Most of the US’s job hunting takes place online now, and that’s a problem for many

If only finding a job were this easy.
If only finding a job were this easy.
Image: Reuters/Mark Blinch
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In the US, the internet has become a job seeker’s most important resource.

People are researching, finding, and applying to jobs online with relative ease. A Pew Research Center report released Thursday (Nov. 19) shows most American adults who have looked for a job in the last two years turned to online resources more than they used personal and professional connections, employment agencies, ads, or job fairs—the traditional avenues of a career hunt. A third of respondents used social media to either research or look for a job.

Relocating job hunting to the internet is an obvious outcome, as it expands access and opportunity. But it’s fairly troubling for a significant portion of the American population. That group—while a minority—includes older adults who are less familiar with online platforms than their younger counterparts, as well as people with lower levels of education; it also includes a disproportionately high number of black and Hispanic adults, who tend to use the internet less than whites or Asians.

According to the Pew report, 17% of US job seekers would not find it easy to create a digital resume if they needed to do so. Another 21% say they have trouble highlighting their employment skills on social media or personal websites. And roughly 11% of people struggle with contacting potential employers via email, finding job applications online, or finding available jobs in the local area through the internet.

“In many cases, individuals who might benefit the most from being able to perform these behaviors effectively—such as those with relatively low levels of educational attainment or those who are currently not employed for pay—are the ones who find them most daunting,” Pew researcher Aaron Smith wrote in the report.

For example, 30% of people with a high school diploma or less say they have trouble creating a professional resume, compared to 6% of college graduates.

That a significant portion of US job hunters lacks digital job-seeking skills should be cause for concern to educators as well as employers. Pew’s report highlights the ubiquitousness of the internet in American life—but it also underscores the failure of many schools to properly prepare their students for such a world.