Not hearing back from recruiters? We know why.

Posted by TheLadders

May 2, 2013

TheLadders conducts a study on job-seeker behavior using “eye-tracking” technology to help job seekers close up the job search "black hole."
By Dan Cronyn


Anyone who has ever looked for a job knows the drill: find job online, send resume, wait, and never hear back. If you’re sending out dozens of resumes, like most job seekers do, you’re likely familiar with this broken process -- and frustrated when you don’t get a response. In the careers industry, this broken loop even has a notorious name: “The Black Hole.”

Recently, TheLadders conducted a study on job-seeker behavior using “eye-tracking” technology to determine how we could help close The Black Hole while leading job seekers to their perfect job. We analyzed how job seekers view job postings, what they actually saw, what they concentrated on, and what they totally missed.

If you’re unfamiliar with eye tracking, it’s a way to record and analyze where someone focuses on a page, and in what order they do it (see cool visualizations above).

So, what did we find out?

Job seekers assume The Black Hole exists because employers do not take the time to respond, which is only partially true. What we found from our behavioral analysis was that job seekers also played their part in The Black Hole, which can be statistically proven through our eye-tracking study.

The fundamental conclusion of our study relies on sensitivity and specificity, two really important statistics terms. Sensitivity, in this study, was the ability of job seekers to correctly determine a good job “fit” for them, while specificity was the same job seeker’s ability to determine a job “not a fit.” Basically, we were on a mission to find out if job seekers were applying to the right jobs, and avoiding applying for jobs that were not right for them.

Surprisingly, the results of those two pieces of analysis showed us that job seekers were unable to determine good jobs, only picking good fits at a rate of 38%, but were able to tell bad fits at a rate nearly twice that. For further clarification, this means that out of every 10 jobs an average job seeker applies to, six of them will be bad fits. Additionally, this means that out of every 10 job postings viewed, the job seeker overlooks at least two that are good fits.

Our primary assumption for why this happens is due to the time spent reading and assessing the positions. Sixty-five percent of our study participants self-reported spending up to ten minutes reading job postings before applying; however, our study findings show that, on average, job seekers spend less than a minute per job posting – even less when they determine it’s not a fit.

What can TheLadders do to help job seekers make better decisions in the job sourcing and application process? We have to make the application process more precise, so that job seekers can better identify the right opportunities and avoid getting stuck in The Black Hole. This is why we recently introduced TheLadders Scout, a competitive-analysis tool that provides job seekers with an anonymous overview of who else applied for that same role.

To determine the effectiveness of TheLadders Scout, the second part of our study tested how participants viewed the competitive data provided, and whether it influenced their ability to identify good fits.

The results were equally surprising, in that job seekers eyes were heavily drawn to the new feature on the page, and spent on average 12 incremental seconds viewing the competitive data.

Additionally, participants viewing job descriptions with TheLadders Scout were able to determine good fits at a 35% higher rate than job descriptions without Scout. With 12 seconds of viewing time being devoted to TheLadders Scout, we expected the overall viewing time of postings with TheLadders Scout to increase, but we were proven wrong. Job seekers spent 24% less time finding fits with TheLadders Scout.

Looking at these “heat maps,” you can see that job postings without Scout data on them (pictured on the left) drew job-seeker attention primarily to the title, company description at the top, and then the first line of the first couple of paragraphs. The majority of information (such as job requirements) was skimmed, or went completely unnoticed. In the Scout version, not only was more information read, but 12 seconds were spent reviewing the competitive information and determining based on other applicants if the position was truly a fit.

For us at TheLadders, the study provided valuable information, not only on why The Black Hole exists, and why employers and job seekers have equal roles in contributing to it, but also on how we can provide features and tools to help close The Black Hole.

Click on button below to download a free copy of TheLadders eye-tracking study.

Download TheLadders Study
Daniel Cronyn is the director of consumer marketing at TheLadders. Besides a passion for creative direct-response campaigns and analysis, he spends his time tracking down obscure music events and even more obscure food choices across New York City.

Topics: TheLadders Insights