The old adage of "It's not what you know, but who you know," still rings true, but online resources are becoming increasingly important to the job search as well, new research finds.
Nearly 80 percent of U.S. job seekers are using online resources when searching for work — nearly the same percentage as those turning to professional and personal connections for leads, according to the study, conducted by the Pew Research Center.
People going online in search of work say it's paying off. The study found that 34 percent of Americans who used the Internet for their most recent job search said it was their most important resource, compared with 20 percent who said the same about using connections with close friends and family, and 17 percent who thought their professional connections were their most valuable resource.
Gone are the days when most job seekers would spend countless hours combing through newspaper classified ads or attending job fairs in search of work. The research showed that just 32 percent of recent job seekers used ads in print publications when looking for a job, and just 28 percent turned to job fairs, conferences or other events. [Unliked: How Facebook Wrecks Your Job Search ]
One problem with this shift to a more digitally focused job search is that some of those looking for work aren't as digitally savvy as others, the study authors said.
"Despite the importance of digital resources when it comes to looking for work today, a minority of Americans would find it difficult to engage in a variety of digital job-seeking behaviors," the study authors wrote.
Specifically, 21 percent of all Americans — not including those who are retired or disabled — said they would have trouble highlighting their employment skills using a personal website or social media profile, while 12 percent said it would be difficult for them to find online lists of available jobs. In addition, 12 percent would have trouble filling out an online job application, 11 percent wouldn't find it easy to use email to contact a potential employer and 10 percent would have problems being able to look up online services available to assist job seekers.
"In many cases, Americans who might benefit the most from being able to perform these behaviors effectively — such as those with relatively low levels of educational attainment — are the ones who find them most challenging," the study authors wrote.
The research revealed that 23 percent of Americans with a high school diploma or lower educational attainment said they would have trouble filling out an online job application, compared with just 6 percent of college graduates. Additionally, 21 percent of those who never attended college find it difficult to use the Internet to find available jobs in their area, compared with only 5 percent of college graduates.
Besides using computers as part of the online job search process, many are also using smartphones. Nearly 30 percent of those surveyed, including 53 percent of those ages 18 to 29, have used their smartphone when looking for work. This includes browsing or researching job listings, emailing someone about a job they were applying for, filling out an application and creating a résumé.
Social media is also playing a large role in today's job search experience. The study discovered that 35 percent of social media users have used at least one of their social networks to look for or research jobs, while 21 percent have applied for a job they first found out about on social media.
"Younger users are especially active at utilizing these platforms for employment-related purposes, but many older users are taking advantage of social media when looking for work as well," the researchers wrote in the study. "Roughly one-quarter of social media users ages 50 and older have used these platforms to look for work or to let their friends know about job openings."
The study was based on surveys of a national sample of 2,001 adults living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.