‘Active’ Job Seeking Isn’t What It Used to Be

‘Active’ Job Seeking Isn’t What It Used to Be

In its annual Candidate Behavior Study, CareerBuilder finds that “3 in 4 (75 percent) of full-time employees are either open to or actively searching for new job opportunities”:

The average job seeker is more empowered than ever before – from a growing economy to advances in technology that make searching for new careers fast and easy.

In the past, CareerBuilder and other industry thought leaders would distinguish between “active” and “passive” job seekers – those who are committed to finding a new job and others who are simply browsing to keep an eye on the opportunities available, respectively. With an overwhelming number of employed candidates open to new opportunities, the days of making this distinction may be over.

Technological changes are indeed blurring the distinction between active and passive job seekers. Data we’ve collected at CEB shows that in less than five years, the number of employees regularly keeping their online professional profiles up to date has risen by 10 percentage points. Today, about a quarter of all employed individuals actively maintain a professional online presence.

As technology makes job searches easier, we should be asking ourselves what it even means to be an “active” job seeker. As technology makes it easier for employees to engage in what is traditionally thought of as “active” job searching, some of these activities might start to look more passive. In other words, the more widespread these activities become as the result of technology, the weaker the relationship between exploring the job market and actually applying to outside jobs should be.

Our data bears out this conclusion: The use of online career sites like LinkedIn, while associated with job applications, doesn’t have anywhere near as strong a relationship to applying for a new job as “harder” things like updating your resume, or actually going out and talking to others about available positions elsewhere. Yet all three of those activities are typically seen as “active” job seeking behaviors.

Imagine a world where, in some respect, every employee is a job candidate, all the time. Managers keeping an eye on potential attrition won’t be able to read much into employees updating their LinkedIn profiles, and are going to have to become much more attuned to truer predictors of employees leaving. In fact, these technological changes might have an interesting low-tech implication—managers will actually have to have more frequent and more meaningful conversations with their employees about how well their jobs align to their interests and career aspirations.