How Are People Finding Jobs?

Published: Sep 10, 2007

How are people finding jobs? It’s an important question, of course, because answering it correctly enables you to invest your time most effectively when you’re looking for a job and to make sure you’re in charge of the employment changes in your career rather than their victim. Traditionally, we get the answer to this question from what are called "source of hire" surveys. They poll employers to determine where the candidates they hired were first identified. It seems like a reasonable approach but in fact, has two serious disadvantages:

• First, recruiters collect candidate data from their applicant tracking system, a computerized database which most large and many smaller employers now use to receive and store candidate resumes. These systems do query applicants on where they heard about the opening for which they applied, but more often than not, they do so by forcing them to pick from an incomplete and out-of-date list of options. As a result, the data they provide to employers is consistently and significantly inaccurate.

• Second, source of hire surveys normally sample a very small population of employers and collect the data they report as averages. They then establish an overall set of results by averaging the employers’ averages, an approach which can overemphasize data trends and minimize important data anomalies.

To avoid these deficiencies, we at WEDDLE’s launched a Source of Employment Survey last year. This study has the following benefits:

• First, it acquires information directly from those who really know where they first heard about an employment opportunity: the working men and women who applied for the job. As a consequence, it avoids the distorting filter of applicant tracking systems and the inaccuracies of their data.

• Second, it samples a huge population. WEDDLE’s 2007 report is based on a survey of over 11,500 respondents. The data were collected between January 1, 2007 and July 31, 2007 at the WEDDLE’s Web-site,

Our 2007 survey confirmed some previously reported trends and yielded a couple of interesting surprises. As shown below, the five best sources of employment are online job boards, staffing and executive search firms, tips from friends and family members, networking in a business context, and two methods that have been pooh-poohed recently by the cognoscenti of employment: career fairs and newspapers.

• The #1 source of employment: answering ads and posting your resume on job boards, reported by 13.22% of respondents;

• The #2 source of employment: a call from a headhunter or staffing firm, reported by 11.3% of respondents;

• The #3 source of employment: a tip from a friend or family member, reported by 11.1% of respondents;

• The #4 source of employment: networking at work or at a business event, reported by 10.5% of respondents;

• The #5 source of employment: a virtual tie between career fairs and answering an ad in a newspaper, reported by 5.8% of respondents.

As you can see, these five sources accounted for almost six out of ten (57.7%) of the positions that people took during their last job search.

What were the least helpful sources of employment, as reported by our survey respondents? Beginning with the least effective, they were:

• Networking at a social event;

• Answering an ad in a publication of their professional association;

• Using a social networking site;

• Sending a resume directly to an employer; and

• Responding to a notice posted in a store.

What can we learn from these results? First, while social networking sites and social networking, in general, obviously have their benefits, one of them is clearly not finding a job. Second, while associations serve a number of important functions, many are apparently not doing enough when it comes to connecting their members to the employment opportunities they want. And third, lots of employers aren’t doing much better. In an age that is based on electronic communication, such crude recruiting tactics as placing placards in a window are the functional equivalent of sending out smoke signals.

What should you do about these findings? I have the following suggestions:

• Devote more time to online or e-networking. This activity enables you to leverage the effectiveness of networking while capitalizing on the efficiency you can achieve online. I’m not suggesting that you forego traditional telephonic and face-to-face networking, but rather that you augment those one-on-one methods with the Web’s capacity for building relationships with many different people all at the same time. Online networking involves your communicating by e-mail with your peers at discussion forums and bulletin boards hosted on commercial job boards and other career sites. You can carry on such conversations—and expand your circle of contacts in the process—any time of the day or night and even while you’re sitting at home in your fuzzy slippers. To get the best results, I recommend that you invest 30 minutes twice a week, but no more, to e-networking. It’s very effective, but it’s also very seductive so you need to manage your involvement carefully.

• Use all of the job search and career advancement methods at your disposal. As our survey indicates, job boards work. One out of every seven people found a job that way. The key is to select the job boards that will work best for you. With 40,000 such sites now operating in the U.S. alone, you have to be a good consumer (and, of course, WEDDLE’s Guides can help). In addition, take advantage of career fairs and newspaper ads and talk with friends and family members and your colleagues at work about your employment goals. Yes, that requires a fair bit of effort, but each and every one of those activities is important. Why? Because as our study confirms, the best method of finding a job is only three percentage points better than the fourth most effective method and just slightly more than twice as effective as the two fifth best methods. In other words, there is no silver bullet. The most productive strategy for finding a new or better job is to undertake an array of activities that will expose you to the largest possible number of people and prospective employment opportunities. And the top five methods identified in the WEDDLE’s 2007 Source of Employment Survey is a good place to start.

The WEDDLE’s Source of Employment Survey will be reported here in my newsletter each year in September. We hope it helps you to maximize the success you achieve when looking for a new or better job and, as a result, the satisfaction and rewards you derive from your work.

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