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The Indeed Paradox, Job Search Math and The Hunger Games

The most basic definition of a paradox is a statement that may seem absurd or contradictory but yet can be true, or at least makes sense. A few of my favorite paradoxical statements from popular culture and literature include:

  • “The more I spend, the more I save.” (Dan Troup with an Old Navy coupon)

  • “What a pity that youth must be wasted on the young.” (George Bernard Shaw)

  • "I can resist anything but temptation." (Oscar Wilde)

That brings us to your job search and what I call the Indeed Paradox. In truth, I could have called it the Monster Paradox, the CareerBuilder Paradox or the Glassdoor paradox. You get the point. I stuck with the Indeed Paradox because it is one of the largest online job search sites and is currently spending heavily on advertising and promotion. So, what is the Indeed Paradox? Put simply: “The more job search time I invest applying for jobs online, the less likely I am to secure a new job.”

The best way to understand the Indeed Paradox is with what I call Dan Troup’s job search math. Allow me to get a little wonky for a moment. No calculus here, just basic algebra and some “liberal” use of statistics. Let’s calculate the probability of securing your next job using two different job search strategies. I have utilized data from the Jobvite 2018 Recruiting Funnel Benchmark Data Report which analyzes Jobvite’s Job Seeker Database, housing data from over 85 million job seekers. Specifically, I looked at the section focused on Recruiting Funnel Benchmark by Source of Applicants and Hires.

Strategy #1 - Securing a Professional Job with Online Job Applications:

  • A = The # of job offers you need to secure = 1

  • B = The % of job postings filled from online applications = 0.6%

  • Job search success probability = A x B = 1 x 0.6% = Less than 1%

In other words, using online job posting application as your only job search strategy, you have less than a 1% probability of success. To put that in perspective, the odds of purchasing a winning scratch-off ticket in the New York State lottery are approximately 2%. Granted I would only win $1, but that is significantly more likely to happen than landing my next job solely through application to online job postings.

Strategy #2 - Securing a Professional Job with Networking and Referrals:

  • A = The # of job offers you need to secure = 1

  • B = The % of job postings filled from a referral = 6.8%

  • Job search success probability = A x B = 1 x 6.8% = Almost 7%

In other words, using a job search strategy based on networking and subsequent referral for an open position, you are almost seven times more likely to secure a job offer than exclusively applying for openings through online job boards such as Indeed. And almost four times more likely to get that job versus the winning scratch-off lottery ticket!

If you are feeling a bit like the hamster on the wheel, spending all day searching the online job boards, applying online, and hearing only the sound of crickets, now you understand the odds are stacked against you. It’s not that applying for jobs online is a bad job search strategy. It’s just a question of allocation of effort. As you plan out your job search strategy and build your weekly calendar of activities (yes you need one!), you need to invest your time where the return will be the greatest. Once you have your branding materials complete, aim for a 70%-time investment focused on networking and keep the online job board work to 10% or less of your time.

It sounds logical and straightforward in theory but not in practice. Networking is hard. It requires you to put yourself out there, risk rejection and talk to strangers. Sitting in front of the screen, in the comfort of your own home, is anonymous and safe. But safe is not going to get you the job. Reward requires risk. So, get started networking. There are a plethora of resources to guide you. Maybe even start with one of my networking blog articles! And if you need some 1:1 guidance, consider a session with a job search coach (yes shameless plug for my AdvantEdge Careers service!).

No matter what direction you choose to take, get yourself out there and start building a focused and relevant professional network for your job search. Now that you understand the job search math, you know best where to invest your time. And to use my favorite Hunger Games quote: “May the odds be ever in your favor!”

Dan Troup is the Managing Director of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a job search expert and certified career coach can assist you, please contact AdvantEdge Careers for a free initial consultation.

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