How People Find a Job

Pursuing your next career venture can provoke conflicting emotions: apprehension, excitement, trumspringa ... but at least there's no doubt over how you're going to find your next role. Well, there wasn't, but the deluge of job boards, agencies and InMail means you're now leading the job hunt with all the tact of an inexperienced sherpa.

We were curious to see what services and tools people most commonly use when changing employers. With this in mind, we went straight to the candidates themselves to ascertain exactly how people find a job. 

So what did our candidates say?

Our candidates said lots of things probably, but our cup on a string is pretty ineffective and it's always unmanned at lunchtime. Fortunately, we've moved into the digital age and with an infinite network of candidates at our fingertips, we were able to cast our net far and wide and attract the response of people from all professions and backgrounds.

One thing that stood out amongst all else, was the popularity of recruitment agencies. Now while we weren't altogether surprised to see agencies top the list, the chasm between this and other methods was a little less expected. When compared to the other main resources used for finding work, staffing consultancies unanimously came out on top for both preference and actual use. In fact, nine out of ten respondents stated they will use an agency, with more than half of these declaring it as their preference. 

Social media, networking and job centres all saw similar numbers, however applying directly to an employer topped the DIY league table and overtook job boards since we carried out the same survey in 2013. 

Another statistic of note, is the conversely less favourable opinion that people have towards job boards. Job boards are usually seen as a go to option for hopeful candidates, but our survey suggests that these advertising platforms aren't delivering the experience that they desire. Despite this, almost three times as many people use them than favour them, suggesting that they must still be valued as a recruitment channel. 

While these may just be the headlines, what factors influenced our results and are there any areas for improvement?

Why use a recruitment agency?

Our data possibly threw up as many questions as it answered (blog writing gold), but it was clear to see what avenue our candidates most commonly pursued when looking for their next pay cheque: RECRUITMENT AGENCIES. 

What does this really tell us about our job hunting preferences though? Is it the personal touch we look for? Or do we like the feeling of having an expert in our corner?  As it turns out, it's the combination of a number of factors. 

Recruitment agencies are seen as providing a range of benefits but it's the access to connections that is viewed by candidates as their main asset. One of the key roles of a consultant is to develop an effective network of industry contacts and those on the lookout for new opportunities will hope to gain access to this wealth of employers. 

These connections, both physical and virtual, afford recruiters a strong position in the marketplace and enables the candidates they represent to be put in touch with senior hiring managers and executives. Social media has only enhanced this process, with the average UK recruiter having over 900 LinkedIn connections. 

Having a point of contact keeps you in the loop and developing a working relationship with a consultant means you're more likely to receive staffing solutions that are relevant to you.

Even though access to industry contacts was the overwhelming reason for agency use in our supporting survey, the personal approach is still a deciding factor for a quarter of candidates. This isn't altogether surprising when we consider that the other methods of job hunting mirror the same experience of a self service checkout. 

When using an agency, you will typically be appointed an account manager who will be responsible for helping you find your next job. They will talk to you, prepare you for company interviews and guide you through the entire process. Having a point of contact keeps you in the loop and developing a working relationship with a consultant means you're more likely to receive staffing solutions that are relevant to you. This shared accountability relieves some of the job hunt pressure and is clearly favoured by the inexperienced and 9-to-5 veterans alike.

Interestingly, valued added services are seldom considered before contacting a recruiting firm. CV writing, interview tips and career counselling are additional function that an agency may deliver, however their inability to lead directly to a job makes them a largely underappreciated feature of the agency process.

What role do job boards really play?

Although job boards could have ranked better in our survey, the data is doing them an injustice. While there's no doubt our candidates were hardly singing their praises, it's perhaps worth acknowledging who stands to benefit the most from these services. Despite the fact that over a third of candidates have admitted to using job sites, employers are arguably the ones most likely to see the real value. 

What is a job board and why do employees use them?

A job board essentially acts as a hosting site for vacancies and enables employers to manage the entire process from uploading adverts to scrutinising CVs. Though little has changed from the pre-millennium model, these virtual bulletin boards have remained a key resource when looking to attract a high volume of candidate response (ideal for temporary or high turnover positions!).

Due to the amount of traffic online job boards are able to generate (just search for 'jobs' and see) employers can rely on a steady stream of approaches for a relatively low cost. As a result, this simplified advertising process has for a long time played a significant role in the recruitment campaigns of many. 

Similarly, niche offerings are beginning to prove their worth as organisations try and offset the skill gap that becomes so apparent when using their traditional counterparts. Although industry specific job boards can't guarantee the same level of traffic as generic services, they tend to only attract candidates with relevant experience and expertise. This can save time, money and frustration when assessing applicants. In fact, candidates are also more likely to land a suitable role as there is less competition (in terms of numbers at least) and their pertinent skills will be greater appreciated. 

Why are job boards failing candidates (if indeed they are)?

So while job sites might be better suited to employers, it's a two way process and in order to determine why candidates suggested that they may be underperforming, it might be worth analysing the process of using one. 

When candidates use an agency or apply for a role directly through an employer, there's usually a definite response, whether good or bad. Even if you've been rejected for a position, not receiving any reply is arguably worse and this could be the reason why job boards have garnered a less than impressive reputation amongst job hunters. 

When candidates use an agency or apply for a role directly through an employer, there's usually a definite response, whether good or bad.

Job boards inadvertently create an employment limbo; a click and wait system that doesn't guarantee an acknowledgement, let alone a decision. A scenario where it's just you and a computer screen leads to a process with no transparency, no accountability and certainly no promises. Although no method offers 100% success, it appears that those platforms that are more 'involved' garner the greatest satisfaction among users. People like to feel cared about / for and this is something that a job board currently doesn't offer.

Can job boards be improved?

Perhaps it isn't the job boards that are failing candidates though, but rather the employers who use them. Once an employer has found the right person for the job, they're likely to disengage with the process entirely, leaving the failed applicants in the dark with their fading hope.

Auto replies, though insincere, could potentially offer some light for those that didn't make the grade. With such a high rate of response it can be an arduous task for employers to reply to the rejected 99.9%, and this can unfortunately reflect badly upon their business. 

Once an employer has found the right person for the job, they're likely to disengage with the process entirely, leaving the failed applicants in the dark with their fading hope.

How you recruit staff plays a part in building a brand and consistently creating a poor experience for candidates could discourage potential stars from applying in future. Although it can't really replace a personal touch, a 'send to all' approach would at least offer a time saving alternative to tie up all loose ends. Sure, it will be of little consolation to the applicants, but at least the only grievance will be about the rejection, not with the company itself.

Social media recruitment

With the popularity of social media, it is perhaps surprising to see that only 5% of our respondents admitted to this being their favoured method of job hunting (although nearly a third of them will use it). Getting your next job through little more than a hashtag seems the perfect scenario, but it seems that there's a failing somewhere in the system.

A 2014 UKCES report shows that only 7% of employers use social media to recruit staff directly (this doesn't include candidate stalking). While this has more than doubled since 2012 and is expected to see continued growth, it's apparent that social media recruitment strategies are being underutilised when hiring. 

More than half of the UK has at least one social media account, with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn dominating our online presences. Although some networks are better suited to recruitment than others, the effectiveness of this method seems disproportionate to the number of users. 

Is social media effective as a recruitment tool?

Is it candidates or employers that are failing the process though? Or is it just that the platforms aren't fit for this particular purpose?

According to a Bullhorn study, as shown by this Statista chart, LinkedIn was the most commonly utilised network when looking for work, however the low level of response would suggest that the demand for social recruiting just might not be there from candidates. LinkedIn attracted an average of 2.7 applications per UK job post, and while this is more than Facebook and Twitter, the low rate of engagement is less than what you would typically find on a job board.

LinkedIn and Twitter

LinkedIn is the social network with an education (no Magaluf photos here), and of all the platforms, the most suited to helping candidates connect with the right employers. While I have no doubt that 75% of your LinkedIn circle might as well be fictional, the potential is certainly there to find opportunities that wouldn't be accessible through traditional methods. 

The 'professional network' aspires to be the host of all vacancies and is currently home to 3 million active job listings, a number that is growing year on year. However, with just an average of under 3 applications per advert, it would appear that it's the candidates rather than the employers who are neglecting social media as a means of finding work. 

Another point of note from this data is that the UK was the only country where Twitter outperformed Facebook for job applications. Twitter, although useful as an information aggregator, is better known for its succinctness as opposed to its ability to make career changing choices. Despite this, more than half of all social media job postings appear on the network, with employers reporting a view to application conversion rate of 22%.

Regardless, social media isn't causing the recruitment revolution that was anticipated (as of yet) and candidates would rather keep the lines between personal and professional distinctly clear. 

So what have we learned? 

Recruitment requires a multifaceted approach, but what else have learned from our candidate survey?
  • A recruitment agency is the most popular method of a finding a job. Although the personal and knowledgeable approach makes contributes towards this view, it's the access to industry contacts that candidates value most before contacting a recruiter.
  • Job boards, regardless of their shortcomings, are still a common feature in the recruitment process and a valuable tool for employers. Likewise, candidates are still finding some worth in vacancy sites and niche services in particular are beginning to refine this process. 
  • Conversely, social media is currently failing to reach its much hyped potential as a recruitment channel, but still has the capabilities to become an effective recruitment tool. 65% of employers predict that they will increase their social media spending over the next five years, while 92% of companies already incorporate at least one platform into their recruitment campaigns. 

While no method can promise employment, combining multiple techniques will optimise the chances of finding work. Though some tools may involve more hand holding than others, candidates still need the drive to succeed and can't just expect that letter from Hogwarts to drop through the door.
Thanks goes to Theresa Oxide and Luke Todd for contributing information towards the process of using a recruitment agency.