How Do Candidates Search for Jobs? Here Are Ways to Find Top Talent

Understanding how candidates search for jobs can help employers better recruit and hire workers.

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If you want to meet people, you must go where they are, right? If that’s the case, then employers who are looking for talent must go where people are looking for jobs.

So, how are job seekers looking for work and can that information help employers find top talent?

An overview of the current labor market may provide some answers for employers, especially today’s small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the ongoing struggle to recruit and hire workers.

The current labor market

“81% of recruiters believe attracting top talent has become more challenging over the past year.”

Up until recently, workers were accepting, leaving, and passing over jobs as they please.

In an email interview with Workest, here’s how Bill Catlette, a founder of Contented Cow Partners and author of Contented Cows Still Give Better Milk: The Plain Truth About Employee Engagement And Your Bottom Line, described job seekers earlier this year:

“Not unlike hungry trout in the water on Utah’s Green River in springtime, job seekers (currently about a quarter of the American workforce) are rising to the bugs on the water (jobs), looking them over, and deciding whether to dine on the offering or pass.”

The labor market was so much in candidates’ favor that many were ghosting the companies that recruited them. However, recent data shows that an increasing number of employers are doing the same.

According to recent data from Glassdoor, job seekers have increasingly reported being ghosted by potential employers. Glassdoor’s chief economist reported interview reviews mentioning ghosting have almost doubled (+98%) since February 2020 — the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This trend of employer ghosting comes at a time when the economy is facing headwinds. Companies across various industries — especially tech — are laying off workers amid rising inflation and concerns around an upcoming recession.

Corey Berkey, senior vice president of Talent & People at Employ Inc., shared more of his company’s survey results in an email interview with Workest. “Despite macroeconomic headwinds, studies show that employers will continue to encounter significant competition for in-demand talent for the foreseeable future. According to our data, 81% of recruiters believe attracting top talent has become more challenging over the past year.”

Employers throughout this year have been feeling the hiring pinch. But knowing how the labor market arrived at this point may help them overcome hiring challenges.

Labor-market game-changers

Employment experts point to COVID-19 as a major game-changer in the current labor market.

But the pandemic is just one of a list of economic, social, and political upheavals that create recruiting and hiring challenges.

Employment and wages are up, earlier this summer, described the 2022 U.S. labor market as “hot,” despite the economic and global challenges. This global team of economists and researchers for the job board Indeed reports that the nation’s economy has rebounded after the initial shake-up from the pandemic. The results show that:

  • Unemployment is dropping to near pre-COVID-19 levels.
  • Wages are rising quickly.

The labor market could undergo even more changes depending on which way the economy and overseas military conflicts like the wars in Yemen and Ukraine go.

But COVID-19 changed the labor market more than any single event and the change could be long-lasting.

COVID-19’s impact

Employment reports claim the pandemic boosted 3 employee-focused trends:

  • The Great Resignation, a mass exodus of workers from the labor force.
  • Quiet quitting, a passive-aggressive way of performing the least amount of work at the job.
  • Ghosting, or failing to respond to recruiters’ messages or even show up for the first day of work.
“Employees’ standards have changed in regard to compensation, recognition, and opportunities for advancement.”

Employment experts tie these trends to a weary workforce that’s rethinking jobs, careers, and personal and professional priorities. But a direct link to the pandemic is the work-from-home (WFH) wave employers rode in 2020 to help slow the virus’ spread.

Dave Paglia, vice president of sales at Curate Partners, a specialized recruitment agency, told Workest by email that the post-pandemic labor market is very different from its pre-pandemic state. “Employees’ standards have changed in regard to compensation, recognition, and opportunities for advancement,” he said. “Many employers are still figuring out how to address these shifts.”

Remote work and company culture

Job seekers are hunting for work-from-home (WFH) options and company cultures that will support them.

Paglia said that many of today’s job seekers are looking for remote opportunities. “They are using their online professional network and/or using recruitment tools and agencies to find opportunities that are more flexible,” he said.

“Job seekers are also paying close attention to company culture,” he added. “While Zoom may have changed how we engage with our coworkers, it didn’t remove the desire to get to know your colleagues and the need to manage talent and culture.”


So, how are candidates looking for jobs? The short answer is: Not much differently than they were before. But a closer look at some of the chief job-searching strategies, like networking and using job boards and company websites, could help employers adjust their recruiting strategies to connect with these applicants.


To call job-hunting technology-driven is an understatement. Computers, smartphones, and other tech devices have defined the modern-day job search.

The Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a nonprofit research and grantmaking organization, reported that the growing use of smartphones in job-hunting has reduced the need for using computers and high-speed Internet to find work.

A 2015 Pew Research Center study found a heavy dependence on smartphones among job seekers. More than 1 in 4 U.S. adults in the study used smartphones to look for work, and of that number, 94% said they used their smartphone to access job listings, and 74% said they used it to reach prospective employers.

The Pew study also found that job seekers with less formal education were more likely to rely on their smartphones for complicated tasks, like completing job applications and creating resumes and cover letters. The Washington center cited this situation as a disadvantage for these job seekers because smartphones can have trouble accessing information from websites or uploading job application documents.


It’s probably no surprise that cyberspace is where employers and job seekers meet. But the strategy that works best for 60% of candidates in landing a job is networking.

In fact, a 2016 survey found networking to be a valuable strategy among job seekers across all employment stages, including:

  • Active and employed (42%)
  • Passive and employed (62%)
  • Tentative and employed (60%)
  • Active and underemployed/unemployed (47%)

Although 70% to 85% of job openings aren’t posted online, employers fill them largely through networking. This requires job seekers to cultivate relationships non-stop.

The technology is wonderful but too much of this activity is coldly impersonal,” said Catlette about overusing digitalization. “Applicants and recruiters alike would do well to ‘warm it up’ a bit, to present themselves and stand out in a good way, a competitive way.”

Networking’s offshoots

Candidate referrals often occur through networking.  They can give Job seekers the “inside track” for an opening.

A second offshoot of networking is finding out about jobs through friends. This is the 2nd most popular job-hunting method and the choice of 45% of job seekers in a 2018 Glassdoor study.

Job boards

Networking may be one of the most successful ways of getting a job, but more than half of job seekers favor finding work on job boards.

“Online job boards, personal connections, social media, and employers’ career sites are the top ways workers search for or learn about job openings”, said Berkey. “This is not only based on my experience but aligns with our data from the Employ Inc. 2022 Job Seeker Nation Report.”

According to the report, 59% of workers surveyed cited online job boards as the top way they research available jobs. “We see parallels in recruiters’ increasing investments and time spent on job boards to recruit top talent over the past year,” Berkey said.

A 2016 Pew Research Center study found that 54% of U.S. job seekers looked online for work and 45% actually submitted an application. Among the most recent job seekers in the study, those numbers jumped to 90% and 84%, respectively.

A 2016 Pew Research Center study found that 54% of U.S. job seekers looked online for work and 45% actually submitted an application. Among the most recent job seekers in the study, those numbers jumped to 90% and 84%, respectively.

Social media

The social recruiting platform CareerArc polled 667 U.S. adults and 489 recruiting professionals for its 2021 Future of Recruiting Study. These are the results:

  • Most job seekers (61%) said they increased their use of social media in 2020.
  • Almost half (47%) of those who increased their social media use added at least an hour a day of their time to these platforms.
  • 86% of job seekers said they used social media to search for, view, and apply for jobs; engage with employment-related social media content; and reach out to recruiters and contacts about job openings.

Company websites

Most job seekers research companies before applying for jobs. Their top 5 sources for company information are:

  • Company’s career page (83%)
  • Google search (59%)
  • LinkedIn company profile (56%)
  • Glassdoor (51%)
  • Friends or former employees (42%)

Hiring managers

Going straight to a hiring manager about a job or future employment opportunity can be a successful way to get hired.

Of the candidates who submit their applications directly to hiring managers, 19% land a job. But just 0.14% of job seekers use this strategy.

Top 3 Social Media Websites to Use to Check Out Candidates Under Consideration

Lessons for employers

What can employers take away from job seekers’ tactics? For starters, they can focus their recruiting and hiring practices on applicants’ job-searching preferences. Here’s how:

  • Don’t underestimate the importance of networking. Even though tons of jobs never get posted, networking is a smart way for job seekers to uncover these “nonpublic” positions and get job openings filled.
  • Post openings on job boards. They’re still the premium digital go-to sources for the greatest number of applicants. Berkey said that based on the Employ Inc. Quarterly Insights Report, nearly half of all recruiters surveyed plan to increase job board spending over the next year.
  • Regularly source applicants on social media, spaces where they’re likely to be and their presence is growing.
  • Use their company websites as talent magnets. “About” sections should describe a company’s history, mission, purpose, and culture and why it’s a great place to work.

You’re never going to get, let alone keep, top talent without a strong employer reputation.”

However, a website can’t mask a company’s less-than-stellar reputation.

You’re never going to get, let alone keep, top talent without a strong employer reputation,” said Catlette. “Work hard every day at building engagement. Not only will better candidates find their way to your door, but your existing team will be more satisfied and, yes, productive.”

Since job seekers routinely bypass employers with negative ratings on sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, Vault, Comparably, and Kununu, employers should monitor their ratings on these sites and social media platforms to correct misinformation or, if necessary, work on revising their company’s culture.

Employers also need to consider whether a job-searching tactic gives all candidates a fair chance at getting a job. Companies may need to adjust the way they post openings and retrieve applications.

What job seekers want

Successful recruiting may rely as much on what job seekers want as which recruiting techniques work best. And scoring with a quality hire may hinge on whether employers can meet the candidate’s demands.

Job seekers expressed what they want in this 2022 Gallup poll:

  • 64% wanted a significant increase in wages and benefits.
  • 61% wanted greater work/life balance and personal wellbeing.
  • 58% wanted to do what they do best on the job.
  • 53% wanted more stability and greater job security.

Job seekers also expect more from the recruiting and hiring process. Most say they want a more positive candidate experience, which includes faster hiring decisions and frequent progress updates.

Berkey said that with competition for talent being a significant roadblock, employers must present candidates with quality offers as soon as possible. “Our data says hiring speeds have increased by 8% compared to pre-pandemic levels, and 85% of organizations report their average time-to-hire is four weeks or less. If it’s taking longer than a month to hire a new employee, recruiters must invest in technologies to source candidates faster, which can help organizations compete on speed.”

A recruiting toolkit

Recruiting and hiring can be an employer’s toughest job. Now Zenefits is offering the Ultimate Recruiting Toolkit for SMBs.

The toolkit includes everything employers need to attract, engage, and hire the best talent, including how to:

  • Write Job descriptions (includes a template)
  • Post job ads
  • Conduct interviews
  • Evaluate and score candidates
  • Write and make job offers
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