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What Motivates Job Seekers in Each Generation

By Melissa J. Anderson

According to a new study by Millennial Branding and Beyond.com, members of different generations are finding different ways to search for jobs online. At a time when the stakes are higher when it comes to finding the perfect applicant – because there is less room for error due to the tough economy and jobs environment – finding the best way to reach the right people can save employer time, money, and stress.

The study, which polled over 5,000 job seekers, showed that more Boomers are looking for jobs online than any other group, with 96 percent of Boomers reporting having conducted their job search on the Internet. About the same percentage of Gen X respondents were also likely to do their job search online (95 percent). Surprisingly, Gen Y was the least likely to perform an online job search at 92 percent.

All of these percentages were high, but what may be more interesting is how few job seekers were spending time searching for a position offline. Only 4 percent of Boomers and Gen Y individuals, and 5 percent of Gen X were participating in an offline job search. That could indicate that effort spent to hire talent at job fairs or expos may not be the most effective way for employers to reach people.

About the Job Search

The real differences in the generations were revealed in how individuals were going about their online job searches. Baby boomers were more likely to use a job board at 87 percent (compared to 82 percent for Gen X and 77 percent for Gen Y). Company websites ranked next for all generations, followed by classified ads (43 percent for Boomers, 41 percent for Gen X, and 32 percent for Gen Y).

Social networks were also a relatively popular way for search for jobs, with Boomers most likely to utilize this platform (29 percent for Boomers, 27 percent for Gen X, and 23 percent for Gen Y). Google or Google +, Facebook, and Linkedin were top choices for job seekers, and Twitter was the least popular network for job seekers (four percent for Boomers, six percent for Gen X, and eight percent for Gen Y).

A little over one in ten respondents for each generation was likely to have their own professional website or online portfolio (14 percent for Boomers and 13 percent for Gen X and Gen Y).  On the other hand, Gen Y was much more likely than the other generations  perform their own online reputation search when seeking a job (47 percent of Gen Y, 39 percent of Gen X, and 35 percent of Boomers).

Overall, Boomers seem to be doing slightly more than the other generations when it comes to the job search – and this isn’t ultimately surprising. After all, Boomers may have more at stake than their younger counterparts when it comes to finding a job.

They were also the much more likely than other generations to see themselves as victimized. Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of Boomers feel they suffer from age discrimination in their job search. Only 22 percent of Gen X and 21 percent of Gen Y felt the same. This could also be valuable information for employers when it comes to engaging current employees.

What Job Seekers are Looking for

According to the Millennial Branding and Beyond.com study, a quarter of Boomers have been searching for a job for over a year, compared to 17 percent of Gen X and 10 percent of Gen Y respondents. A third of Gen Y respondents said they were able to find employment in less than a month, compared to 29 percent of Gen X respondents and 24 percent of Boomers.

Boomers were more likely to name meaningful work as a key factor in choosing a job (60 percent, compared to 57 percent of Gen Y). Gen X respondents didn’t list this among their top three job attributes. Gen Y individuals were more likely to name location as their top job attribute (59 percent) followed by meaningful work and job security at 57 percent. Gen X respondents were most likely to cite job security at 65 percent, followed by employee benefits at 62 percent, and location at 55 percent. Gen Y respondents were more likely than their older counterparts to name a high salary as the most important factor (41 percent, compared with 37 percent of Gen X and 27 percent of Boomers).

Many of the information revealed by the survey runs contrary to what employers have considered to be true of each generation – for example, that Boomers are less internet savvy than other generations, or that Gen Y employees don’t care about money. This should cause employers to reconsider their efforts toward building employee engagement or what they are offering potential employees when seeking to hire high performers of any generation.

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