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Job hunting is the last taboo - Global research by Indeed

In an age of status updates and sharing our lives on social media, looking for a new job remains a taboo subject, according to research by the world’s largest job site Indeed.

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Indeed

  • Global study into the private nature of job search reveals two thirds of job seekers live in fear of others finding out they are looking for a job
  • Analysis by the world’s largest job site Indeed reveals half of us don’t even tell our partner when applying for a new role
  • Personal relationships are the most popular topic for sharing online, with job seeking and personal finance the most off-limits

In an age of status updates and sharing our lives on social media, looking for a new job remains a taboo subject, according to research by the world’s largest job site Indeed. The study, Privacy of Job Search, surveyed 10,000 job seekers and found that two thirds (65%) worry that others will find out they are looking for a new job.

Indeed commissioned the study in nine countries to spotlight individuals’ concerns about the job search process. After family and health, a job or career is one of the most important aspects of a person’s life. The results reveal global patterns of anxiety, triggers for these fears and how deeply personal and private job search is, with variations by country.

The research found that discussing job search on social media is one of the last taboos. A quarter of job seekers (24%) worldwide ranked their quest for a job as the topic they are least likely to share online. Only personal finances ranked as an equally off-limits topic. By contrast personal relationships were the most popular subject for sharing on social media, with nearly a third (31%) of people ranking this as the topic they’re most likely to talk about online.

Yet such candour did not always apply within real-world personal relationships. Researchers found that fear breeds secrecy in the application process: half (50%) of job seekers wouldn’t tell a partner when applying for a role. People aged 55+ are the most tight-lipped of all, with 60% of job seekers in this cohort keeping their job applications hidden from a partner

Globally, UK job seekers were the most secretive, with just 37% telling their partner when they apply for a new job. The French were only a little less reticent (41% would tell their partner), while at the other end of the scale the Dutch were the most open, with 61% of them happy to discuss their job applications with their other half.

Job seekers’ anxiety at the prospect of others finding out about their search was common but not universal. The Dutch once again emerged as the most laid back, with nearly two thirds (62%) declaring themselves unconcerned by the thought. That’s more than twice as relaxed as the French (where just 24% were unconcerned), Irish (26%), Canadians (27%), Australians (28%) and Brits (31%).

This is driven by a mixture of practical and more personal fears. Worldwide, 40% of those looking for a new job worry their employer will find out, a third (34%) fret they may not get the role, and a fifth (20%) are afraid of feeling a failure.

The desire for secrecy triggers strong emotions among those trying to change job. Two thirds (64%) said they feel anxious when searching for a new job, half (50%) feel secretive and a third (33%) even feel like they are leading a double life.

Paul D’Arcy, SVP, Marketing at global job site Indeed, comments: “The power of the internet has revolutionised the way we search for jobs, but not our attitude to job seeking. While many of us routinely share details of our lives and loves on social media, looking for a new job remains an intensely personal activity.

“There are practical reasons for this – few of us would want our current manager to know we are looking to leave, so it makes sense to be circumspect. In an age of oversharing, and with growing distinctions between your personal and professional self, job seeking is one of the last taboos.

“After family and health, our career is one of the most important aspects of our lives. But while we are keen to share the good news when we land that new job, most of us prefer to keep our job seeking journey secret.

D’Arcy concludes: “At Indeed, we have spent 13 years understanding job seekers: their motivations, behaviours and even their fears around job search. Our new study confirms that even in 2017 job seekers want a simple, fast and private experience. It is crucial that the recruitment industry understands and delivers to this very human side of hiring.”

Professor Paul Dolan, Behavioural Economist at London School of Economics (LSE) also commented: “These findings reveal the anxiety faced by many of those seeking employment. They also suggest a higher-level concern for status and the need to be seen by others as successful.  Admitting that we are looking for a job means exposing others to our potential success or failure. To avoid embarrassing ourselves, we choose to hide our searches. Paradoxically, it may be far more useful, for ourselves and for others, to highlight failures when they occur. 

He added: “If we only ever see those around us succeed we start to think we are the only one who fails, we do not learn from others’ experiences, and we raise what we consider to be the ‘average standard of success’ to unattainable levels that are bound to make all of us feel inadequate. This only holds when sharing with people outside of work though, of course, since it makes good sense to conceal your job search from bosses and colleagues.”