Jeff Dickey-Chasins aka "The Job Board Doctor", Editorial Advisory Board

Jeff Dickey-Chasins aka “The Job Board Doctor”, Member Editorial Advisory Board

Anecdotal evidence often seems to sway our decisions more than actual real data. It seems to be part of the human wiring – knowing someone who knows someone who did something is just more persuasive than analyzing responses from 400 people about the same thing.

What we think we know about job seeker behavior is a perfect example. Every recruiter, HR professional, job board operator, and staffing executive can trot out story after story of how job seekers behave – usually in service to their particular point of view. I’m guilty of this myself! But as a data-driven marketer, I have been surprised too many times by ‘real data’ to trust anecdotal evidence. I want data – and lots of it.

That’s why I (in combination with eHarmony and conducted a survey of 1,276 job seekers this fall to determine what they actually do in the process of looking for work: how do they use mobile devices? Do they really rely on social media? How do they really use job boards? Some of the results will probably line up with your expectations – but others may not.

The respondents were broken into two general groups. The first, which I call ‘random’, were from a USamp survey population of 1001 respondents between the ages of 20 and 60 – no other criteria were applied. The second, which I call ‘active seekers’, were 275 self-selected respondents drawn primarily from users of, a popular career resource site.

So, what did we discover?

Usage of job search tools

Active seekers used job search tools such as job search engines (74%), career sites (70%), job boards (67%), professional networks (67%), and social media (65%) at much higher rates than did the random respondents – in some cases, at twice the usage rate. Perhaps this would be expected, as active seekers are more educated about the opportunities – but it also illustrates that the general job seeker population is relatively uneducated about the online resources available to them in a job hunt.

Computers vs. mobile

Another area we focused on was the use of computer technology. For both sets of respondents, desktops and laptops remain most heavily used for creating a resume or profile (65%), and applying for jobs (67%). Cell phones and tablets – although used at a much lower level – were used to search for jobs (42%) and research employers (32%). I suspect the mobile device behavior will change as the technological issues surrounding applying for a job are surmounted.

Job board issues

When we asked active seekers how they used job boards, 86% said they located a job on the job board, but then applied for the job on an employer site. An impressive 76% said they used the job board to identify employers in their profession. Similar results came from the random respondents, with 67% using the job board to research jobs. The fact that so many respondents apply for jobs directly on an employer site – even though the job was originally found on the job board – could be problematic for the job board.

Social media

The biggest difference we saw between the two response groups came in their answers to social media usage during a job search. Active seekers overwhelmingly used LinkedIn (93%), with Twitter and Facebook usage much lower (38%). Google+ came in at a surprising 29%, given its relatively profile in the HR and recruiting press as a job search tool.

Random respondents relied on Facebook (57%) as their top social media job search choice. LinkedIn and Google+ followed at 36% each.

Why the disparity between the two groups? I suspect that although LinkedIn seems omnipresent for those of us in the recruiting industry, in the greater world it still runs a distant second in visibility to Facebook. I expect LinkedIn to continue making inroads, but it has a long way to go.

Attitude check

We also asked respondents to pick the words they thought best described each category of online recruiting service.  The results were, um, interesting. The top 4 are listed, in order:

Generalist job boards (Monster, etc.): ‘untargeted’, ‘valuable’, ‘overwhelming’, ‘worthless’

Niche job boards (Dice, etc.): ‘targeted’, ‘valuable’, ‘professional’, ‘worthless’

Social recruiting (LinkedIn, etc.): ‘professional’, ‘essential’, ‘valuable’, ‘efficient’

Aggregators (Indeed, etc.): ‘valuable’, ‘efficient’, ‘essential’, ‘untargeted’

So what to make of this? Certainly, it seems that general job boards have a bit of an image problem (3 out of the 4 terms were negative). It also seems that LinkedIn is viewed as the ‘professional’ site. This is a new question for the survey, so tracking attitudes in the coming years will certainly reveal more.

Final thoughts

Job seekers who know more about looking for work use online resources more heavily – as much as twice the rate as the general population. So for those in the online recruiting industry, it’s critical to have an active outreach effort that focusing on educating job seekers. I’m not talking about a marketing campaign – instead, we should be doing what we can to show job seekers how they can conduct more sophisticated and successful searches. Sites like do an excellent job of this – but they only reach a fraction of the population.

Why should we care if job seekers are educated? Simple – the more they know, the more they use online recruiting services. That means more successful hires, more revenues for providers, and more satisfied employers and job seekers.

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