What Today's Job Seekers Want

Despite the tough job market, they’re still passionate and selective.

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Job seekers may be having a tough time landing a position these days, but don't assume they're willing to take anything they can get. According to a recent survey by job search engine SimplyHired.com, today's job hunters have pretty specific ideas about what they're looking for in their career and in prospective employers. More than 80 percent of those polled by the site said they'd rather have a job they love than one that pays well. They also want personalized benefits such as flexible schedules and the option to telecommute—mothers especially. And they're looking to work for environmentally conscious employers: Half of respondents say they want to work for a green-certified company, and some 60 percent are looking for employers that at least recycle.

Still, job seekers realize that in this market, there are some instances where they may have to settle. According to the survey, which incorporates 75 user polls conducted by SimplyHired.com between August 2009 and August 2010, 65 percent of job seekers would consider a career change (more than a third can't find work in their current career). About 20 percent would give up their office to keep a job and 14 percent would give up vacation days.

[See 21 Things Hiring Managers Wish You Knew.]

But survey results don't tell the whole story. Recently, U.S. News spoke with Gautam Godhwani, chief executive of SimplyHired.com, about the evolving job search and what motivates job seekers today. Excerpts:

The survey emphasizes that job seekers are passionate and selective these days. Are they really able to be choosy in this market?

If you look at the situation at the moment, you obviously have a range of job seekers in the mode of "we'll take what we can get." ... [but] some job seekers can be more selective because they have skills that are in demand. They recognize that they can work remotely and can have flexible schedules and can get specific with what kind of work they are doing.

When you go through a recessionary period as long and deep as this one, the economy looks very different. Certain industries and occupations are doing better than others. For example, if you have skills in the nursing industry—if you're a registered nurse, you will find that your job is very much in demand ... Another is technology. Technology took a major hit [in the recession], but certain types of engineering positions continue to be in very, very high demand. There is an 11.2 percent unemployment rate in Silicon Valley, but when you ask people how hard it is to find engineers, they say it's still very difficult. If you're in the real estate or construction business, it's still a get-what-you-can-take situation ... [but] it's hard to paint a broad picture of the economy to really represent what a range of people are going through.

[See 14 Secrets to Career Change Success.]

The survey shows that 45 percent of job seekers use LinkedIn to search for jobs, a quarter use Facebook, and 11 percent use Twitter. Is social media the best avenue to find a job now?

More people are now using social media to communicate with others than E-mail. From a recruiting perspective, people's personal and professional networks are online. Historically, about half of all hiring is done with referrals. The job-search process is coming online, and instead of calling up friends and asking if they know of any good companies, your friends can literally help you get a job online. On SimplyHired.com, you can opt into LinkedIn and Facebook ... and can literally see, online, which friends you know at a particular company. You can get a complete list of friends and where they work, and companies where the most of your friends work and locations where you have the most friends. It has become so easy to look for a job ... When we asked how [those surveyed] got their last job, over a third said through networking.

In your opinion, what are some surprising findings from the survey?

There are a couple of interesting areas. People want to identify with their company and the company's brand. They want to feel connected with their employer, and find a job that they are passionate about. It's amazing to me in polling about what it is that people have as career goal. Overwhelmingly, they are saying "we want to find a job we love." We also see more and more people changing jobs. Paternity leave is another. An increasing number of people say it should be there in the workplace.