Looking for work in 2019? Things may be different than the last time you searched.

Last month we released our definitive guide to the science of the job search, which offered a comprehensive analysis about the job search landscape in 2018. With a wealth of information and data to help you put your best foot forward in terms of your job search, we also recognize that no two years (or job searches) are alike which brings us to…

Surprise! This year is different

There are tons of variables when searching for a new job — individual requirements, experience level, age, application processes, the list goes on. What may have been a straightforward process in the past is now full of nuances and surprises. What’s more is the increasing feeling that searching for a job is a part-time job in and of itself. While we like to think our research gives us a good idea of what to expect, we wanted to talk to the people who are going through the process right now to find out, more specifically, what’s different this time around. What makes 2019 different?

This time last year I was overconfident and a bit egotistical about my job search. I took a semi-passive approach – assuming they would contact me. However after a few months I realized my resume needed work, my cover letter (if I even had one) needed updating, and I needed to keep my resume updated as often as I update my Facebook status…

— Patrick D., Sales Manager

To put it simply: Even if you’ve done this before, don’t expect the search to be the same.

More jobs are available

Despite some challenges in the market, the fact is there’s a pretty significant increase in jobs available now than in previous years — over 200% in certain industries. The folks we surveyed reported wide-ranging observations of the increase of job availability specific to their situation — with job seekers increasing their experience and different fields growing, there are an influx of jobs available; there are even more options for both employees and employers, making for a difficult decision making process.

Survey says…

We talked to folks in all different stages of their careers, from recent college graduates to seasoned professionals. It’s only a few weeks into the New Year, but some common themes emerged. To start, 60% of people starting the job search in 2019 are still employed. We know from experience that people who showed they were currently employed (even if creatively) saw a +149% hireability boost.

More does not necessarily equate to an easier search —

“There are more jobs available, but the market is more competitive in the new city I’ve relocated to.”

— Travis S., Content Creator

60% also expect their current search to take longer than previous search. Why do people expect this search to take longer than previous ones? Well, for starters, 23% of that 60% have already been at it for a long time. In some cases, responders reported having been in full-fledged job search mode for 7-8 months. One user even stated they have been at it since November 2017.

We know people are looking, but what exactly do they want?

A whopping 70% are looking because they want a higher salary.

“In the last 10 years, total compensation for 90th percentile income earners went up by 26% compared to a 21% increase for 10th percentile income earners — but the real gap was in benefits, where the value of benefits for 90th percentile earners went up 37% compared to a mere 15% increase for 10th percentile earners.”

— The 2019 Job Search Landscape

It’s not surprising a higher salary is at the forefront of many job searches. As experience is gained, worth increases. Not to mention the cost of living is skyrocketing across the United States. The statistic above may not sound promising, but there are some things we can recommend.

What should job seekers expect?

The general blueprint of a job search is more or less predictable — from polishing your resumé and crafting the perfect cover letter, to filling out as many applications as you can (which we aim to streamline to save you time for the other surprises), to preparing for an interview and waiting, for what seems like an eternity, for a callback…

That doesn’t mean the 2019 search will be the same as years prior, though. over 90 % of our survey respondents said the job search feels inexplicably different this time around. But why?

Search criteria has changed

Gone are the days of staying in the same career from graduation to retirement. The minimum amount of time necessary to “build” one’s resume at a particular job are decreasing. Interests, requirements, and general life circumstances all contribute to the changing climate of the search.

“I will finish my Bachelor’s in a few months and am looking for a career in my chosen field rather than part-time work I have looked for in the past.”

— PJ D., Software Engineer

Entry-level jobs require more experience

How in the world are you supposed to build your resumé if your first career in the job force requires 3+ years of experience? We tackled this subject last Spring, but the experience paradox is still weighing on people’s minds. “[It seems] more and more entry-level positions are requiring professional experience in my field.” One TalentWorks user indicated the perils of not being able to start their search in a new career field because they were not qualified to even begin the application process until they completed the necessary certifications.

What can you do about this?

  • Apply for Jobs Within ±2 Years of Your Experience — You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. From what we see, if you’re within ±2 years of required experience, hiring managers will often consider you “close enough.”
  • Use Freelance Jobs To Build Your Experience —Not only will you get paid, you’ll also have far higher chances getting your second job (everyone else’s first job).

Full details: 61% of “Entry-Level” Jobs Require 3+ Years of Experience

The application process is different, and so are employer expectations

Respondents reported companies wanting more for less (in addition to experience), such as more skills for less pay. That’s clearly not ideal — you deserve what you’re worth! Moreover, the application process can feel like one giant black-hole. Everything is automated and there’s no opportunity for personal touch, which can feel pretty discouraging.

With an influx of recruiters, the same positions are being submitted over and over again. The result? Companies are overwhelmed with the same applicants being submitted by different recruiters and agencies.

Want to cheat the system? Our AI-driven system saves you time, energy, and ensures you’re getting out a record number of applications. We even optimize the time and day of your application so it doesn’t fall into the blackhole.

Changing expectations

We know, it’s easier said than done. While we have a wealth of data available about the specifics of the job search, there’s a very human element that cannot be distilled in a set of numbers.

As people move through their career, pursue further education, explore the world of entrepreneurship, and experience the unpredictability of life in general, expectations for a new job can change, and may need to change due to life circumstances.

“For better or for worse, I’m focused on a few narrow, but related fields, rather than general fields.”

— Tracy B., Operations Leader

“I don’t know where I fit. I have loads of specialist skills. I’ve had similar jobs to what I’m looking for, but interviews demand much more and things change so quickly in my field…” 

— Amanda L., Digital Content

Expectations from employers are moving targets that can take anyone by surprise, but don’t let the fluidity knock you out of your element. Be humble; remain confident.

Take the surprise in stride

Even when you think you might know, you might not really know…surprises in the job search don’t have to mean completely recalibrating everything you once felt comfortable with in the search. It does mean, though, utilizing different tools to help you be successful, and staying positive — no matter what variables are present in the current job search climate.

Not prepared to go at it alone? We’ve got your back. Let us take care of the most consuming parts of the job search for you.

Outside sources:

The Science of The Job Search, Part III: 61% of “Entry-Level” Jobs Require 3+ Years of Experience

Jr. Marketing Assistant. Perfect for new grads! Requirements: 3 years of digital marketing experience. Compensation: $12/hour.

The job search can feel like one big Catch-22: “How the hell am I supposed to get experience if I can’t get a job to get experience?” In fact, after analyzing a random sample of 95,363 jobs, we discovered that 61% of all full-time “entry-level” jobs require 3+ years of experience.

entry-level-jobs-years-experience
61% of all supposedly “entry-level” jobs require 3+ years of experience. It’s not just you.

What gives? Before we get into that, here are 3 other interesting things we found:

  • Employers are driving “experience inflation”; as a result, the amount of experience required to get a job is increasing by 2.8% every year. That means your younger sister (or brother) will need ~4 years of work experience just to get their first job.
  • That’s bullshit, right? You don’t have to play by their rules. Based on our analysis, you can successfully apply to jobs if you’ve got ±2 years of the required experience.
  • 3, 5 and 8 are your magic numbers. After 5+ years of experience, you (officially) qualify for most mid-level jobs. After 8+ years, you qualify for senior ones.  And 3+ for entry-level, obvs.

Let’s dig in, shall we?

How Much Experience Do You Need?

Employers are a superstitious bunch. How many jobs have you seen asking for 13 years of work experience? They’ll ask for 7, 10 and 15 years (but rarely 11-14). You can see job postings clump up by employers’ “lucky numbers” in the graph above.

But, here’s the rub— this isn’t just a cute gimmick. It lets us pinpoint how much experience you’ll (officially) need to qualify for different levels of jobs:

Level# Years of Experience% Jobs Qualified
Entry-Level~3 years75%
Mid-Level~5 years77%
Senior-Level~8 years72%

Put another way, if you’ve got 3+ years of experience, you’ll qualify for 75% of entry-level jobs. 3 is the magic number here: below 3 years of experience, you don’t (officially) qualify for most entry-level jobs; above 3 years of experience, you do.

(“Officially” is the operative word here. Keep reading.)

Companies Gone Bad

Can You Be Overqualified?

After 8 years of experience, you qualify for most senior-level jobs out there. But even for senior roles, employers rarely ask for more than 10 years experience. (You can see this in the graph above.)

And from our first post in this The Science of The Job Search series: your hireability starts dropping by ~8% every year after age 35. Assuming today’s experienced folks graduated college around age ~23, this is almost exactly 10 years of experience. It’s no coincidence.

after-age-35-hireability-decreases-by-8-percent
After age 35, your hireability decreases by ~8% every year. Ageism is very real.

Age matters. A lot, sadly. Your chances of getting a job at age 20 aren’t great. At 30, they’re OK. After 40, they’re getting bad again. It’s illegal for companies to discriminate based on age, but ageism is very real.

What Gives? “Experience Inflation”

In addition to discriminating against older workers, employers have also been driving “experience inflation,” which is especially dangerous for younger workers. For entry-level jobs, the amount of work experience required to get a job has been steadily increasing at 2.8% per year.

Anecdotally, we all know this is true: 30 years ago, our parents could get an amazing job with just a college degree. These days, we don’t even know if a college degree is worth it and a college degree on its own doesn’t buy you much.

Over the next 5-10 years, recent graduates will start needing ~4 years of work experience just to get their first job. (Yes, I know this doesn’t make sense. Hold on.)

We’ll get into experience inflation in detail in next week’s post, but for now let’s focus on what options you have. This is all very depressing—

What Can You Do?

Honestly, the job search is unfair. (That’s fundamentally why we started TalentWorks, but that’s a different story for later.) So what? Folks still need jobs. Hell, maybe you need a job.

What can you do?

#4: Don’t List Your Graduation Date If You’re 35+

We’ve already briefly touched on fighting ageism. Hiring managers (subconsciously) guess your age based on your graduation date, how much work experience you have, etc. If you don’t list your graduation date or only show your most recent 2-3 jobs, they can’t tell how old you are.

#3: Use Freelance Jobs To Build Your Experience

One way to get past the job-searching Catch-22 is to play a different game. Instead of fighting with everyone else to get that first job, you can instead build up your work experience (and resume and portfolio) by doing freelance jobs on the side.

Not only will you get paid, you’ll also have far higher chances getting your 2nd job (everyone else’s 1st job). In the future, especially when experience inflation means you need 4+ years of experience to get your first job, this might be the only way to break into your job.

#2: Apply for Jobs Within ±2 Years of Your Experience

The #1 lesson: you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. From what we see, if you’re within ±2 years of required experience, hiring managers will often consider you “close enough.”

So, be flexible with what jobs you go after! You never know if something special in your application will catch the hiring manager’s eye. What’s the harm in applying?

#1: Identify (Actual) Entry-Level Jobs Near You

Let’s be honest: looking for jobs is a *[email protected]$* pain in the ass. Of the 95,363 jobs we analyzed, 52% (49,245) were supposedly entry-level (based on what the employer said). Of those, my hypothetical job-searcher — a Marketing Assistant in LA, say — was only interested in 3% (1,286). Of those 1,286 supposedly entry-level Marketing Assistant and other jobs, I found 240 for actual entry-level Marketing Assistants.

In real life, folks need to apply to 150-250 jobs to get a job, so needing to review 1,286 job postings is actually pretty representative. (Afterwards, you’d still have to apply to the final 240 jobs, of course…)

job-search-pain-in-the-ass
Identifying 240 (actually good) entry-level Marketing Assistant jobs meant wasting 94% of my time. I reviewed 1,286 supposedly-good jobs and had to discard 94% as crap. OTOH, I found 168 great jobs out of 95,067 supposed baddies. Doing this was was a *[email protected]$* pain in the ass.

It’s painful work, but someone’s gotta do it. If you’ve got the patience and the time (and stubbornness), rock on! If you don’t, you can pay us $10 to do it (and other stuff) for you.

Summary

Getting a job has always been hard, but it’s getting (quantifiably) harder. These days, you need to have ~3 years of experience (officially) to get the average entry-level job. It’s a full-on Catch-22: “No, you can’t have a job.” “Why?” “Because you don’t have a job.” “…”

With the right insights and tools, you can break the Catch-22 and get the job you deserve. To recap:

  1. Identify (actual) entry-level jobs near you. With a bit of patience (and a lot of stubbornness), you can identify the ~5% of jobs that actually match your needs.
  2. Apply for jobs within ±2 years of your experience. If you’re within ±2 years of required experience, hiring managers will often consider you “close enough.”
  3. Use freelance jobs to build your experience. Go guerrilla. Not only will you get paid, you’ll also have far higher chances getting your second job (everyone else’s first job).
  4. Don’t list your graduation date if you’re 35+. Ageism is real. If you don’t list your graduation date or only show your most recent 2-3 jobs, hiring managers can’t tell how old you are.

We’ve already added a filter for (actually) entry-level jobs in ApplicationAssistant. If you’re looking for an entry-level job, sign up for ApplicationAssistant and set “Entry Level” during setup. We’ll only look for (actual) entry-level jobs near you!

entry-level-talentworks.smaller.gif

(88% of recent graduates looking for entry-level jobs got an interview in 60 days or less using ApplicationAssistant — it’s backed by our Interview Guarantee.)


Methodology

First, we randomly sampled 100,000 jobs from our index of 91 million job postings. We extracted the # of years of experience, job level and employment type for each job using TalentWorks-proprietary parsing algorithms. We then used a blended Gaussian-linear kernel to calculate experience densities. Finally, we used an averaged ensemble of multiple independent RANSAC iterations to robustly calculate inflations against outliers. This was done in python with pandas, sklearn and scipy and plotted with bokeh.

Why Are We Doing This?

With ApplicationAssistant right now, we can boost the average job-seeker’s hireability by 5.8x. But, what makes ApplicationAssistant work has been an internal company secret until now. We’re fundamentally a mission-driven company and we believe we can help more people by sharing our learnings. So, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

Creative Commons

We’re not only sharing this but also sharing all of it under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. In other words, as long as you follow a few license terms, this means you can:

  • Share: Copy, redistribute the material in any medium or format.
  • Adapt: Remix, transform, and build upon the material.