Job search is a process that consists of gathering information about potential job opportunities, generating and evaluating job alternatives, and choosing a job from the alternatives. It is a self-regulatory process that begins with the identification and commitment to pursuing an employment goal and ends when the employment goal has been achieved or is abandoned.
The job-search process involves a logical sequence of activities that consists of two phases: (a) planning job search and (b) job search and choice. Job search begins with an extensive search to gather information and identify job opportunities, followed by a more intensive search that involves the acquisition of specific information about jobs and organizations. Job search has also been described as consisting of preparatory and active phases. Preparatory job-search behavior involves information gathering about job opportunities, and active job-search behavior involves applying for positions.
Models of job search include the antecedents and consequences of job search behaviors. Job-search behaviors include (a) job information sources, (b) job-search intensity, and (c) job-search effort. Job information sources refer to the means by which job seekers learn about job opportunities. Formal sources involve the use of public intermediaries, such as advertisements, employment agencies, and campus placement offices. Informal sources are private intermediaries, such as friends, relatives, or persons who are already employed in an organization.
Job-search intensity refers to the frequency with which job seekers, during a set period of time, engage in specific job-search behaviors or activities, such as preparing resumes or contacting employment agencies. Job-search effort refers to the amount of energy, time, and persistence that a job seeker devotes to his or her job search. Unlike measures of job-search intensity, job-search effort does not focus on particular job-search behaviors, but rather, refers to the time and effort one devotes to the search.
Two more specific types of job-search behavior are assertive job seeking and networking. Assertive job seeking applies the concept of assertiveness to job search and refers to the ability to identify one’s rights and choices during job search and to act on them. Networking involves contacting friends, acquaintances, and referrals to obtain information and leads about job opportunities.
The antecedents of job search include (a) biographical/demographic variables, (b) individual-difference variables, (c) employment and job-search attitudes, and (d) situational variables. With respect to biographical/demographic variables, older, non-White, female, less-educated, and more-tenured individuals have been found to conduct less intense job searches than younger, White, male, more-educated, and less-tenured individuals. In addition, younger, more-educated, and male job seekers are more likely to find employment, and more-educated and White job seekers experience a shorter period of unemployment. Grade average has also been found to positively relate to job-search behavior and job-finding success. In general, biographical variables tend to be only weakly related to job-search behavior and to a lesser extent than the other antecedents.
Individual-difference variables that are important for job search include personality variables, motivational variables, and affective variables. Among the personality variables, self-esteem has been found to relate positively to job-search intensity and assertive job-seeking behavior and to a shorter period of unemployment, more job offers, and a greater likelihood of obtaining employment. Dimensions of the five-factor model of personality such as Extraversion and Conscientiousness have been found to be strong predictors of job-search behavior, followed by Openness to Experience and Agreeableness. In contrast, Neuroticism is negatively related to job-search behavior. Extroversion, Conscientiousness, Openness to Experience, and Agreeableness are associated with a shorter period of unemployment, and Conscientiousness also predicts employment success.
Attitudes have also been found to predict job search. Employment commitment refers to the importance or centrality to the job seeker of employment beyond its financial return. It has been found to positively relate to job search intensity. Job-search attitude, or the extent to which a person has a positive or negative evaluation of job search behavior, has been found to predict job-search intention.
A motivational variable that is especially important is job-search self-efficacy, or the confidence one has in his or her ability to perform specific job-search tasks and activities. Job-search self-efficacy has been found to predict job-search intensity, assertive job-search behavior, and job source usage, as well as search duration, number of job offers, and employment success. Another motivational variable is job-seekers’ perceived control over job search outcomes. Perceived control is positively related to job-search intensity and finding employment.
Recent research has examined whether affective traits are related to job-search behaviors. This research suggests that individuals who tend to experience positive emotions set employment goals that, in turn, lead to high job-search intensity. Individuals who tend to experience negative emotions, however, are less successful in their job search because they have lower self-efficacy than their counterparts. Another study found that emotionally intelligent job seekers start employment more quickly than individuals with low emotional intelligence. Taken together, these studies reveal that the way job seekers feel, and their abilities to process emotional information have important effects on job-search behaviors and job-search success.
Situational variables that are important for job search include financial need and social support. Financial need is the extent to which a job seeker is experiencing economic hardship. Job seekers who have a greater financial need tend to be more intense in their search for employment. In addition, those with higher benefit levels or a longer duration of benefits tend to remain unemployed for longer periods. Social support refers to the network of friends and family who provide counseling, assistance, and encouragement to job seekers. It predicts job-search behavior and employment success and is particularly important in assisting individuals following job loss.
The consequences of job search include (a) job-search outcomes (outcomes that occur during the search process), (b) employment outcomes (outcomes that are a result of one’s job search), and (c) employment quality (outcomes that occur on the job).
Job-search outcomes include the number of job interviews and job offers that a job seeker receives and the speed with which one obtains employment. Job-search intensity is positively related to the number of job interviews and offers received and is negatively related to search duration.
Employment outcomes assess the result of one’s job search and refer to whether or not a job seeker obtains employment and the nature of that employment. The most common outcome measure of job search is employment status, or whether or not the job seeker has found a job. Job-search intensity, effort, and the use of informal information sources (i.e., friends and personal acquaintances) predict employment status. Other employment outcomes predicted by search intensity include person-job fit, person-organization fit, and initial compensation.
Employment quality refers to job-search outcomes that occur once the job seeker assumes a position and begins work (e.g., job satisfaction). Job seekers who find employment through informal sources tend to have more positive job attitudes and lower turnover. There is also some evidence that job-search intensity leads to more positive job and organization attitudes because of its positive effect on perceptions of job and organization fit.
In summary, individual differences and situational variables predict job search behaviors, and job-search behavior is related to the probability, speed, and quality of employment that one obtains.
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