Online job searchers find work quicker, says study

Jobseekers who go online to find work experience 25% shorter unemployment spells than people who do not use the internet, according to a new study.

Research by Peter Kuhn and Hani Mansour, published in the December 2014 issue of the Economic Journal, also finds that internet job search is most effective in reducing unemployment when workers are actively sending out resumes and filling in application forms.

An earlier study, also co-authored by Kuhn, found the opposite results, but he puts that down to the fact internet job search tools such as job boards were not yet very developed at the time and the fact most people searching for jobs were just browsing.

In the new research, in sharp contrast to the results for 1998-2000, they find that workers searching online in 2005-08 experienced 25% shorter unemployment spells compared with workers who did not go online. One explanation offered by the authors is that at least by 2005-08, internet job searchers were not casual window shoppers. Their study is described as the first to provide insights on how the internet is used to look for jobs.

They found that 48% of workers who used active search methods (such as actively contacting employers and posting resumes) used the internet to do so, a similar share to the level of internet use in passive search methods. Another important change in the last decade that might explain the increasing effectiveness of online job search is the improvement in technology over the decade, making job boards more accessible and efficient at matching employers with employees, say the researchers.

The emergence of industry- and occupation-based niche sites may have further improved the internet’s ability to facilitate the job search process by targeting specific applicants and offering specialised services. But according to the authors, the most likely explanation is just the rapid spread of internet connectivity between 1998 and 2008. Many more firms had an online recruiting presence in 2008 which made looking online more useful to workers and the fact that many more workers were searching online made it more advantageous for firms to post vacancies. This huge increase in connectivity is reflected in the authors’ finding that the share of unemployed workers looking for work online tripled between 1998 and 2008, from 24% to 74%.

Kuhn said: “Despite the increasing dominance of the internet as people’s main tool for finding work, our research suggests that it has considerable further potential to improve job search outcomes. Specifically, while we find that contacting friends and relatives online is a very effective job search tool, very few workers actually used the internet in this ‘social’ way to look for work during the period 2005-08. This suggests that the explosion of social media like Facebook and LinkedIn since then – and the introduction of job search tools on those platforms – may have already expanded workers’ job search prospects significantly.”

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