Study: What Job Seekers Want



  • 45% of job seekers reported having a harder time finding a job this year than last year.
  • Job hunters said they consider career growth opportunities (61%) more important than compensation (57%) and benefits (58%) for the first time.
  • Company culture still matters. City workers (38%), educated workers (45%), working parents (44%) and currently employed individuals (39%) said it’s a “very important” consideration in a job.

What does the average American job hunter want and need in a time of economic growth and falling unemployment numbers? That question, among others, was on the minds of researchers at Zogby Analytics as they worked on the 2019 Job Seeker Nation Study.

Commissioned by Jobvite, the annual survey attempts to better understand what workers look for in today’s job market. Touching on topics such as job hunting and the #MeToo movement, the study attempts to define what matters to workers and their potential employers.

While experts assert that we’re currently in a “candidate-driven job market,” that doesn’t necessarily mean finding better employment is easy for many of the country’s workers. Researchers found that factors such as who you are, the stage of your career and what matters most to you also play a major role. [Related: What Job Seekers Want in the Hiring Process]

On the hunt

When looking at the state of the U.S. economy, there’s plenty to be excited about. Earlier this month, government officials at the U.S. Department of Labor announced that approximately 196,000 new non-farm payroll positions were filled in March, knocking the unemployment rate down to 3.8%.

Even though more jobs are opening up and unemployment numbers should continue trending downward, researchers found that 45% of survey respondents currently looking for work said it’s harder to find it this year than it was in 2018. The number of individuals who said finding a job was “much harder” was higher among rural workers (27%) than their city-based counterparts (17%). Those without a college degree (21%) were more likely to say their job hunt would be harder than their college-educated counterparts (16%).

Industry was also a factor, researchers said, as people working in the mining (72%), real estate (56%) and transportation (53%) industries said securing a job this year was more difficult.

Conversely, 20% of respondents said finding a job seemed easier this year. Those individuals included people with college degrees (20%), people living in major cities (20%), and people who work in high-skill industries like technology (26%), telecommunications (23%) and marketing (22%). People who reported making more than $300,000 also said finding a job was “much easier” this year (26%).

The survey also found that more part-time workers are looking for full-time employment. According to the survey, 59% of respondents who reported working part time said they wanted to work more hours.

Today’s job seeker

The job market currently largely favors candidates, and the 2019 Job Seeker Nation Survey reflects that notion. According to researchers, approximately 19% of workers said they turned down a job after signing an official offer in the past, marking an eight-point uptick. While dropping out right before starting a new job would seem counterproductive from a job hunter’s standpoint, officials said 58% said they did so because they received a better offer elsewhere.

Similarly, 29% of respondents said they left a job within the first 90 days, the most common reason being that their day-to-day responsibilities were not what they expected. This action was more likely among younger workers (34%) than older workers (23%). These figures are particularly interesting when compared to the fact that just 47% of respondents said they believe a job description accurately outlines a position’s actual responsibilities.

Job seekers also reported valuing career growth as the most important factor when looking for a new job. It’s the first time that career growth (61%) outranked other major factors, including compensation (57%) and healthcare and retirement benefits (58%). Younger workers were more likely to value career growth (65%), while unemployed job hunters were less likely (51%) to rank career growth above other factors.

Researchers also found that men were more likely to consider growth within a company (66%) than women (57%) when searching for new opportunities. Women were more likely, however, to value flexible hours (39%) and remote work than their male counterparts (29%).

Once they’ve been offered a job, 60% of respondents said they were at least somewhat comfortable negotiating compensation, which is up from 51% last year. One-third of respondents (33%) said they negotiated their current salaries, with 83% saying they received higher pay.

Changing as an employee

Officials said they learned that a majority of today’s workers have taken advantage of educational or professional courses since getting their latest job. College-educated workers (62%), city workers (53%) and already-employed individuals (53%) were most likely to continue their education. Respondents without a college degree (62%), those living in rural areas (54%) and unemployed respondents were least likely to take more courses.

While job satisfaction (68%) may have improved from last year (61%), most respondents said they were open to finding other opportunities, even though there was a higher percentage of satisfied employees who said they weren’t looking for a change (19%). Approximately 57% of workers said they applied to at least one job in the last year without intending to leave their current position.



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