Ways to take action

Job seeking: how to give yourself the best odds?

Serge Da Motta Veiga , Neoma

How can academic research help job seekers maximise their odds at finding a job? In this article, initially published in French in The Conversation, Serge Da Motta Veiga presents some findings from research, which myself and other experts in the field have conducted over the past ten years.

Reading time :
2 Jun 2022

Finding a job is never easy. For the fourth trimester of 2021, about 5.6 million people were looking for a job in France. This does not take into account job seekers at the end of their studies, or those already working but seeking another position.

Added to the impression of intense competition is the fact that looking for a job is a process that takes time and consumes enormous mental and physical energy without necessarily resulting in positive outcomes.


How can academic research help job seekers maximise their odds at finding a job? In this article, I present some findings from research, which myself and other experts in the field have conducted over the past ten years. From this research arise four main recommendations for things to consider before and during the job search: combine perseverance and learning, ask for feedback, manage your emotions, and use your contacts.

The combination of several strategies would even allow everyone to find their own way to increase their odds of success. Obviously, on top of these proposals, the labor market must be taken into account, knowing that it can change from one industry to another and from one region to another, but also the discrimination that, unfortunately, still exists in recruiting processes, as well as other conditions that are beyond the control of job seekers.


Combine perseverance and learning

Missing out on a position while looking for a job is normal and is no reason to give up. Job seekers must be resilient and persistent, while all the time concentrating on the quality of their search.

In a recent academic article, Edwin van Hooft and his co-authors confirmed a common perception, which is that the best predictor of success in looking for a job is the intensity of the search. The more time that job seekers invest in their search – sending out applications and contacting people in their networks – the greater their odds of finding employment. The message is that rather than be discouraged by a rejection, it is better to redouble your efforts.

One essential element that can reinforce resilience and promote positive outcomes is a capacity to learn from your job search. Indeed, in a 2014 study, my co-author and I found that people looking for a job who learn how to do things better during their search succeed in transforming stress into perseverance, whereas those who are motivated “only” by finding a job don’t learn the keys to success. Our study showed that finding employment comes not simply from wanting to succeed but also and most importantly from being motivated and wanting to learn.

Another interesting point about our findings is that they match what human resources managers like Laszlo Bock, Google’s former CHRO, are looking for. In an interview with the New York Times, he stressed that for this American industry giant, one of the most important characteristics in the selection of new employees is the applicant’s capacity to learn.


Ask for feedbacks

Closely linked with the strategy just outlined, especially with the need to learn, job seekers have everything to gain and nothing to lose by thanking recruiters for taking the time to consider their application for the position and by asking them, whenever possible, for feedback about their performance and on the rejection if the job seeker were to be rejected. This can be done via email or a short phone/video exchange, to thank the person met during the process and to ask for their advice on what you could do better in the next interview.

In another study, in 2019, my co-authors and I observed that job seekers who receive good-quality feedback, such as information about what worked well (and what didn’t) during the job interview, can improve their interview skills and make them more persistent in their efforts. We also found that good-quality feedback helps identify how the job search itself can be improved, for example by identifying job offers that best match their skills and interests.

This recommendation should, however, be treated with caution because many recruiters will not share their reasons for preferring one applicant over another, or at least not in any detail, simply because they wish to avoid the complications that can arise from an unsuccessful selection process.


Manage your emotions and your energy

Looking for a job has a direct effect on a job seeker’s emotions. In recent years, several studies have shown that we must not overlook our emotions: job seekers should be conscious of both positive and negative emotions, as these relate to their job search, and above all, understand when and how to use them.

In a recent academic article, my co-authors and I noted that not all emotions have the same influence on job seekers’ effort and success. Only high-energy emotions, both negative and positive, such as stress and excitement, tend to have a positive impact on perseverance and success in the search for employment.

In a more recent study, we even go a little further, and find that only job seekers with high levels of both positive and negative emotions tend to be highly persistent and to obtain more job offers. This suggests that a combination of positive and negative emotions is more conducive to successful job hunting than a single experience of either emotion, or even the absence of emotions during the job search.

Although emotions are very important for a successful job search, it is important to take into account that these emotional experiences tend to be exhausting. So, in another very recent study, my co-authors and I investigate the importance of recharging batteries, so to speak. For example, it is important for job seekers to take breaks, to have leisure activities, not to make job seeking a full-time job. As with many other activities, looking after oneself is crucial to obtain good results.


Use your contacts and networks

Finally, the last recommendation stresses the importance of staying connected. More precisely, job seekers should use, in personalised ways, the contacts and informal networks at their disposal, of friends, colleagues and other acquaintances, because these can provide not only leads on jobs and help to open doors, but also give emotional support.

In a 2017 article, we reported that soliciting support and sharing experiences with friends and family during the job search has a positive effect on job seekers’ perseverance. Networks and contacts can thus facilitate different steps of the process.

However, job seekers must be careful not to overuse their social networks. Researchers Michael Johnson and Christopher Leo have recently published a study in which they show that spending too much time looking for a job using LinkedIn can result in burnout, a reduction in personal efficacy and lower job search success. Here too, job seekers must better manage their resources.


To sum up...

To give yourself the best possible chance in your search for employment, you should:

  • Be persistent and resilient during the search and learn from your experiences
  • Use feedback to advance and to improve your search
  • Understand your emotions and how they influence your efforts and your success, and manage your energy throughout the process
  • Use your contacts and informal networks, without overusing them

Combining these strategies can only help you be more effective and efficient in your job search, and better at managing a process that is often long and difficult.  


Article written by Serge da Motta Veiga, HR Professor at EDHEC Business School. Cet article a été republié en français à partir de The Conversation sous licence Creative Commons. Lire l’article original.


Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash