Job Search Strategies Vary by Generation

A survey shows how unemployment affects different ages and what job search tactics are most popular among Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y.
Personal Branding Expert, Millennial Branding
October 11, 2012

Finding a job in this lagging economy can be a major challenge, especially for older workers who suffer from age discrimination and who are perceived to be less relevant, despite being more experienced. To understand exactly how each generation is finding work, we conducted a study called "The Multi-Generation Job Search."

More than five thousand job seekers were surveyed, including 742 members of Generation Y (ages 18-29), 1,676 from Generation X (ages 30-47) and 2,850 Baby Boomers (ages 48-67). The study shows the similarities and differences between how different generations find work. Regardless of age, all of them are relying heavily on the web, rather than in-person networking. They are spending between five and 20 hours per week searching for jobs and cited job boards as their top resource. Here is a summary of the differences in job-search behavior by generation:

Young and Hopeful

As a whole, Gen Y is feeling good. Despite economic challenges, 88 percent of Gen Y respondents are optimistic about finding a job, followed by 81 percent of Gen X and 73 percent of Boomers. They are optimistic because they have their wholes lives ahead of them, have fewer dependents than their older counterparts and are finding other ways to make ends meet.

When asked about what job seekers value in employers, we found that workplace flexibility is more valued by Gen Y (30 percent) than Gen X (25 percent) and Boomers (22 percent). Gen Y is also more inclined to go back to school instead of continuing their search than older generations.

Popular Tools

The most common first step for Gen Y is to search on Google (and Google+), used by 35 percent of respondents (followed by 31 percent of both Gen X and Boomer job seekers). From there, Gen Y uses Facebook and we found that under 10 percent use with Twitter. Nearly half of Gen Y respondents take the time to check their online reputation and clean it up if necessary. The numbers are lower for Gen X job seekers (38.8 percent), who were spared the humiliation of having their young and wild years recorded on cellphone cameras, and lower still for Boomers (35 percent). 

Surprising Findings

Different generations prepare for interviews differently, especially Gen Y. Practicing interview questions before an interview is most popular among Gen Y (68 percent), followed by Generation X (60 percent) and Boomers (52 percent). They are more likely to follow and interact with the company's social media profiles (25 percent) over Gen X (19 percent ) and Boomers (16 percent ).

It's not surprise that Gen X, the age bracket most likely to be supporting a family, paying mortgages and trying to save for their children's college tuitions–while still paying back some of their own school loans– are most widely affected by the stress and frustration stemming from unemployment (72 percent), compared with 69 percent of Baby Boomers and 61 percent of Gen Y. Unemployment-related depression affected 44 percent of the Gen X job seekers, 43 percent of the Baby Boomers and 38 percent of Gen Y respondents.

Among the more surprising findings, the use of social networks (LinkedIn, in particular) for job searching was highest among Boomers at 29 percent, compared with 27 percent of Gen X respondents and 23 percent of Gen Y. While they may not be as web-savvy as their Gen Y peers, they have deeper networks to draw from due to their longer experience.

Photo: Thinkstock

Personal Branding Expert, Millennial Branding