BCG: The Internet is taking over the job search process

26 January 2016

Finding a new job can be a daunting experience, requiring considerable research and well-presented applications. New research by BCG highlights that the preferred method for finding new jobs is now internet job sites, with the traditional paper-based vacancy search more often than not, the fourth most successful method. The research further finds that the length of time taken to finding a new job is correlated to a country’s economic growth, with people in regions of >2% economic growth taking on average 5 fewer weeks to find a job.

In its recently released ‘Channels, Search Time, and Income Change’ report, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) researches the key job seeker trends. The firm’s survey involved 13,000 people from 13 countries, representing around 59% of the roughly 3 billion people employed globally today. The majority of the respondents are in their 20s and 30s. A quarter (26%) of respondents has a college degree, while 74% holds a high school diploma or less. Only people seeking employment opportunities (for instance, as company employees and officers, temporary staff, and public officials) have been included.

Survey demographics

Internet search
Finding a job is a complex processes involving a wide range of factors, many of which are conditioned by local economic and political factors. According to the research findings, the way in which people seek employment within their respective ecosystems varies considerably, and is itself undergoing considerable change with respect to the past thirty to forty years.

Channels effectiveness ratings

In the past, job seeking tended to involve reading the newspaper’s vacancy section and sending through a paper application, or hearing about an opportunity through friends. The proliferation of digital channels has not only created new avenues, but also considerable changes in how many jobs are sought out today. Further changes have seen job searches become more standardised, whereby people find information and search for opportunities casually and efficiently.

Across the globe internet job sites are the most common way for people to search for employment opportunities, at 60% of those surveyed. Research by McKinsey & Company suggests that the online talent platform market will grow significantly in the coming years and come to add $2.7 trillion to the global GDP. The second most common job search method is referrals from family and friends at 59%. Direct inquiry comes in third at 50%, while papers now stand at 29%. Temping agencies come in second to last at 26%. The research also finds that 38% of respondents use only one channel in their search, and 26% use two.

Most effective channels for finding job

Search means
In terms of effectiveness in finding new positions, considerable variation exists across the countries surveyed. In the UK using internet job sites to find new employment is seen as the most effective (52%), followed by direct enquiry (10%). In Germany internet job sites are also viewed as the most effective (46%), followed by direct enquiry (27%). For Japanese work seekers the most effective way is internet job sites at 25%, closely followed by public services at 24%. In Brazil and Russia, Alumni networks are shown to be relatively effective, followed by internet job searches. In contrast however, in India family and friend referrals remain the main means of finding employment at 70%, while internet searches come in at 8%.

Duration of searches

Economic search time
The length of time taken to find a new position varies depending economic conditions, according to the researchers. The countries involved in the study were broken down into those where GDP growth comes in above 2%, and those below 2%. The average length of time taken to find a new position, in weeks, was then considered – in terms of both research period and application period.

High growth regions have a considerably lower average research and search time, at 7 weeks and 4 weeks respectively. In the US it takes an average of 13 weeks to find a new job, in the UK and Canada, 14 weeks. In India and China, where growth has been relatively strong, finding a new job takes up to 9 weeks.

For the low growth regions the average length of time to find a new position is 16 weeks, 10 for research and 6 for the applications. In France and Italy, finding a new job takes 17 weeks and 20 weeks respectively. Japan, even with low growth, outperforms the US, UK and Canada at 12 weeks.