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 https://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of Internet job search at the time of publication; thus updating is limited to removing non-functioning links and outdated advice.
While we have often identified trends in Internet job-hunting and recruiting based on the sheer amount of content published about them this year’s overarching trend has attained very little coverage. Then why do we consider it the most important trend of the past year in online job search and hiring?
Because it brings together the most significant ways people get hired. As has been the case in recent years according to the annual Sources of Hire study conducted by CareerXRoads referrals remain the top source of hire for employers (28 percent) while job boards come in second (just over 20 percent). As this and other studies affirm employers always prefer to hire candidates who are referred to them by trusted sources because they are a known quantity while candidates from other sources are largely unknown. “As a recruiter I would much rather have insight into a candidate’s personality then go blind with just a resume” says Linda Ferrante LoCicero recruiting specialist and co-founder at RFT Staffing LLC Farmington Hills MI. Echoes recruiter Tim Giehll “Start with 1000 applicants on the one hand and a referral from a friend or employee you really trust “which is more likely to produce a good employee in a short amount of time?” (For Giehll LinkedIn is key for expanding hiring decision-makers’ referral networks.)
The candidates who get referred to employers are generally those who have networked and made themselves known to organizational insiders. Just as employers covet candidates who are referred to them smart candidates seek “through networking “to be referred.
Thus we kick off this year’s report with our observation that “3R’s” “Referrals Recommendations and Real-World Challenges “are increasingly a part of social recruiting and job search. We are starting to see evidence that both employers and job-seekers are combining elements of both these popular sources of hire “referrals and job boards “for better results. Recommendations which began to take on greater significance after LinkedIn introduced its recommendations function several years ago continue to grow in importance and become more integrated into social job-hunting and recruiting. In research by Pure Profile reported by Michael Lee of ZDNet Australia of those employers that screened candidates using social media 24 percent identified recommendations on candidate profiles as possible deal clinchers. A third “R” real-world challenges is an emerging trend in which employers especially in the tech sector are taking advantage of the social space that is the Internet to challenge job-seekers to demonstrate their skills.
Much of the emergence employee referrals as an online job-search and recruiting channel is driven by advances in social media notes well-known HR thought leader Dr. John Sullivan. “If the average social-media user has approximately 300 friends” says Jindrich Liska CEO of Jobmagic a company with 100 employees can reach 30000 first-degree friends and a staggering 9 million second-degree friends.” Liska forecasts that as 2012 progresses “we will see growing emphasis on employee referral hiring programs. Employers will start to leverage all of their employees across all social networks by automatically targeting candidates in employee referral networks tracking referrals and rewarding employees with referral bonuses.”
Liska notes that not only do employee referral networks present a massive talent pool for employers but they also reduce expenses because “the cost of referral hiring is a fraction of traditional approaches.” The technology behind referral-hiring applications has matured significantly and is delivering considerable benefits Liska states. One manifestation of how technology is boosting referral hiring is through the addition of referral bonuses as a feature that employers or recruiters can add to their job listings reports the “Job Board Doctor” Jeff Dickey-Chasins citing as examples TopProspect and JobFox.
Here are a few ways job-seekers can leverage the mashup between online job search and referrals/recommendations:
In an excellent article on its blog Startwire suggests connecting your LinkedIn or Facebook account on StartWire and see who you know at any job listed on the site or for companies that you’ve already applied to. StartWire’s “Get Referral” and recommendations features provide a quick way to get in touch.
Andrea Rice recommends good old-fashioned email as a way to deploy referrals in an online job search. “One way to make sure your candidacy gets considered is to have someone the hiring manager knows and trusts identify you as a good candidate” Rice writes. “A brief email recommending you from the right person will guarantee that you get considered.” Noting that LinkedIn and alumni directories are good sources for finding these recommendations Rice suggests that the following types of recommenders in order of their value to the job-seeker are:
- Someone more senior than the hiring manager at the company you’re targeting;
- Someone who is a peer of the targeted person at the same company;
- Someone junior but highly regarded at the company;
- Someone who doesn’t work at the target company but personally knows the person you are trying to reach and is a good judge of the key skills; and
- Someone you know well who has access to anyone who fits any of the descriptions in #1-4 above.
In addition to blending referral/recommendation functions into job-board platforms the online job-search world increasingly facilitates job-seeker participation in real-world challenges that enable employers to assess candidate skills in new ways. As one example Dickey-Chasins reports StackOverflow has taken its existing community activity “enabling programmers to ask questions and get answers “and made it useful to employers. “Employers can see what answers the candidate supplied to specific technical questions “AND how the community voted on their answer” Dickey-Chasins notes. LivingSocial’s real-world challenge extends to a highly selective five-month paid-internship program Hungry Academy to train participants in programming skills and qualify some of them for jobs at LivingSocial. For the inaugural program applicants were required to submit an eight-minute video answering five questions. Hungry Academy didn’t want resumes the site says because “we weren’t looking for skills they already had so how good was a resume? We were looking for character attitude and drive.” The first Hungry Academy class started in early March 2012.
Against the backdrop of the increasing integration of referrals recommendations and real-world challenges into online job search and recruiting we present trends in Internet job search over the last year in five major areas:
Major job boards see some decline. While one industry insider refers to the “dramatic fall of the old guard job boards “Monster CareerBuilder HotJobs” (which Monster has absorbed) others are more bullish on the big boards.
Most of the doom-saying is directed at Monster the subject of two recent articles 7 Warning Signs for Monster.com and Monster’s 7 Warning Signs May Have Come Too Late. In the former Jason Buss cites Monster’s loss of market share to competitors impending layoffs forecasts of falling revenue and earnings. In the latter article John Zappe illuminates Buss’s reporting that Monster is “exploring strategic alternatives” by flat-out saying “The company that is synonymous with digital recruiting is up for sale.” Buss also notes that Monster product BeKnown a mashup with Facebook has been regarded by some as a flop with declining numbers of users and Monster’s iPad app is poorly rated by users.
Aggregators and freelance boards continue to hold their own. We’ve talked about the popularity and effectiveness of job-posting aggregators such as Indeed and Simply Hired since our 2008 report. Comscore reported in February 2012 that in terms of traffic to job-search sites “Indeed.com Job Search ranked as the category leader with 13.7 million visitors (up 33 percent).” Another sector doing well is job boards catering to freelance gigs as the weak job market motivates folks to become free agents. Sites like oDesk and Elance are doing good business as individuals bypass the crowded job market.
Complaints about job boards are getting less coverage. For the first time since we started these reports our research uncovered not one article about the typical problems of job boards “applications that go into a black hole outdated job postings fraudulent job postings to name a few. The absence of articles doesn’t mean these problems don’t still exist but improvements may be occurring. At least one expert suggests that online applications take less time to complete than they once did. The lack of content griping about job boards may mean that job-seekers are adapting or are resigned to the issues. Other findings in this report suggest that job-seekers are succeeding by using other tools “such as social media and simple search engines like Google “in their searches.
Job-seekers continue to increase their use of social media in the job search. Jobvite’s Social Job Seeker Survey 2011 notes that the number of Americans using online social networking to find jobs in 2011 was up 7.7 million over 2010. One in six members of the workforce say an online social network was one of the sources they used to find a job. Nearly nine out of 10 job-seekers (86 percent) have a social-media profile. You can download the full report here (free registration required).
The “Super Socials” lead the way in social job search. New research findings suggest that job-seekers with large numbers of contacts are having greater success in the job search than those with fewer contacts. The Jobvite study found a marked difference in job-hunting activities and success when job-seekers were “super social” “having more than 150 contacts on any single network. More than four out of 10 job seekers (41 percent) are super social on at least one network (mainly Facebook) and they do more social job hunting and get better results than their less social counterparts. More than a quarter (28 percent) of these super-social job-seekers found a job through online social networking.
Job-seekers are increasingly making themselves “findable” by employers through Search-Engine Optimization (SEO). As early as our https://2009 annual report we noted that job-seekers are using Search-Engine Optimization; this trend continues to build. SEO the practice of developing the visibility of a Website in search engines explains Heather Huhman “can help job-seekers land the top spots when individuals (or potential employers) search for his or her name or specialty.” Huhman author of Lies Damned Lies & Internships: The Truth About Getting from Classroom to Cubicle suggests that “having a social networking profile a website or a blog isn’t enough “you need to use SEO to stand out when someone clicks ‘search.'” (See our article https://SEO for Job-Seekers: 10 Tips for Building Your Online Brand). “Ways to increase SEO are to include links in your online platforms increasing traffic using keywords and using meta tags “such as title tags a description tag an image tag or keyword tags.”
Job-seekers are using QR codes to expand on their resumes. “Adding a QR code to your resume is a new tech-savvy way to illustrate your strengths” says publicist Nicole Fucci. “A QR (quick-response) code is a two-dimensional barcode-like image that once scanned directs potential employers to carefully selected customized Web pages for more information about a job-seeker.”
Job-seekers use mobile devices to search for jobs more than employers use them to recruit. Employers do not seem to have caught up with job-seeker demand for mobile ways to search for jobs. According to Beyond.com 77 percent of job-seekers were using mobile job-search apps in 2011. John Zappe cites a Potentialpark survey in reporting that “only 7 percent of corporate career sites are optimized for mobile devices. More employers could be disseminating job openings via text messaging Zappe notes capitalizing on the fact that “text messages have a read rate approaching 100 percent.” < >
When job-seekers use search engines to find vacancies they are more likely to complete the application process. Back in our https://2007 annual report we first noted that increasing numbers of job-seekers were bypassing job boards and company career sites in favor simply searching for jobs using search engines such as Google. New metrics reported by Jason Buss by way of Jobs2Web indicate that “job-seekers who start their search on a search engine are 30 percent more likely to complete the application process once started “when compared to those that arrived at a company’s corporate career site from a job board.” Those who started their search on Google specifically Buss says are among the most likely to accept a job offer compared to those who search using other online sources. Buss also reports that candidate quality defined as meeting the basic job qualifications is 25 percent higher from those who start their search on a search engine compared to those who landed on a companies’ career site via a job board.
Job-seekers who apply online early are most likely to be hired. The idea of applying online for a job as early as possible might seem like a no-brainer but for any who may have doubted the importance of acting quickly a study by Startwire of more than 6600 hires across 10 industries show that of those hired 27 percent applied within the first two days after a job was posted and nearly 50 percent of the hires were applicants who applied within the first week.
Use of Facebook for job search has surged while LinkedIn and Twitter are holding steady. “Despite LinkedIn’s professional focus it’s Facebook that’s leading social networks to become a major way people find new jobs” writes Josh Constine on Tech Crunch. “The rise of Facebook as a job source can be in part tied to the proliferation of tools that harness the social network’s biographical data and massive user base. A number of recruiting platforms are now providing ways to distribute job openings through Facebook” Constine reports.
In terms of sheer numbers Facebook certainly has an edge. “Facebook alone represents a talent pool many times larger than LinkedIn” Jindrich Liska notes. Jobvite’s Social Job Seeker Survey reports 84 percent of job-seekers have profiles on Facebook followed by 39 percent using Twitter and 35 percent using LinkedIn. Nearly a third of job-seekers (31 percent) have a profile on all three networks the survey notes. Facebook has the highest volume of job-seeking activity overall with more people receiving job referrals updating profiles and making new professional connections. But while nearly all job-seekers with a profile on LinkedIn leverage their networks for job-hunting more than a third of job-seekers who have a Facebook profile don’t use it in any way to look for work the survey reveals. On Twitter 71 percent of those with a profile have leveraged the micro-blogging platform in their job hunt.
Comparing the three big social-media platforms Liska points out that “LinkedIn’s strength is in its searchable database of resume-like profiles. On the other hand Facebook and Twitter strengths are in the size and user engagement “key success factors in attracting unique candidates to company job openings.” Liska cites about five times more companies active on Facebook than on LinkedIn. “User activity and number of company followers on Facebook and Twitter are on the order of magnitude larger than on LinkedIn” he says. “Where LinkedIn pages have hundreds and thousands of friends Facebook and Twitter pages have easily hundreds of thousands of followers.”
Citing growth trends Joe Light wrote on the Wall Street Journal‘s online site that “Facebook could rival traditional job boards in 2012.” In Why Facebook Will Destroy LinkedIn Jody Ordioni lists several reasons Facebook might dominate job search and recruiting “its vast number of users the fact that its average user age (38) is just two years younger than LinkedIn’s (40) and the notion that LinkedIn can’t compete with Facebook’s “social marketing.” Ordioni writes that “instead of ‘Three friends like Pepsi’ users might soon see ‘Three friends applied to work at PepsiCo.’ This sort of peer-to-peer marketing effective in virtually every other field will be impossible to duplicate on LinkedIn.” Facebook apps like Work For Us already enable job-seekers to apply for a job right inside Facebook or “Like a job and therefore spread it to their friends as a social referral” writes Erick Schonfeld on TechCrunch.
In contrast to views like those of Liska and Ordioni who believe Facebook is a LinkedIn killer others like personal-branding guru Dan Schawbel are convinced LinkedIn is more important than ever especially on the strength of its relatively new (June 2011) “Apply with LinkedIn” button which enables a LinkedIn member to submit his or her profile in response to a job posting. Schawbel minces no words in his article’s headline LinkedIn is About to Put Job Boards (and Resumes) Out of Business.
Anytime a wildly popular new social-media platform emerges chances are people will suggest adapting it for job search. A few years ago it was Twitter. More recently Facebook became the buzzed-about job-search platform. This year it has been Pinterest the insanely viral visually driven virtual pinboard that lets users organize and share “all the beautiful things” they find on the Web. Because Pinterest focuses on images it isn’t easy to imagine how the platform can be useful in job search. In 5 Ways to Use Pinterest To Wow Your Dream Employer Brie Reynolds suggests tactics such as putting your resume on Pinterest as a portfolio and following the pinboards of career experts. Marissa Brassfield offers Job-hunting With Pinterest pros and cons at Payscale.com while on Forbes.com Meghan Casserly is more skeptical: “While putting your interests on display and learning how to speak to a prospective employer are important” she says “can either trick actually land you a job? … are employers really combing Pinterest for candidates?”
Concerns arise over social recruiting’s effect on diversity and discrimination. Cautioning that “Companies need to be prepared for a new era of discrimination claims using social media” Jessica Miller-Merrill notes in a 2011 blog post that by recruiting through social media employers can learn such things about a candidate as age gender (a discovery not limited to social media since gender is usually obvious from a job-seeker’s name on a resume) religion disability status genetic information race/color national origin and pregnancy status. Add to that list the fact that employers can often see a candidate’s appearance though social-media profile photos.
Outrageous privacy-breaching password requests by employers prompt policy and legislative attention. Just as this report was ready to go to press the Associated Press reported on employers asking candidates for their Facebook passwords. The AP’s Manuel Valdes and Shannon Mcfarland reported the practice is the focus of proposed legislation in Illinois and Maryland “that would forbid public agencies from asking for access to social networks.” Job-seekers can of course take the position that they do not want to work for an organization that would invade their privacy and thus refuse to provide this information. Some however have given in to the brazen request because they are desperate for a job. “We don’t think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don’t think it’s the right thing to do” Facebook Erin Egan Chief Privacy Officer Policy said in a statement on its site noting that Facebook has made it a violation of its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to share or solicit a Facebook password.
Corporate careers sites may be on the decline. In the early years of this annual report we touted company career sites as a way to bypass the frustrations inherent in job boards. In the ever-evolving worlds of online job search and recruiting however some experts see these company sites as not keeping up. “While the job boards have demonstrated a steady pace of evolution corporate career sites have not” wrote Dr. John Sullivan in a mid-2011 essay RIP “Announcing the Death of the Corporate Careers Website adding that the sites “serve up the same loathed experience they did five years ago.” Sullivan went on to detail 20 reasons he believes the value of these sites will continue to dwindle including a predominance of propaganda over authenticity no conduit through which prospective employees can ask questions vague job descriptions no way to interact with current employees and difficulty for users in applying for jobs on the sites. That is when users even stick around long enough to apply; an astonishing 92 percent of visitors leave these sites before completing a profile/application Sullivan reports.
Germane to the theme of this report “the integration of referrals into the online job-search experience “Sullivan notes that when social media refers contacts to a corporate career site the chance that the referred job-seeker will become an applicant are less than 1:10. (We’d be interested in hearing our readers’ experiences on company career sites and have recently updated our https://Directory of Company Career Centers.)
To cut costs employers are increasingly interviewing candidates via Skype and similar applications. Video interviews or virtual meetings on Skype have become increasingly popular for recruiters” says Andrew Schrage co-owner of Money Crashers “especially as companies try to cut business expenses.”
New Tools Platforms and Networks
This section of our annual report a feature for the past several years this year appears as a slideshow.
Final Thoughts: What the Trends Mean for Job-Seekers
How can job-seekers use the information in this report? Here are our suggestions:
Employ both your online and offline networks as you look for opportunities to get recommendations and referred to employers. Ask your Facebook friends and Twitter followers to refer you. Ask your LinkedIn connections for both referrals and recommendations. Seek out platforms and tools that facilitate the referral process. One such tool is Glassdoor’s or LiveCareer‘s Inside Connections which uses job-seekers’ Facebook friends’ network to help uncover possible referrals inside a specific company. Another tool on the horizon is ReferralBonus which according to Darrell Etherington of BetaKit “will help people leverage their qualified social network connections to make money helping them find jobs and also allow companies to post open positions and browse referral suggestions for free paying rewards only when candidates are actually hired.” Referral bonuses also play a role in JobFox which claims to help job-seekers “break into the inner circle of the companies where [they] want to work and connect privately with the people doing the hiring.”
Experiment with weaning yourself from job boards. Try a 7-day (or other period) no-job-board challenge. We have yet to publish one of these annual reports without cautioning against over-reliance on online job-hunting at the expense of face-to-face connections. In one of the best articles we’ve seen this year Maisha Cannon suggests taking a break from job boards “Indeed CareerBuilder Monster and whatever else you’re using” over the next seven days. Cannon advises sevenalternate tasks that focus on “(a) gathering information (b) setting up meetings (c) e-mailing actual viable leads directly;” the tasks include catching up with network contacts with whom you’ve been out of touch soliciting help from your Facebook network meeting a new contact revamping your resume participating in a mock interview registering with a temp agency and getting some exercise. Cannon’s response to those disinclined to give up the security blanket of constantly hitting the job boards:
You’re probably thinking “But isn’t the job search a numbers game? Aren’t I increasing my chances by applying to at least 40-50 jobs per week?” No and no. The Lottery is a numbers game. Your career search is a strategy that must be purposefully planned rigorously fine-tuned and carefully executed.
Mix it up be cause there’s no longer one “best” way to get noticed by employers. So says Tim Heard president of eSearch Associates Louisville KY. Try techniques like improving your personal/professional SEO adding a QR code to your resume and applying as quickly as possible to jobs when you use job boards and company career sites. In fact the choices for both how to get noticed and how to learn about openings can be overwhelming. That’s why “you have to become a curator of your own personal job feed” advises author Lindsey Pollak “narrowing down all of the various websites and listings to a truly personalized stream of opportunities. The best way to do this is to set up a select group of bookmarked websites and email alerts that you view every day.” See Pollak’s recommended specifics in her article How to Curate Your Own Personal Job Feed.
Consider becoming a “Super Social.” Be sure you have a robust presence on the Big 3 “Facebook LinkedIn and Twitter. If you’re in job-search mode but have held back from taking the Facebook plunge be aware that you may no longer be able to afford to overlook this behemoth. Be discriminating but do consider trying to build your networks