The most important news story for some of us this week was the growing lottery prize. Reporters were interviewing ticket buyers and asking them for their plans to spend the winnings.
Of course, the chances that any ticket-buyer would win were infinitesimal. A friend of mine once described the lottery as “voluntary taxation.”
Some jobseekers treat their search as a lottery. Richard Nelson Bolles’ classic book “What Color is Your Parachute” estimated back in 1994 (based on my memory) that you would need to send out about 1800 random resumes to land one job. A client tried the experiment in 1998 and verified these numbers.
A recent book, Dr. Dawn Graham’s “Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success” offers more recent statistics, mainly in chapter 7 and Chapter 8. A few of her numbers include:
- About 20% of jobseekers find roles through major Web job boards,
- Only 20% of open jobs are advertised,
- Decision-makers spend 6 seconds looking at each resume,
- Networking contacts are the source for 70% of jobs,
- Jobs posted online receive an average of 200 resumes, and
- Company applicant tracking systems, known as ATS systems, screen out 75% of the resumes they receive.
Nearly all large employers, and many smaller ones, accept applications online so at first glance it would appear that online job search is way to find a job. The numbers suggest we need a more nuanced approach to be successful.
Major job boards account for about 20% of jobs found.
The first thing many of us do when we start a job search is to upload our resume to job sites such as Monster, CareerBuilder, or Indeed. Employers then store the electronic resumes they receive in large databases and presumably search these systems for job candidates that meet their hiring needs. Some experts have even predicted that, within the decade, hiring managers will scour the internet for talent without looking at resumes or speaking with people. But, according to most sources, including Dr. Graham’s book, a majority of open jobs are filled through networking, and not through database searches.
It may surprise you that, despite the revolution in online recruiting and hiring, networking is still so important. The reason is simple. People hire people. So, even if the hiring team finds you in their ATS system, they are more likely to hire you if a team member, or someone they know recommends you.
You have to make contact with people, and not just software, to get hired.
Only 20% of open jobs are advertised.
We often hear that employers feel obligated to publicly post all jobs for a variety of compliance and legal reasons. Yet, there seems to be wide agreement that about 80% of open jobs are not advertised.
Both statements can be correct. Employers may decide who they intend to hire, and then post the job to satisfy legal requirements. In other words, the job is not open by the time the employer announces it publicly.
For example, about nine years ago I applied for a career advising job at a college. A consultant in the career office appears to have been pre-selected for the role, yet the school announced the job, screened 294 resumes, interviewed 13 candidates via Skype, and then had three of us come to campus and do presentations before the committee hired their pre-selected candidate.
Most of the time, we won’t find out about such charades. It happens often, so we need to find out about jobs before they are advertised. Then, we could be the pre-selected candidate.
Decision-makers spend six seconds looking at each resume.
It probably surprises you that research shows hiring team members spend just a few seconds looking at each resume because we have been told resumes have to be perfect. Both are true. Hiring managers have a lot of resumes to look at, even after automated screening, so the review has to be very fast. Most of us have also noticed that errors on a document can pop out at us even during a fast scan, so the resume has to be done correctly. Once you’ve made it through initial screenings, the resume will get more detailed scrutiny.
Networking contacts are the source for filling 70% of jobs.
Dr. Graham quotes the figure that networks of personal and professional contacts are the source for 70% of all jobs. This figure may seem high for those of us that expect to find jobs online (and we have already said this is usually not the case), the estimates I’ve seen have consistently ranged from 70% to 80% since at least 1980.
Regardless of the exact numbers, the important thing to remember is that you will probably find more of your jobs through your contacts than through any other source.
Employers receive an average of 200 resumes for each job posted online.
The estimate that employers receive an average of 200 resumes for each job does not surprise me because it is easy to apply online. This is a figure that has changed since the advent of internet job search. A recruiter told me that, based on his research, employers received less than 50 resumes per job back in 1994. It is easy, after all, for everyone to apply for everything, regardless of whether they are qualified or not so the number of applications per job has gone way up.
The lottery-style process of applying for everything can occasionally result in landing a job that you are not qualified for. Some of us can figure out how to do a job we know nothing about, and then do well. The most likely outcome, though, is that you’ll be miserable, and wind up back in the hunt within weeks or months. So a lottery approach to your job search is almost certain to be wasteful.
Company ATS systems screen out 75% of the resumes received.
Employer ATS systems only pass 25% of the resumes submitted through them, according to Dr. Graham’s book. While this figure may seem stunning, it may not be that different than the number of resumes that initial HR screeners did not show to hiring managers in the 1980s and early 1990s.
There is a positive side to the situation. The HR screeners “back in the day” may have been rather subjective. Computer software, on the other hand, looks for keywords that we can predict based in part on the job description you are applying for. We can also select formats that software finds easier to “digest.” For example, we know the systems will only read text, and not graphics. So, when you build a resume with text embedded in eye-catching graphics, an automated system may not read it,
In other words, if you want to win a lottery, work with us and buy a ticket. Don’t play the numbers when you are seeking career advancement.