New Data Reveals the Job Search Tactics of Millions

Job applicants line up for interviews

Job applicants line up for interviews. | John Moore/Getty Images

Data is your friend. Luckily, we live in the digital age, where information is available for analysis like never before. Even for the average American, data can be a useful tool. You can use it to help you save more money, pick the right school, or even find a better job.

Perhaps data isn’t just your friend. It might be your best friend.

That doesn’t mean everyone uses it — at least not to the level they should. Relatively few people work in tech or deal with large amounts of data on a daily basis. For that reason, data can be somewhat scary. If you’re not used to handling it, data might as well be hieroglyphics. But it’s digging through it that reveals patterns and trends, which can be useful. One way in which those identified patterns can help? During a job search.

Indeed, one of the biggest job search sites, released a report detailing some of those patterns. Specifically, by looking at the millions of job searches that take place on its site, Indeed’s team was able to identify when people are looking for new jobs.

“In the U.S. alone, tens of millions of job seekers use Indeed every week,” according to the report. “Indeed data and analysis of the 37.5 million resumes uploaded to our U.S. site can tell us much about these job seekers. By mining this data, we are able to determine the timing of job searches and how search patterns vary depending on job-seeker characteristics.”

We’ll dig into Indeed’s data and discuss how these particular points can be of use to you during a job search.

What we know: Searches peak midday

Online job searching on tablet

Job searches are highest around lunchtime. | iStock.com

One of the first and most important data points Indeed’s report points out is when, exactly, job searches peak during any given day. And that’s typically midday, say, around lunchtime. People are taking a break, probably fuming from dealing with their boss, and searching for new jobs.

Here’s the really significant morsel from Indeed: “Job searches peak at midday, track lower during commuting hours, and then pick up after dinnertime. Searches are highest Monday through Wednesday. The peak hour for the entire week is 11 a.m. to noon Tuesday.”

We’ll use this as a starting point. So what about weekends?

Job seekers don’t look during weekends

dog sitting in car trunk

Many people ignore the working world on weekends. | Volkswagen

Apparently, job seekers like to take the weekend off. This is our first opening — an area you, as a job seeker, can exploit. Again, here’s what Indeed’s report said: “Job seekers tend to take the weekend off. Searches are low from Thursday evening through most of the weekend. But, by Sunday evening, with the workweek looming, searches pick up again.”

Searches peak early in the week

Indeed job search chart

People return to work and immediately start looking for a new job. | Indeed

Here’s some more incredibly valuable data. Job search activity is at its highest during the beginning of the week. This might be because people are returning to work from the weekend and are reminded they hate their jobs. There are numerous reasons for it, really, but if you’re looking for a job, you should know this is when congestion on job search sites is going to be the highest.

What does it mean for you? Perhaps those jobs posted during these times are getting the biggest influx of resumes and could be the most competitive. Keep that in mind, and maybe search more selectively from Monday through Wednesday.

Employed people search at night

Indeed job search chart

Most employed people have to wait until after work to apply for jobs. | Indeed

Indeed’s report also reveals when people with jobs tend to search. Unsurprisingly, it’s at night after they’ve returned home from work. We know many employers actively discriminate against the unemployed, so there’s some value to this data. If you’re sending in resumes at 11 a.m., for example, someone receiving it might wonder why you’re not at work. That’s hard to prove, of course, but something to keep in mind.

“The peak search time for employed job seekers is in the evening early in the workweek — from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday,” Indeed’s report stated. “Searching is lower from Thursday evening through the weekend but rises sharply between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Sunday night.”

Unemployed people search during the day

Indeed job search chart

The unemployed usually keep normal work hours when on a job search. | Indeed

The inverse, naturally, means unemployed people are searching during the day. As we touched on, this might be a sign to a potential employer that you’re out of work, and it could (but not necessarily will) hurt you. “Those without a job who are looking for a job tend to keep regular working hours, doing nearly all their hunting 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday,” the analysis said. “Among the unemployed, the shares of lunchtime job searches are about 50% higher than for people with a job.”

When the educated search

Indeed job search chart

Educated people tend to follow the same pattern as those who are employed. | Indeed

Next, we can see when people with higher levels of education are looking for work. Per Indeed’s analysis, this category includes people who have at least a bachelor’s degree. And people who fit into this subset of the population differ in their search habits than others. They do follow the basic trend of people who are employed, which might simply point to the correlation between higher education and the likelihood of having a job.

“If you’re an employer hoping to lure highly educated applicants, post jobs Sunday evening,” Indeed’s report said. That, right there, is a very important nugget of information.

And when the less educated search

Indeed job search chart

The less educated tend to search in the afternoon. | Indeed

If highly educated people have a distinctive pattern in their search habits, you’d expect to see something similar among those with less education. And alas, there is. “Once again, the correlation between education and employment is clear: Like the unemployed, those without a four-year degree do most of their searching midday and are comparatively less active weekday evenings,” the Indeed analysis said.  Also interesting is this: “The Sunday evening peak is there, but it’s not as pronounced as with employed and better-educated job seekers.”

Now that we’ve poured through the data, the big question is what, if anything, can you do with it?

Using the data to your advantage

man syncing files and documents on personal wireless electronic devices

A man uses an influx of new data. | iStock.com/stevanovicigor

Remember that for all of human history, we’ve never had this kind of access to data before. What data like this is telling us is people have tendencies and predictable patterns of behavior. And when it comes to competition — such as finding a job and beating out other applicants — any advantage can be useful.

What we can derive from the data is there are certain times and days that people are flooding employers with resumes. If you want yours to be noticed, a worthwhile strategy might be to work in the opposite direction. If everyone is searching Sunday night, maybe you should wait until early Monday morning to apply. If employers expect an influx of traffic on certain days, this can also be a tip as to when you should be looking.

Essentially, you’ll want to use this data to try and find soft spots in the job market. It’s a bit abstract, but think of it this way: You try to avoid going to the grocery store when it’s crowded. If you go when you know the place is dead, it can lead to a much more efficient experience. Apply the same logic to your job search.

Becoming a more engaged job seeker

A man carries his resume before speaking with a potential employer

A man carries his resume before speaking with a potential employer. | John Moore/Getty Images

This data can serve to make you a more powerful, efficient job seeker. That’s how you want to look at it. Again, nobody had access to this kind of information before, and we should all be grateful it’s not only being collected but shared so openly.

There’s data and information out there telling you what you should put on your resume or what you should leave out of your cover letter. You know which industries are growing and which jobs are seeing pay rises. Taking all of this into account and using it to serve your own job search should improve your chances of finding a better job — and faster.

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