Online Job Searching Has Doubled Since 2005

A minority of Americans still have trouble using online resources

By Roy Maurer Dec 21, 2015
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U.S. job seekers are as likely to look for jobs online as they are to rely on friends and other contacts for connections to the job market, according to a recently released survey.

The survey on the job search methods of 2,001 U.S. adults by the Pew Research Center found that a majority of Americans (54 percent) have researched jobs on the Internet, and nearly as many (45 percent) have applied for a job online. That’s more than double the number from 2005, when 26 percent of Americans told Pew they had used the Internet to look for jobs.

Of recent job seekers—defined as the 34 percent of Americans who’ve looked for a job in the last two years—79 percent reported using resources or information they found online, while 80 percent used professional contacts and personal connections to find work.

“It’s an essential message for recruiters: Job seekers are getting their information about your jobs and your company from the Internet,” said Aaron Smith, associate director of research for Pew.

“I have been sourcing candidates online since 1997 and it has become incredibly easy to locate candidate information online with the boon of social media,” said Kelly Dingee, director of strategic recruiting at Staffing Advisors, a search firm headquartered in the Washington, D.C., area.

Recent job seekers also used employment agencies (32 percent), print advertisements (32 percent) and job fairs (28 percent) to find work.

Americans with higher educational levels are especially likely to use the Internet to seek employment, the survey found. Nearly 9 in 10 (88 percent) of those who are college graduates went online to look for a job, compared with 77 percent of those who attended but didn’t graduate from college, and 69 percent of those who’ve never been to college.

Those who are better educated were also more likely to have relied on professional connections in their most recent job search. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of college graduates did so, compared with 59 percent of those who’ve attended but not graduated from college, and 57 percent of those who’ve never attended college.

Some Lack Confidence in Online Job Search Skills

These days, many resources for job seekers are posted online and employers often expect applicants to find and apply for jobs using the Internet, e-mail or mobile applications.

“Employers push jobs out everywhere, through every social media outlet, job boards, their websites and so on,” Dingee said. “For a job seeker who just wants to take a look and see what’s available, the challenge now is, ‘Where do I look? Google? LinkedIn? CareerBuilder?’ ”

Pew found that a sizable minority of Americans lack confidence when it comes to basic computer-based job search skills such as creating a resume for online use, using e-mail to contact potential employers or filling out a job application online.

Some 17 percent of Americans said it wouldn’t be easy for them to create a resume for online use. Another 21 percent said it wouldn’t be easy to highlight their employment skills using a personal website or social media profile. Roughly 1 in 10 said it would be difficult to find available jobs online or fill out a job application online, use e-mail to contact or follow up with a potential employer, or look up online services that assist job seekers. The percentages were larger among those who have not attended college and those who are currently unemployed.

Dingee stressed the importance of creating a professional online profile. “A LinkedIn profile is a no-brainer,” she said. It should be detailed and users should spend time cultivating a network. “Many employers enable job seekers to submit their LinkedIn profile or a resume these days. Imagine if you’re applying from a mobile phone, which is easier to submit?” Dingee asked.

Don’t Overlook Growing Mobile and Social Opportunities

The percentages of Americans searching and applying for jobs using mobile devices and social media is the survey’s other big takeaway.

Some 28 percent of job seekers—including 53 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds—have used a smartphone as part of a job search. Among these Americans who have looked for a new job in the last two years:

  • 94 percent have used a smartphone to browse or research job listings.
  • 74 percent have used a smartphone to e-mail about a job.
  • 50 percent have used a smartphone to fill out an online job application.
  • 23 percent have used a smartphone to create a resume or cover letter.

“Mobile use will continue to change recruiting,” Dingee said. “As recruiters we have to make it easier for job seekers to find, apply for and share the jobs we have available.”

More than 1 in 3 social media users have relied on social media to research jobs and have used social media to tell friends about available jobs where they work. About 1 in 5 have applied for a job they learned about through social media, and 13 percent of social media users say information they’ve posted on social media helped them get a job.

“Younger users are especially active at utilizing these platforms for employment-related purposes, but many older users are taking advantage of social media when looking for work as well,” Smith said. “Roughly one-quarter of social media users ages 50 and older have used these platforms to look for work or to let their friends know about job openings, and 11 percent of older social media users have applied for a job they first found out about on social media.”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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