The Active Job Seeker Dilemma Study 

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National Survey Finds Disconnect Between Employers and Job Seekers

HR professionals say employee referrals are the best resource for finding candidates
yet only 7% of job seekers are using referrals to find jobs

New York, NY and King of Prussia, PA – April 19, 2016 – Future Workplace, a research firm dedicated to rethinking and re-imagining the workplace, and Beyond, The Career Network, today announced results of a national survey that found a disconnect between employers and job seekers. The “Active Job Seeker Dilemma” survey includes a national sample of 4,347 job seekers, as well as 129 human resource (HR) professionals. According to 71% of HR professionals surveyed, employee referrals are the best resource for finding candidates, yet only 7% of job seekers surveyed view referrals as their top resource for finding a job. In today’s employment landscape, job seekers who are “passive” with a wide network of referrals have the advantage over job seekers who are “active.”

When it comes to the job search, “passive job seekers,” or those who are employed but open to new opportunities, have a better chance of being hired over “active job seekers,” or those who are unemployed and searching for work. Employers value “passive job seekers” and according to the survey, 80% of HR professionals believe “passive job seekers” become the most effective employees. HR professionals also say the benefits of hiring a “passive job seeker” over an “active” one include: they have more experience (44%), they possess valuable skills (44%) and they take their careers seriously (42%). However, many job seekers are unaware of this advantage. When asked about who has a better edge in the job market, less than half (47%) of job seekers said “passive job seekers”.

In addition to the “active job seeker” disconnect, the survey also revealed the sentiment of HR professionals and job seekers in various areas.

Additional highlights from the report include:

Your college major dictates your career prospects. 14% of job seekers surveyed are liberal arts majors, yet only 2% of companies are actively recruiting those majors. 15% of job seekers are engineering and computer information systems majors yet 30% of companies are actively recruiting those majors. About a third of job seekers would, or have, changed their college major to have better job prospects.

Cultural fit matters but GPA doesn’t when it comes to hiring. While job seekers (23%) and employers (24%) agree that internship experience carries the most weight for students when seeking jobs, employers don’t view GPA as carrying a lot of weight (6%) as much as job seekers do (12%). Companies put more emphasis on cultural fit (24%) than job seekers do (15%) when recruiting.

Beyond communication skills, employers and employees differ on skill alignment. Effective communication skills are at the top of the skills list for both employers and employees. After communication skills, employers look for employees with the ability to adapt to change and make sense of ambiguity, followed by being results driven and goal-oriented as their most desired skills. After communication skills, employees report leadership ability, in-person collaboration and teamwork skills as their subsequent strengths.

Job seekers and employers alike may not be fully anticipating the new skills required to operate in more networked organizations. The top three weaknesses reported by employees were virtual collaboration and teamwork skills (48%), technical skills (46%), and being culturally aware and inclusive (43%). HR professionals reported virtual collaboration and teamwork skills (43%), and being culturally aware and inclusive (also 43%) as the second and third least important skills when hiring.

Bonuses and promotions are most important to job seekers. While bonuses (80%) and promotions (70%) are most important to job seekers when it comes to rewards and recognition, top of the list for companies on rewarding and recognizing employees was recognition in front of their peers (68%), ahead of bonuses (63%) and promotions (59%).

It’s easier to find a job somewhere else than within. Job seekers are optimistic about the job market and may perceive it as easier to seek a new job outside the company than to secure a lateral move inside the company. More than 40% of job seekers reported that it was difficult or very difficult to make a lateral move at their most recent organization, while less then one quarter of respondents reported being not optimistic about the broader job market.

Companies need to rethink how they can help employees advance their career. Only 50% of job seekers say that their most recent employer has helped them advance in their career. Employers are focused on promotions (68%) and project assignments (47%) as how they believe they are helping advance careers. Job seekers reported that employers could best help advance their careers through project assignments (48%), promotions (39%) and leadership development programs (35%). Employers may be recognizing this need because 56% of HR professionals say they seek to enhance their employee experience in 2016 by investing more in employee training and development.

Gone are the days where people want to work for big companies. 65% of all job seekers want to work at small to medium sized companies with fewer than 1,000 employees indicating a preference for a more manageable scale of employer or division. 58% of Millennials want to work for a small or medium sized company compared to 63% of Gen X and 71% of Baby Boomers. Only 13% want to work at very large or global companies with 10,000 or more employees.


“I always urge my generation to become passive job seekers so they can gain leverage and power over their career prospects. If you’re unemployed, you can turn into a passive job seeker right now by freelancing, selling items on sites like Amazon and eBay, being an entrepreneur, volunteering or blogging. By engaging in these activities while you search for a job, you won’t have gaps on your resume, you’ll be practicing new skills and potentially make side income so you will be less desperate for a job, which makes you more attractive as a job seeker.”

– Dan Schawbel, Partner & Research Director at Future Workplace

“A strong application coupled with quality referrals will provide job seekers with an advantage in the hiring process. You should constantly be exploring new ways to nurture and expand your referral network, and it may be easier than you think. For example, attend industry conferences and events, grab lunch with a former colleague or make new connections on social platforms – a few simple actions may help you land your dream job.”

Rich Milgram, Founder and CEO of Beyond, The Career Network

Dan Schawbel, Partner & Research Director at Future Workplace, [email protected]

Julie Shenkman, PR,, [email protected]

Mallory Jaroski, Account Supervisor, Brownstein Group for Beyond, [email protected]

About Future Workplace

Future Workplace is a research firm dedicated to rethinking and re-imagining the workplace. Future Workplace works with heads of talent management, human resources, corporate learning, and diversity to prepare for the changes impacting recruitment, employee development and engagement. Future Workplace is host to the 2020 Workplace Network, our Executive Council includes 50 plus heads of Corporate Learning, Talent & Human Resources who come together to discuss debate and share “next” practices impacting the workplace and workforce of the future.

About Beyond

Beyond, The Career Network, helps millions of professionals find jobs and advance their careers, while also serving as the premier destination for companies in need of top talent. Founded in 1998, Beyond gives its members a central location to search for millions of jobs and engage with original and curated career content from over 1,400 sources. Beyond’s network of 500+ talent communities use integrated social features to help members discover relevant career news, advice and resources. Beyond was included in Inc. Magazine’s ‘Inc. 500’ list and is a Safeguard Scientifics, Inc. (NYSE: SFE) portfolio company. For more information, please visit: