There are many “urban legends” about job search—common beliefs that are not supported by evidence. Among the job search myths I’ve heard repeatedly over the years are that most people can find work through headhunters and job search Websites. Another common belief is that many of us will land at large companies. Dr. Dawn Graham’s book, Switchers, that we discussed last week reminded me of some of these ideas. Specifically, some relevant statistics she mentions include;
- Chances of finding a job through a headhunter are about .0035%.
- Headhunters fill only 6% of all jobs,
- Businesses that employ 500 or fewer workers account for around 99% of American companies,
- Nearly two-thirds of new jobs are being generated by small businesses, and
- About 20% of jobs on large Websites pay less than $50,000 per year.
Now, if you have had great results by working with executive recruiters, or if you consistently get work through job search websites, you may not need to change your strategy. Everyone has a unique situation. Statistics offer perspective, but as we are told on TV, “your results may vary.”
You are unlikely to land a job through a headhunter.
The first job search effort I made just before final exams during my senior year at college was to visit every executive recruiter table at a job fair. There, I handed each one my resume and made my pitch. The week after finals, as my parents and I packed up my dorm, I anxiously called every recruiter that gave me a card at the fair. Everyone either said they had nothing for me or did not return my calls at all.
Now that I have a better understanding of what executive recruiters, often called headhunters, do, I am not sure why they were at the job fair. That’s because, according to the “Ask the Headhunter” blog, employers hire them to find people qualified for hard-to-fill senior leadership and technical positions. Ask the Headhunter says headhunters won’t return your calls, or will lose interest quickly if you are not an exact match for a job they are filling right now.
Headhunters are not necessarily career coaches or HR professionals because the job is primarily a sales role. They search for qualified people—many of whom are not active jobseekers—to fill their job orders. While at least two recruiters that I speak with or exchange messages with from time-to-time are qualified coaches or have HR credentials, Dr. Graham characterizes headhunters as “salespeople” in her book.
Our suggestion, then, is to devote only a small percentage of your job search time to contacting headhunters unless you are a senior leader or a technical specialist with a rare skillset. The probability of landing a job through a headhunter appears to be less than 1 in 25,000 so, for most of us, it will be more productive to expend our job search time elsewhere.
Most jobs are at smaller businesses.
Much of the noise we hear is about jobs with big companies. But the numbers show that the vast majority of employers are not large companies. The majority of new jobs are not with large companies either. A small business blog supports Dr. Graham’s statement that about 99% of US companies employ 500 or fewer people. Those companies, furthermore, are generating around two-thirds of new jobs in our economy.
These statistics have implications for your job search. Whether you are a new grad seeking work through a college career office, a potential career changer, military veteran, or a downsized worker looking for jobs through a public employment program, you may want to look beyond the large companies that are actively recruiting. Smaller companies may benefit from your skills and experience but they may not have the resources to recruit.
We do not have statistics on the percentage of small companies that recruit through the large online job sites. Advertising costs money smaller employers may not have. As a result, you may see a lower number of small business jobs on these sites, although sites such as Indeed are marketing to smaller businesses on local radio.
In other words, you’ll have to use your network on LinkedIn and elsewhere to find the employers and jobs you want to work at.
The best-paying jobs may not be “on the boards.”
Dr. Graham pointed out in her book that about two out of ten jobs on the major job sites pay less than $50,000 per year. This is not even an entry-level college-graduate salary in some high-cost cities and high-demand occupations. Additionally, clients have told me that the calls they receive as a result of uploading their resume to popular job sites are largely from employers recruiting for commission-only sales jobs. Even worse, certain job sites seem to advertise scams targeting low-wage workers.
Coaches like to say “you miss 100% of the shots you do not take” so do not ignore executive recruiters and heavily promoted job search websites entirely. Just recognize that they are there to serve employers—not you—and limit the time you spend on them.