Several studies have attempted to determine whether there is a relationship between the type of search method used and the outcome of the job search process. This literature has grown over the last 20 years to include studies of job seekers and employers; it consists of studies that examine large representative samples spanning several industrial and occupational sectors, as well as studies that provide a more contextualized and detailed examination of the job search process utilizing smaller-scale, often qualitative data sets.
Despite the growth of the job search literature, sampling limitations and measurement problems make it difficult to draw firm conclusions about the extent to which there is a causal relationship between search method and employment outcomes. The manner in which outcomes are measured varies, with studies typically defining the effectiveness of job search strategies in terms of (1) the frequency with which different job search methods are used for the subset of hires that are successful; (2) the perceived importance and perceived effectiveness of different search methods to the hiring process; or less often (3) the offer-to-application ratio based on the job search method used by job applicants.(11) Some studies have also examined the relationship between search method and measures of job quality, such as turnover, productivity, and wages. Because most studies rely on nonexperimental, cross-sectional, retrospective data, may selectively examine only successful job searches, and may include data about job searches without information about actual job availability, we are limited in our ability to interpret significant associations that have been found between search method and outcome. Although most of the quantitative studies do incorporate statistical controls into the analyses, it generally remains unclear whether the search method per se (rather than some unmeasured characteristic of the job seeker, the firm, or the broader labor market context) is affecting the job search outcome.(12)
Despite methodological differences, a review of this literature does demonstrate a consistent pattern of results. Although employers and employees make use of multiple methods of job search, informal referrals are the most popular and seemingly most effective method of job search for job seekers and employers in the low-wage labor market. Advertisements and direct applications are frequently utilized but less often successful search methods, and formal organizations are used less and seem to be the least successful relative to the other methods. There is some variation by industrial and occupational characteristics and by the individual characteristics of the job seeker to this general pattern of findings. The findings from this literature are summarized below.