve their offerings to both job-seekers and employers. John Zappe, noting some 220,000 Google results for the keywords “job board”, dead OR dying, points out that job boards provide the third-highest number of hires for employers (after employee referrals and the company’s own career site). Keep in mind that statistics on source of hire for employers is not the same as numbers describing how most job-seekers get their jobs; networking is still the most effective path to a job for job-seekers. Here are some perspectives on the good, bad, and ugly in job boards from the past year:
Job-seekers and candidates are owed an apology from job boards, wrote Jason Buss on The Talent Buzz (now called TalentHQ), for the arrogance and egos of job-board owners; the confusion, chaos, over-complication of the application process; lack of respect and customer focus; failure to deliver on basic commitments; and the fact that they have not evolved sufficiently in the two decades they’ve been around.
It’s not just job boards who continue to carry this baggage. David Earle quantified the problems of corporate job sites based on research by Staffing.org. For 58 percent of responding candidates, the application process was frustrating. Other problems included poorly designed and organized Websites, lack of an organized career site (instead, just a list of jobs), too many jobs with no way to filter them, an application process that is too lengthy (38 percent of respondents quit midway through the process), job descriptions that were too vague, and inadequate information about the company. (Want to know which companies do it right? CareerXroads’ 2011 study of job sections of Fortune 500 corporate Websites says these are the Top 25: 1. Yahoo; 2. Whirlpool; 3. Target; 4. Stryker; 5. State Farm Insurance; 6. Southern Company; 7. Raytheon; 8. PSE&G; 9. Procter & Gamble; 10. PepsiCo; 11. Morgan Stanley; 12. Lockheed Martin; 13. Intel; 14. Home Depot; 15. Google; 16. General Motors; 17. General Electric; 18. Fluor; 19. FedEx; 20. EMC; 21. Eaton; 22. Capital One; 23. Best Buy; 24. AT&T; 25. Altria Group. See also CareerXRoads’ annual report on the candidate experience, The Candidate Experience: What they say it is.)
As has been the case for the past few years, compared to what they say about conventional job boards, experts have somewhat more positive words for “aggregators” (also known as job search engines), such as Indeed and SimplyHired, which as Zappe notes, have become among the top 10 most trafficked career sites, with a presence in more countries than CareerBuilder and just behind Monster. Job-board owners see these aggregators as a threat (as are LinkedIn and general search engines), suggested survey research by Dickey-Chasins.
An interview that ERE.net conducted with Monster CEO Sal Iannuzzi provides an insightful snapshot of how the large job boards view the current online job-search climate. Iannuzzi felt threatened neither by social-media recruiting nor the .jobs expansion, views that generated robust rebuttals in the article’s comments section, including a comment by Bill Warren, executive director of .jobs partner Direct Employers, who refers to Monster as “the former industry leader.”
Experts point to some future trends in job boards — growth in mobile applications, the possibility of job boards “in the cloud,” and increasing importance of boards that feature freelance opportunities since the weak economy has pushed so many job-seekers into working for themselves.
If you have minimal experience with job boards or would just like to know about how they work, check out How Job Boards Work.
New Job-Hunting Tools, Platforms, and Networks
New tools, platforms, and networks expand options for both job-seekers and hiring decision-makers. Every year — and every edition of this annual report — means new twists on tools, platforms, and networks to assist the job-seeker and hiring decision-maker in their quests. Often these are mashups of job boards and social-media venues, new products from established job sites, or new startups offering novel functions in the careers and talent sectors. Here are some that caught our eye this year:
- BranchOut is a mashup with Facebook that seems to be gaining some traction. From the site: “BranchOut empowers you to create a professional presence on Facebook that is safe and easy to use. By leveraging Facebook’s network of over 600 million users, BranchOut gives you inside connections to jobs and sales leads that you can’t find anywhere else.” The free service enables job-seekers to discover connections at companies at which they’re interested in working for, and also offers job listings. Keppie Careers’s Miriam Salpeter’s blog post arguably explains how BranchOut works better than BranchOut does. Fast Company also published an informative piece on BranchOut.
- StartWire, a free service, helps job-seekers “find hidden opportunities and get hired faster by unlocking the knowledge and insider connections of trusted friends as well as an army of world-class job-search experts,” its site states. StartWire lets you confidentially share information about employers to which you’ve applied, companies you like, and where you are interviewing with a select group of people you trust. By seeing your actual job-search activity, your StartWire network can provide advice and connections. Confidentiality and privacy are a big selling point here, as John Zappe points out in an article on ERE.net, because folks don’t necessarily want everyone — such as their current employers — to know they’re job-hunting. Perhaps a service like StartWire can even address the bias against active candidates — since you can be in job-search mode confidentially.
- Social Resume Spot. We’ve been saying for several years that a strong online presence requires your own Website with your name as its domain name (some variation of yourname.com). Miriam Salpeter has launched Social Resume Spot as a job-seeker-oriented way to obtain just that. Salpeter charges around $350 for clients who already have all materials ready for their site — such as resume, links to LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, and the like. Read her article on the necessity for job-seekers and careerists to have their own site.
- Matchpoint Careers uses proprietary algorithms to match candidate profiles and job profiles based on a series of assessments (Personality Questionnaire, Verbal and Numerical Ability Tests, and Work Environment Survey). You can see a sample Candidate Profile. From the site: “When your match score is high enough to warrant short-listing for a particular job, you will be sent highlights of the job and organization and invited to join the shortlist to be presented to the employer.” Matchpoint is free for job-seekers.
- ClearFit for Career Seekers is a free 15-minute personality assessment test that enables users to compare how well they fit with various jobs, see their top career attributes, and get a personalized career report.
- CareerBuilder’s hireINSIDER: This free service shows job-seekers how competitive they are for the positions they apply for by providing a Job Competition Report. From the site: “… register on CareerBuilder and see how you match up against other candidates for the same job. hireINSIDER will show you how many people applied, education levels, salary information, years of experience, cover-letter usage.” The service could benefit both job-seekers and employers by giving candidates a realistic picture of what their chances are, which could perhaps alleviate the huge problem of job-seekers applying online for jobs they’re not really qualified for, thus overwhelming employers with useless applications.
- Indeed Resume: Aggregator Indeed has always been a venue for job postings, not a job board where job-seekers can post their resume. Indeed, however, recently announced Indeed Resume, touted as “a simple way for anyone to add their resume to Indeed.” Users can create a resume from scratch using Indeed Resume or upload an existing resume in any of numerous common formats (free registration required, or you can register through your Facebook log-on). The site notes that “resumes can be shared with anyone via a public URL or hidden for private use” and “visitors to a public resume page can download the resume as a professional-looking PDF or email the job seeker through a secure contact form.”
- New LinkedIn features: Since our last annual report, LinkedIn has introduced a number of job-seeker-friendly features such as LinkedIn Jobs specifically tailored to LinkedIn groups, Career Discussions, the ability to search companies on LinkedIn by how you are connected to people in the company, and LinkedIn Skills, which enables employers to search for people based on their skills (LinkedIn encourages job-seekers to add skills to their profiles, join group discussions, and follow related companies for each skill). The best way to keep up with new LinkedIn features that can aid a job search is to read the LinkedIn blog.
- Location-based social media venues, such as Foursquare are not new, but recruiters are increasingly using them to find and connect with candidates, especially coveted passive candidates. See his article by Sullivan to get a glimpse at how a recruiter might use these services.
Final Thoughts: What It All Means for Job-seekers
Conveniently, this year’s annual-report theme provides a framework for job-seeker takeaways: The more personalized your job search is, the more effective it’s likely to be.
- Face-to-face networking is the most personalized form of job search and is therefore most effective.
- The most personal foundation for an online job search is an online presence that starts with your own Web site with a yourname.com domain, along with a robust presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Add-ons might include a blog and participation in niche social-media venues. While social media should clearly be part of every job-seeker’s strategy, realize that it requires significant time and effort. The caveat that Raghav Singh communicated to recruiters — that “social media can be a powerful tool for finding candidates, but … it takes substantial effort to get results” — applies equally to candidates.
- For loads of tips and specifics on getting the most out of social media in your job search, see our sidebar Tools and Resources to Maximize Your Personalized Job Search.
- Job boards are, generally speaking, the antithesis of personal. They should be part of your efforts, but only a small part. You may want to favor niche job boards, such as those tailored to your career field or geographic area. Keep your eyes open for boards and company career sites that offer personal twists and touches.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine, an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in