Blue-Collar Workers More Likely to Search for Jobs on Their Smartphones

Glassdoor analysis unearths other surprising mobile technology job-search trends

By Dave Zielinski June 3, 2019
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​A new study by employer review site Glassdoor holds some surprises about the candidates who most often use mobile devices to search for jobs and the kinds of positions they're applying for.

Glassdoor analyzed the data of 12 million U.S. job seekers from April to October 2018 to understand their demographics and job-search and application patterns. The study provides a detailed look at who is searching for and applying to jobs from their mobile phones, what jobs they're most attracted to, and how candidates are impacted by the ease—or difficulty—of the online job-application process.

Not unsurprisingly, the study found that the number of job seekers across all age groups using mobile devices to search for jobs continues to grow. Almost 60 percent of Glassdoor users are now looking on their phones for jobs. But other study findings are counterintuitive and can help recruiters shape mobile communication strategies.

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Less-Educated Workers Use Mobile Job Search More

Mobile technology has infiltrated daily life in ways that no longer make having less education a barrier to using mobile devices, the study found. The percentage of job seekers using their phones to search for and apply to jobs decreases as education increases: Fifty-six percent of the study's job seekers with a high-school education used mobile devices to search for jobs, while only 42 percent of job seekers with a doctoral degree did so.

Lower-income households are more likely to use mobile devices as a substitute for personal computers, the study found. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 22 percent of the polled households where the highest level of education among its members was high school did not have broadband Internet at home—but did have smartphone access. That number dropped to 10 percent for households where the highest level of education was college or higher, according to the study.

"The diversity of candidate pools can be improved by having more mobile-friendly job application processes," said Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor. "Our research shows many workers with less formal education and from traditionally underrepresented social groups are more likely to rely primarily on mobile devices to find jobs."

Blue-Collar Jobs Are Most Attractive

A common perception is that most who search for jobs with mobile devices are in technical or high-income occupations, such as software engineers or financial professionals. But the Glassdoor study found that most people using mobile phones to search for jobs are in occupations, industries and regions in which the nature of work requires time away from a computer, primarily blue-collar jobs. The roles for which job seekers are least likely to use a mobile phone tend to have high salaries, the study found.

The takeaway is that recruiters in some industries have more incentive to attract job seekers via mobile communications and ensure their application process is as user-friendly as possible on mobile devices.

Mobile usage varied dramatically across industries in the study. In food services, 64.9 percent of job seekers use mobile devices, while in media companies, only 43.2 percent of job seekers use them. Other industries with high concentrations of mobile job seekers include transportation (63.1 percent) and retail (60.2 percent). Conversely, industries with the least-mobile job seekers include accounting and legal (47.2 percent), biotech and pharmaceuticals (47.3 percent), and software development (35.3 percent).

How mobile devices are used reflects the nature of work in industries. Drivers in the transportation industry are unlikely to be at a desktop computer or even have access to one while on the job. However, an accountant or attorney is more likely to be working at a desk and near a computer.

Midcareer Workers Most Likely to Use Mobile Search

Conventional wisdom holds that most people who use smartphones and tablets to search for jobs are of younger generations. But the Glassdoor study found that the relationship between age and mobile usage in a job search is not that straightforward.

The use of mobile devices peaked in the 35-to-44-year-olds age group at 55 percent, dropping to a low of 44 percent at both ends of the age spectrum, or those job seekers between 18 and 24 years old and over age 65. The study found that Generation Z and Millennial workers use their smartphones less than their Generation X counterparts when searching for jobs.

The study also found that while younger job seekers are more likely to use mobile phones, older generations have higher tablet usage. That's attributed in part to tablets such as iPads having larger screens and easy-to-use interfaces.

Mobile Job Seekers Suffer More in the Application Process

Mobile job seekers on average successfully complete 53 percent fewer applications and take 80 percent longer to complete each application than those applying through other avenues, the study found. As a result, employers with difficult mobile job-application processes deter many potential applicants.

Reducing the time needed to complete an online job application by 10 percent is associated with a 2.3 percent increase in job applications from mobile job seekers and a 1.5 percent increase in applications from job seekers using desktop computers, according to the study.

Given the difficulty of using mobile devices for tasks such as attaching documents or responding to questions, combined with the lack of mobile optimization of some applicant tracking systems, that mobile job seekers face more hurdles when applying to jobs than desktop computer users is not surprising, the study's authors wrote.

"If you continue to provide a slow or difficult mobile apply process, you are limiting the number of people who will apply, especially for entry-level and blue-collar jobs," said Chris Russell, managing director of RecTech Media, a recruiting technology consulting and research firm in Trumbull, Conn. "These types of candidates should only be asked to enter their basic contact info, upload a resume and that's it. Don't make them create an account or do an assessment. On mobile, speed is the key to filling your recruiting top-of-funnel."

The study also found that promoting a job as mobile-friendly increases the number of applications started for that job by 11.6 percent.

Dave Zielinski is a freelance business writer and editor in Minneapolis.

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