Ask any recruiter the strangest things candidates have done to get their attention, and you might hear about the giant cookie with a company’s name on it in frosting. Or the time when a candidate bought a recruiters name as a Google ad, so if he searched his own name, the candidates job request topped the search list…. Click here to read the full article
66% of baby boomer workers expect to work past age 65, and occupational shortages are opening up opportunities for older workers. To overcome stereotypes, experts like Dr. Steven Lindner, partner here at The WorkPlace Group, recommend playing up your relevant experience for the job you are competing for and show you are tech savvy (specific guidance for employers, recruiters and job seekers are provided: read the full report here). Meanwhile, the top predictor of candidates selected for interviews are those with the most relevant, current and continual work experience.
America has a “Talent Crunch,” and it effects employers in just about every industry across occupations, both white collar and blue.
For the 74th consecutive month, the U.S. economy has reported gains in jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s December Jobs Report. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate is at a nine-year low of 4.6%, which is considered at or below full employment.
Currently, there are more job openings for skilled positions than there are job seekers. This has created a Talent Crunch that is frustrating employers.
There are strong indicators that 2017 will be a banner year for companies and workers… Click here to read the full article
In part I, Job Seeker Use of Job Searching Channels, we discussed the need to dig deeper and critically evaluate the specific story that is told by particular findings from different surveys seeking to understand the sources most frequently used by job seekers in their job search. We discussed how LinkedIn’s approach at getting at the “initial source” of hire was a meaningful step forward in this type of survey research. LinkedIn’s approach highlights the fact that different sources carry different relevance and importance to candidates, depending on the stage of their job seeking journey.
“Snackable” content is great when you are in a hurry but, like fast food, it’s also highly processed and probably not the greatest choice for nourishment. Putting it another way, we trust survey authors/sponsors to draw the right conclusions from a large amount of data and provide us with the 5-second headline about what does that mean in practice. More often than not, they are accurate in distilling that information. Sometimes, though, they may miss alternative explanations that may underpin the survey findings. Unless we take the time to closely examine the data upon which those inferences are based, we would never know.
Let’s take, for example, LinkedIn’s conclusion, based on their findings, that generational differences in the sources used by job seekers is a result of the degree of comfort each generation has with technology. Is a candidate’s comfort level with technology the only possible explanation for those findings?
A Question of Age or Stage?
We found LinkedIn’s survey1 particularly interesting because it not only reported “first awareness” job source for the overall sample, but also segmented the results by generation.
The sources that appear in the overall sample results make intuitive sense – we typically first learn about job opportunities by either searching the marketplace via job boards or job aggregators or by hearing about it from others, be it referrals, recruiters, or professional networks. Where things start to get interesting with LinkedIn’s results is when we look at generational differences in terms of how they first learn about the new job.
As one would expect, different generations reported initially becoming aware of their new (current) position via different sourcing channels. Below are the sourcing channels each of the three generations was more likely to cite, compared to the overall average:
- Millennials: Located it on third party website or online job boards
- Generation X: A third party recruiter / headhunter / staffing firm contacted them
- Baby Boomers: Heard about it from someone they knew at their new employer
LinkedIn’s report highlights those findings by drawing the conclusions that “Younger professionals are the most comfortable using online career channels.”
Let’s look for a moment at the results from another survey, conducted by CareerBuilder in 20154. This survey, among other things, investigated candidate behavior during the “orientation” phase of a job search (i.e., when a candidate first starts to look for a new opportunity). CareerBuilder’s survey shows that all generations tend to use similar tactics during the orientation phase. All generations search for jobs on major search engines, network with colleagues, family and friends, and visit job boards to assess the market.
Below we show CareerBuilder’s findings about candidates’ reported use of the online channels that correspond to the ones in LinkedIn’s survey:
|Generation||Rate of Google Search Use||Rate of Job Board use|
Although Boomers report using online channels at a lower rate, their difference from the other two generations is not of a magnitude that would support a definitive argument that one generation is more comfortable with online career channels than another.
In light of this additional data, let’s pause for a second and ask ourselves the following questions:
- Are those findings really suggesting that the three generations have a different comfort level with online job seeking resources?
- Or is there something other than “comfort with online career channels” that may help explain the difference in how candidates from each of the three generations first hear about a new opportunity?
Based on our experience, we believe these findings have more to do with where candidates are in terms of their career stage and less with their comfort level with online job channels. Candidates who are in their 50s are clearly at a different stage in their career and life than candidates who are in their 20s, 30s, or 40s.
Based on Donald E. Super’s life-span career development theory, we can reasonably expect the three generations to be, on average, at different stages of their careers2; namely:
- Millennials: They are at a point in their lives where they are attempting to understand themselves, their vocational preferences, and find their place in the world of work (they are in what Super refers to as the Exploration phase). The older members of this generation have probably progressed to where choices are narrowed but not finalized, or are at the early phases of the next career stage, which Super refers to as the Establishment stage.
- Generation X: They are well into the Establishment stage of their career. Having gained an appropriate position in their chosen field of work, they strive to secure their position and advance to new levels of responsibility. The older members of this generation are moving toward and working on what Super refers to as Maintenance stage of their career.
- Boomers: They are working on the Maintenance stage, where the main career-related developmental tasks are comprised of holding on, keeping up, and innovating.
If we consider the different career development stages that each generation is expected to be traversing at the time, the sourcing channels through which they initially become aware of their new (current) position makes logical sense. The Millennials, being the most recent entrants in the workforce, still evaluating their options before committing to a chosen profession, and not having deep or wide established professional networks, cast the widest and quickest net to explore the available opportunities in the marketplace. As such, Google searches, job aggregators, and online job boards are perfect job sourcing channel for this group.
Baby Boomers, on the other hand, have been “around the block” of work, as the expression goes. They’ve established themselves in their chosen profession, know where they want (or don’t want to be) and have, by now, an expanded and strong social support network of family, friends, co-workers/ex-coworkers, bosses/ex-bosses, and professional colleagues and acquaintances that new opportunities quickly reach them (whether they solicit them or not).
Finally, for us, the result regarding Generation X, was the most intriguing. Those are individuals who have chosen a profession and have at least 7-10 years of related experience in their field. For them, it is a time for stabilizing, consolidating, building momentum, and moving up. At the same time, if they are relatively content with their current employer and how they expect their career to progress within the confines of that company, they are less likely to be actively looking to jump ship. When one considers the profile of the professionals who comprise the Generation X milieu and the searches that companies tend to farm out to third-party providers, the fact that Gen Xers are more likely to cite that a third party recruiter/headhunter/staffing firm was how they first learned about the new opportunity comes as no surprise.
So What? Practical Implications of the 2-Part Armchair Conversation
Surveys are a great way to gain insight into job seeker behavior. Each resultant statistic tells us a story about how candidates go after finding a new job. We then take that newly acquired (or updated) knowledge about job seeker behavior and we translate it into best talent acquisition, selection, and hiring practices. For example, corporate career sites matter – the stories told by multiple surveys in 2015 drive that moral home. Same with job postings on job boards or job aggregators. But are those channels equally effective for reaching all job seekers regardless of age or where they are in their career stage?
LinkedIn’s survey and the comparison of its findings with other similar surveys points to the fact that job seeker behavior is not that simple, linear, or unified. Understanding the complexity of the job seeker behavior and what job search channels, branding messages, etc. carry meaning and relevance for job seekers at different moments in their career and at different stages on their job search journey will only help us run more effective talent acquisition, selection, and hiring operations.
1 Why & How People Change Jobs. LinkedIn Talent Solutions, 2015
There is no doubt – we live in a data-driven world. We crave metrics and data points that can shape our practices, and there is certainly no shortage on survey results that can guide our strategies. But we are turning into a nation of “snackable” content. In and of itself, snackable content is not bad, as it allows us to consume a huge amount of information in a short amount of time. The question (and the potential pitfall) is what happens after we consume those tasty morsels of data. If the “stat-du-jour” prompts us to read more in-depth surveys yielding the same statistic and we understand the limitations, generalizations, and inferences being told by the results, then we are on solid ground. If, on the other hand, we latch onto that statistic and it’s that statistic alone that shapes what we do, we may find ourselves on shakier ground.
Multiple Surveys, Little Stats on Job Seekers’ Use of Job Search Channels
In our data-driven world there are multiple surveys conducted each year on the same (or very similar) concepts.
As professionals working in the talent acquisition space, we constantly scan the environment for data points that will allow us to acquire talent better and faster. If you monitor that space, you are probably not surprised by the data bytes that come out of those surveys. But how many of us actually have the time to pull the reports for each of those surveys, thoroughly read the results, and compare their findings?
Since “data bytes” from each of those surveys hit us at different times, we tend to take them at face value and process them as discrete pieces of information. If it intuitively makes sense to us and it does not blatantly contradict either our experience or past survey results, there is rarely a need to compare findings. But sometimes a finding (or the absence of a finding) makes us raise a quizzical eyebrow.
Recently we had one of those eyebrow-raising moments that gave us reason to pause and, as quantitative psychologists, we formulated some hypotheses for what we were seeing in the results. We then looked at findings from multiple surveys that addressed the question of how job seekers find their next job.
Two hypotheses were confirmed:
(1) how you ask a question matters, and
(2) the quality of the question asked moderates the conclusions drawn.
What’s in a Question? The “how you ask” matters as much as the “what you ask.”
Earlier this year, LinkedIn published a report,Why & How People Change Jobs1, based on a survey of individuals who changed employers in 2014. No surprise that LinkedIn, like most job seeker surveys, asked the ubiquitous question regarding “candidate source.” What did take us by (admittedly pleasant) surprise is that they asked it in a way that we believe is more meaningful and insightful than the typical job seeker survey.
In reviewing other surveys, we have always been perplexed by the omnipresence of corporate career websites on the “Top” list of sources reported by candidates. In our experience with recruiting tens of thousands of candidates on an annual basis, we have found that corporate web sites become much more important to a job seeker once they become aware of an opportunity that they want to vet further (or they like what they hear about a company’s employer brand and they want to explore what other opportunities the company may have available). Practice tells us that this indeed is true, but most survey results told us otherwise – at least until the LinkedIn survey results were released.
To demonstrate the point, let’s look at the “Top 3” sources reported by three 2015 surveys that captured candidate source, along with the essence of the question they used to elicit candidates’ responses.
Actions taken by job seekers to find a job six months prior to being hired
– Visited an online job site (49%)
Sources that would be most important to job seekers if they were job hunting
– Company website (67%)
|CareerBuilder4||Approach taken when searching and applying for jobs
– Look at companies’ websites for careers page (42%)
Now let’s look at LinkedIn’s “Top 3” Sources
Where a job seeker first read, saw or heard about the new (current) job
– Referrals/someone they knew
What’s missing from LinkedIn’s “Top 3” list – If you answered “corporate career website,” you are absolutely correct!
Are LinkedIn’s results flawed? Was their sample not representative of the typical candidate? Did they miscode their data? Did something go wrong with how they ran their analyses? We all know how critical corporate career websites are in the attraction and recruitment of candidates. How can they be absent from LinkedIn’s list?
Such an omission may come as a surprise, but, from a methodological standpoint, it makes absolute sense! The most likely reason corporate career websites did not make it on their “top” list has to do with the way they framed the question in their survey. They asked “How did you first read, see, or hear about the new job opportunity (your current position)?”
LinkedIn’s question is substantively different from the ones used in the other three surveys. It did not simply ask candidates, in a general way, about the source of their new job. It asked candidates to reflect and report the source that made them initially aware of their current position. LinkedIn asked “How did you first read, see, or hear about the new job opportunity? This added specificity in how they asked candidates about the source. As it turns out, how you ask a question does make a difference!
Now LinkedIn’s findings start to make more sense. Like we have written before in Source of Hire: Capturing both the chicken and the egg, it is rare that a candidate comes to learn, apply, and get hired because of a singular source. Throughout a candidate’s job-seeking journey there are multiple stimuli that either cause candidates to be attracted to a job and/or a company or cause them to self-select out from pursuing an opportunity with a company.
In our work, we know that most job search channels have value in candidate acquisition. We also know that job search channels differ in relevance and importance to a candidate, depending on where the candidate is in his/her job search process.
Corporate web sites are hugely important in candidate acquisition, but they are probably not as critical and important in the initial stages of a candidate’s job seeking journey. The reality is that most job seekers do not start their exploration of the job market by solely targeting specific companies (at least not to the exclusion of other sources). As such, LinkedIn’s results and the glaring absence of corporate career websites from their findings makes good sense to us.
The Moral of the Story
So what are the key “take-aways” from looking at the results from the various surveys about the most frequently reported sources used by candidates in their job search?
- It’s very helpful to compare data from different sources and critically evaluate the story that is being told by each survey’s findings. In our hectic work lives, we tend to scan through the avalanche of data that hits our desks, laptops, mobile devices, etc., grab the data points relevant to our work, and use them to guide what we do in talent acquisition. (It’s no surprise that we all love infographics!) But unless we take the time to fully understand what that data is telling us by examining what is the specific question they are trying to answer, we may be led astray in our talent acquisition strategies and investments.
- LinkedIn’s findings poignantly remind us that not all sources are equally relevant and/or effective in reaching and attracting candidates at different times of their job search journey. Certain sources are better at “spreading the word” about our job openings, while others are more critical in convincing intrigued candidates to move forward with actually applying to a position or continuing with their candidacy.
Nice job, LinkedIn, on asking a really well-crafted question that yielded some interesting results. But life is never all good or bad, black or white In part II, we will be discussing the merits of a conclusion reached by LinkedIn on the basis of their findings regarding generational differences.
1 Why & How People Change Jobs. LinkedIn Talent Solutions, 2015
2 Talent Attraction Study: What Matters to the Modern Candidate. Indeed, 2015
3 Job Search: The Candidate’s Perspective. Silkroad, 2015
4 2015 Candidate Behavior Study. CareerBuilder, 2015.