Internet Is Primary Resource for Job Seekers Worldwide

By Roy Maurer Jan 14, 2016
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Among the nearly 20 percent of the world’s workforce who change jobs each year, over half use the Internet to look for employment. One-third of these job changers rated Internet job sites as most effective for finding positions, according to a report from The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Recruit Works Institute.

The findings in Job Seeker Trends 2015: Channels, Search Time, and Income Change underscore the transformation that the Internet has brought to the job search process globally.

BCG and Recruit Works Institute surveyed more than 13,000 job seekers from 13 countries whose populations represent 59 percent of the roughly 3 billion people employed worldwide, about their 2014 job search experience. Countries represented in the survey were Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S.

“The Internet changes everything, and it has changed few activities more profoundly than it has the search for employment,” said Kazumasa Sakurai, a BCG partner and managing director and a co-author of the report. “Job seekers 30 or 40 years ago were largely limited to paper media such as newspapers and magazines and to introductions from family and friends. Today, the process is more standardized globally, and most people are able to collect job information and search for opportunities casually and efficiently.”

About 55 percent of survey respondents looked for new jobs online, compared with 36 percent who searched through paper media like newspaper ads, 33 percent who relied on referrals, 24 percent who inquired directly with a prospective employer, 20 percent who used public services and 17 percent who went through employment agencies. About 40 percent of global job seekers used only one channel in their search, and about 25 percent used two.

“One of the key capabilities that differentiates the Internet channel from referrals from family or friends is the Internet’s ability to process a much higher volume of applications,” Sakurai said. He believes that key difference will drive the continued growth of online job searching in the future.

Job searching via the Internet was chosen as the most effective source for finding a new job by one-third of all respondents. The second most effective way to find a new job was referrals (chosen by 19 percent of respondents). In contrast, only 10 percent of respondents thought newspaper ads were the most effective source.

There were a few significant national differences. Internet job sites generally ranked as the most effective channel in all countries represented except India. There, only 8 percent of respondents cited job sites as the most effective; 70 percent cited referrals from family or friends as the best option. Countries where online job sites were ranked highest in effectiveness were the U.K. (52 percent), Russia (48 percent) and Germany (46 percent). In Japan, government-run job services (24 percent) was nearly tied with Internet job sites (25 percent) as the most effective channel.

A little over one-third (35 percent) of U.S. respondents ranked Internet job sites as the most effective, whereas a relatively high 20 percent ranked contacting the employer directly as the most effective avenue.

The survey found that the two most effective channels—Internet job sites and referrals—appeal to different demographics. The average Internet job site user is more educated and younger than the average job seeker, whereas the average referral user is less educated and older than other job seekers, according to the report.

“Successful employers will adopt strategies specific to each [channel],” Sakurai said. “Companies can leverage the speed, ease and convenience of job sites to draw applicants and build traffic. Companies can tap the referral channel by implementing formal programs, such as cash awards for employees who facilitate successful hires.”

Job Search Taking Longer

The report’s authors concluded that the growing popularity of online job searching is due to the ability to apply to more jobs more quickly as well as the proliferation of mobile devices.

“In many developing countries, smartphones and increasingly tablets are the most widely used devices for connecting to the Internet,” Sakurai said. Companies recruiting in those regions will have to tailor their talent acquisition approach to mobile device users.

But the report found that it took people who applied online longer to get a job than if they applied through other means, such as contacting the employer directly or getting a personal referral.

Globally, it took job seekers about three more weeks to land a gig via the Internet vs. contacting the company directly, and six more weeks to get a job through online search vs. a referral. It took an average of about 15 applications to different employers to get a job through an online job site, vs. 10 for those who applied directly to the company and six for those who were referred.

“A recruiter doesn’t care if the application comes through a job site or direct to the [employer’s] website. A strong candidate will get through either way,” said Paul Wolfe, senior vice president of human resources at Indeed, the world’s largest job search engine. “While referrals can be valuable, I still value the candidate’s experience and their fit more than anything else. An online job site search is not the endgame, but rather a portal to find the best match between employers and employees.”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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