Myths of Online Job Searches

wandThere are a good number of myths regarding the job search on the Internet. Some are based in fact, some were factual at one time, some are pure myths, while others are well-intended fictional writings designed to encourage job seekers to pursue specific methods of job searching. So, let me see if I can clear up some of these myths and get you focused on effectively using the Internet in your job search. Oh…I welcome comments and debate, but bring verifiable facts along with you, as an unsubstantiated opinion of online job search (in)effectiveness is just another way of saying “myth”.

Myth #1 – 85% of jobs are obtained through networking

I’m an advocate of networking and believe it is an underutilized, very effective way of finding jobs. However, many networking advocates go so far as to tout some selective statistics found in a report from a respected executive outplacement firm published back in 2000, where they were finding that 85% of their clients were successful using networking in their job search.

While the 85% number is effective in driving home the point about the potential capabilities of job networking, I just can’t find current, reliable data to support the 85% networking statement across all job types and all job searches today. When you really dig into the details, you’ll find that the 85% (or other close numbers like 70% or 80% that are often mentioned) of jobs from networking number is 1) quoted without specific references, 2) high-salary job influenced, 3) associated with outplacement firms focusing on professionals, 4) not verifiable using publicly accessible data, and 5) researched & published prior to the online job boom that occurred around 2003-2005.  So this once limited-condition truth has been propagated into a classic job search myth.

Since there are no definitive,  nation-wide, broad-market, source-of-hire measurements available, we need to look carefully at assorted data  made available via numerous reports and resources gathered over several years. Based on modestly current surveys and research, personal networking accounts for about 30% of new-hire jobs. Even looking back to research by SHRM/EMA published in 1997, this percentage is surprisingly viable, as their report indicated about 20% of new jobs were based on referrals (a.k.a. networking).  It could be more or less, but anywhere in the 20-40% range puts networking easily in the top 1, 2 or 3 methods for finding a job. So networking should be fully utilized to improve your chance of finding a job. (Update  – check out this Right Management report from 2011 with networking at 41% in 2010 and this 2012 report by Crispin that has referrals at 27% — both much less than 85%.)

Where am I going with this? While I am a supporter of job networking, I can’t support the over-quoted, under-referenced, extremely high attribution of new jobs gained through job networking. If networking accounted for 85%, that leaves every other method (newspapers, recruiters, Internet, job fairs, broadcast, colleges, agencies, trade publications, resume distribution, etc.) to split the remaining 15%, which is entirely unrealistic and unsubstantiated.  Based on the research I’ve done, since 2005 the Internet has actually been the largest single source of jobs–networking has been a strong 2nd. So focus on networking as a key part of your strategy, but don’t let the “85% advocates” drive you away from learning how to effectively use the Internet in your search. In fact, starting your networking efforts online using is a good way of mixing networking with online searching.

Myth #2 – Only 2-4% of jobs are obtained through the Web

Myths #1 & #2 are often quoted together. The numbers on this myth come primarily from some research/reporting done in 2000 and 2002 by the Wall Street Journal (and their source is unknown). These numbers were also picked up by the “What Color is Your Parachute” book back before 2001 and have yet to be updated, even in their 2012 book.

Yes, near the turn of the millennium the 2-4% rate was probably right. But times and practices have changed!  A 2005 report by an independent employment research firm had 34% of external new-hires being sourced from the Internet. In 2006 a major consulting firm surveying large U.S. corporations identified 25% of their new hires were tapped from the Internet. A report from an industry research team found that in 2007 and 2009 about 27% and 33% (respectively) of jobs were sourced from some form of Internet site.

Now, to be clear, it does look like the number of jobs that are obtained through “job sites”, the likes of Monster, HotJobs, Indeed, USAJobs and the many other high profile boards, is only around 10-12%. The balance of the Internet jobs mostly came from places like corporate job sites, social sites, associations’ websites, Twitter, etc. So figure on putting only about 10% of your job search effort into these top job sites and look towards these other corporate, social, and niche sites for another 10% of your effort.  (As an update to this post, check out this 2011 research showing the increased effectiveness of the online job search:

Myth #3 – The big Job Boards are dying, so don’t waste your time

I attended a lecture on the future of Internet job searching and the speaker indicated the job boards were declining in relevance. OK, I can agree with that to a point. The major job boards, such as Monster and CareerBuilder are no longer the sole dominant forces in the online job search business. LinkedIn, TheLadders, SimplyHired, SnagAJob, Twitter, FaceBook, CraigsList and others Internet sites have encroached on their market and are making it more challenging for just a couple of sites to dominate the online job search market.

A significant point to be made is that corporations are choosing to spread their job postings out across a wider selection of sites. For example, according to a 2009 source-of-hiring survey, 75% of the employers surveyed indicated that they held job-posting contracts with Monster AND CareerBuilder AND LinkedIn. Thus, these large job sites are still a significant source of job postings and should be sourced often. Oh, did I mention that just these three sites accounted for about 5% of all new hires in 2009? (I don’t think they are going away before you land your next job, so use them!)

Myth #4 – Put your resume on every job site to improve your odds

There are dozens of firms that want to distribute your resume to every job site and every employer for a small fee. Is this a good idea? Actually, no. First, job seekers have a tendency to want to distribute their resumes too early…before they are well written. Second, almost every online job site is a keyword (“noun”) based system. This means that putting a weak resume with minimal keywords on a job board will result in almost no hits and thus no calls. And putting the same weak resume on 100’s of job sites will result in the same response…no calls. Third, once your resume has been distributed, it’s almost impossible to retrieve it, fix it, update it, or take it down.

I recommend a simple strategy where you put your resume on Monster or CareerBuilder and “tweak” it until it’s getting some decent traffic/hits/calls. Then take it to a few other key sites relevant to your search and see if it also gets some traffic. Once your resume is on 8-12 well trafficked, relevant “resume” sites, your results should be better than the average resume distribution service. Also, as you continue to enhance or modify your resume, you will only need to maintain it on a limited number of sites.

Bottom Line: The Internet job search is a valuable tool, not to be dismissed by the “network nay-sayers”, but also not to consume more than about 20% of your overall job searching efforts. Start with the big boards (Monster, CareerBuilder, etc.) and then expand to other high-end sites, like LinkedIn or CraigsList. Focus on getting your keywords tweaked so you are getting “hits” on your resume and then, if you aren’t getting the calls, focus on the content. Remember that networking is a key element of the job search, therefore it needs to be integrated with online networking tools and online job search methods. (Updated 10/5/2011)

A few of my Sources:
1) Press Release Newswire – May 8, 2000 from Drake Beam Morin
2) CareerXroads, Kendall Park, NJ, 2002 research paper
3) Weddles Newsletter 156, September 2005, Weddles, Inc.
4) Direct Employers Association Recruiting Trends Survey, 2/2006 (by Booz Allen Hamilton)
5) CareerXroads, “Annual Source of Hire Survey”, 5th – 2006; 8th – 2009; 9th – 2010; 10th – 2011
6) The Conference Board – Employment Trends Index – 8/2010
7) Is Internet Job Search Still Ineffective? – 2011 Kuhn (U. of Ca.) & Mansour (U. of Co.)
8) People Still Land Most Jobs Person to Person: But Job Boards, Online Networking Gain Ground – ManpowerGroup white paper – June 7, 2011

. . . .

See the Index of all my Job Hunter articles on my Backlog tab.

4 Responses to Myths of Online Job Searches

  1. missdisplaced says:

    Thanks for posting this! I don’t know where the so-called job “experts” get these numbers either but they are NOT accurate.

    I personally have found most of my jobs of the last 15 years through online postings. All but one have been from, and only ONE job was through networking [a friend worked at the company and recommended me]. In addition, I have picked up numerous part-time and freelance gigs from Craigslist. Given that track recored, I highly recommend searching online!

    I work in graphic design/marketing. Granted, my profession may be better suited for the online job search than others. In my work, it is a given that you are highly computer literate and techie. Also, I think it depends on what level you are at. The online search lends itself to lower and middle level career workers. I would not expect to find a VP or Director level job this way, naturally.

    I still value networking as a means of keeping your ear to the ground, of course, but to me, the best way to find a job is to look for a company that actually HAS an opening. You can go on all the “information” interviews you like, but unless the company is hiring or planning to hire, your chances of getting a job there are slim to none.

  2. mrl8nite says:

    Thanks, “MissDisplaced”. I too always pondered on those numbers (and I also obtained my last 2 jobs and a consulting gig through the Internet).

  3. mrl8nite says:

    I’ve been asked by a few people to provide some links to some of the articles I’ve referenced. Note that I’ve researched more than the ones I listed, but they seemed the most relevant. But for those of you that would like to see some of the data, here’s a few links to sources…

  4. Sky Lim says:

    I love your blog on Myths of Online Job Searches MrL8Nite's Job Hunter Blog. Thanks for sharing!

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