7 ways job-searching has changed in recent years

If you haven’t searched for a job recently, you might be in for a shock the next time you do. Job searching has changed dramatically, as the Internet and the economy have both altered how employers operate and what job seekers can expect.

Here are seven ways the job search is different today than it was just a decade ago.

1. Online applications now require information you could previously avoid giving out. Back in the days when you were applying by mail, you included only the information you wanted to include in your resume and cover letter. But these days, online applications often won’t you apply if you don’t divulge your salary history, references’ contact info (before you’ve even had an interview), or even your Social Security number. This change is bad for job-seekers, who must tolerate invasions of privacy in order to simply submit an application.

2. Competition for jobs is greater. The reason for this is twofold: First, the economy means that there are more people searching for jobs than there are job openings. Second, the ease of applying for jobs online means that employers are flooded with hundreds of applications for every opening they post. For the job seeker, that means that where in the past you might have been up against a few dozen other candidates, today you’re usually competing against several hundred others.

3. Social networking has created new paths for finding connections to jobs. The advent of sites like LinkedIn has made it easier to see in a matter of minutes who in your network is connected to a company you might like to apply to. In past years, you might never have found out that your sister-in-law’s neighbor used to work for your dream employer. Today, the Internet makes that easy.

4. Employers are a lot pickier about who they hire. Because employers have so many qualified candidates to choose from, simply meeting the job qualifications isn’t nearly enough these days. That also means that it’s much harder for less perfectly qualified candidates to stretch up to a job that in previous years they might have been able to get more easily. Similarly…

5. It’s harder to change fields. No matter how transferable you believe your skills might be, the reality is that employers have plenty of well-trained candidates who meet all the job’s qualifications and have already worked in the field. That means that even though you might feel that you could excel at the job if just given the chance, employers don’t have much of a incentive to take a chance on you.

6. More candidates are taking internships even after they’ve graduated from college. If you’re used to thinking of internships as primarily for college students, think again. These days, more and more people are interning post-graduation, simply in order to get some work – paying or not. While many internships are only open to current students, increasingly companies are taking on post-grads as well.

7. Salaries are often lower. If you understand the laws of supply and demand, it’s no surprise that a flooded job market means that candidates command less money than they used to. Because employers have no shortage of applicants willing to work for less, the market value of many jobs has decreased. It’s not unusual for job seekers today to find that their new jobs pay less than the ones they left behind.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 18 comments… read them below }

  1. ChristineH*

    #5 has been my downfall. After my layoff, I wanted to stay in my field, but in a very different role from what I originally went to school for. Bad idea!!! All of my attempts to make this switch have pretty much fallen short. Getting trained in a new skill or specialization is pretty much a catch-22; how can you afford new training if you don’t have a job that can provide income to support said training?! (sure I could go to the One Stop career centers, which I believe offer free training, but I think you have to be collecting Unemployment, which I exhausted ages ago)

    1. Sasha*

      I feel your pain. I’ve been trying to get out of higher ed but regarding the field I want, I only have enough qualifications for higher ed positions. The corporate world is more demanding for what I want to do.

      1. Anonymous*

        Even as a intern (!), I find myself getting stuck in a specialty. Sure I apply to other positions that I’m interested in, but at the end of the day, they only want interns with directly applicable experience.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I have seen that, and the HM’s perspective was that they want someone who is genuinely interested in our field. They don’t want someone who is padding their resume with a nice internship, who will take a job in another industry in a couple years when they graduate. We hire a lot of interns for FT positions, so it’s nice to get the return on our investment.

          You can mitigate lack of direct work experience by showing a depth of interest through coursework or other activities, but they are looking for someone who already knows what they want out of their career.

          (I am not so sure I agree with this practice and am glad I’m well-established in my industry and am in my 30s. I personally had no experience in my field and would have been interested in testing out different industries, not making a lifelong career committment, at age 20. I might not have made the new hire offer cut nowadays, but I turned out to be a pretty good hire.)

          1. Anonymous*

            That’s the thing though. I’m genuinely not sure what I want to pursue post-graduation, and it’s a bit disheartening to basically have to profess my desire towards an industry when I don’t really feel that way. It’s also hard to get “professional-grade” experience out of extracurricular activities (e.g. I can’t honestly say that I’m well-versed in Excel when I’ve never dealt with the type and volume of data that a Business Analyst might be expected to handle in generating results – the PivotTable tutorial only takes you so far)

            1. Anonymous*

              Although (I’m the same anon from the above two posts), now that I think about it, one of internships was in a field that was directly related to one of my extracurricular activities, so AnotherAlison’s advice definitely pays off at least some of the time. (Mind you, given the timing of the interview and what I’ve learned while working there, it’s fair to say that they’ve probably already gone through a round of candidates and were left with the ‘dredges’ so to speak)

    2. danr*

      One-Stop centers are separate from Unemployment. They might be in the same office area, but are really two separate organizations. I’ve found that the Unemployment folks utilize the One-Stop services, but you don’t need to go through them.

      1. Lulu*

        Thanks for clarifying – I’d been considering hitting up the local Worksource/OneStop office, but thought it might be too late for me to be eligible. I’m not sure what they can do for me at this point, but am entertaining all options at this point. I figure they might at least be able to enlighten me on where best to invest my efforts.

        1. Anonymous*

          It’s worth checking out. I work at a OneStop, and at least here eligibility for training funding doesn’t hinge on collecting Unemployment at all.

  2. AMG*

    And one more, IMO: People are delaying retirement, decreasing the number of available positions and increasing the number of qualified candidates.

    1. Maria*

      True, but this problem stems from their unemployed children (i.e. me) who need support. It’s a vicious cycle, they’re holding onto jobs longer so new people can’t get in, but they’re doing it (many, I would guess anyway) because their children can’t get jobs…

  3. Kelly O*

    Just had to add – I put a link to this in a response I gave this morning to a discussion on LinkedIn.

    Someone was bemoaning the problem of the “right” person not getting called back for another interview/getting the job at all. The discussion sort of went off on a tangent about how different things are now, and how the qualifications you have on paper are not enough anymore.

    And I must say, that’s the one thing that gets me about some of the conversations on LinkedIn – people assume that because they meet all the listed job qualifications then they’re automatically going to be either “the one” or absolute interview material. There is so much more to it than that (and I have to keep reminding myself of that, even when I get discouraged.)

    I do notice a lot more pickiness on the part of employers though – Alison was right on the money with number four. It’s a lot harder to get a stretch position. I won’t even go into number seven, since that’s what I frequently butt up against. The job may be great, but they want the world for $12/hour.

    1. Lulu*

      I’m with you there – many of the salaries I see offered aren’t even livable wages in my area, but they still want people with years of experience, and of course my oft-bemoaned myriad computer program proficiencies. I find I can’t even qualify for jobs that pay half what I was making before!

      re: the references required WITH application, I’ve been avoiding that because I have limited references that I don’t want to jeopardize with having to deal with intermittent phone calls from jobs I don’t even interview for!

      I keep hearing how you have to be a 99% fit these days, but with all the consolidation + extensive tech that shows up, that will never be me, especially since I don’t really have a “field”. I’m really having a hard time fighting the feeling that my degree and experience will now just give me some good conversation topics for the homeless shelter…

        1. Lulu*

          Interesting – I’d heard the pieces on there being a “skills gap” for factory labor due to a lack of people skilled in operating the complex technical equipment, but not the “…for $10/hr” part. (This is sounding like that fortune cookie game – end everything with “for $10/hr”!) I’m fascinated that anyone thinks that’s an acceptable rate for anyone with skills beyond operating a cash register, or that it’s a wage anyone can live on. Mind you, I know I live in a very expensive metro area, so perhaps my reference points on costs-of-living are skewed? Except I also see those rates listed in office support and admin postings here. The last time I made that amount, Clinton was still in office, and I had negligible experience in anything

  4. AG*

    I completely agree about there being more competition due to online applications. The “barrier to entry” is lower (you don’t have to leave your house!) so more people are applying. The people who mass-apply crappily to tons and tons of jobs are frustrating because they are making it harder for more qualified applicants to get jobs!

  5. Old enough to remember*

    I don’t think it is that much harder to change fields than it has always been. In the 90s and early 2000s, it was easy, but that was a boom time. It was very difficult to change careers, in, say the 60s or 70s. It was also very difficult to get a job without job experience.

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