How women look for jobs differently from men

by May 23, 2018

How women approach the job market

There seems to be an increasing interest to understand how women look for jobs differently to men.

You can tell that the idea of hiring women is gaining traction when male recruiters start to post on the topic.  What they are finding is a one size fits all approach isn’t working. As a specialist in this field 3Plus knows that there are clear differences in identifying and attracting female talent into an organisation. Part of that is rooted in the way men and women approach the job market and how women look for jobs.

how women look for jobs

8 gender differences in how women look for jobs

#1 Internal promotions

Research from Catalyst suggests that women prefer to seek career advancement within their organisations first. But despite applying the same pro-active strategies as men, they are less successful than their male counterparts.  They follow the same path  and ensure that their managers are aware of their achievements, they seek feedback and credit as appropriate and they put themselves forward for promotions. But .. they don’t make the same progress as their male colleagues.

#2  Different reasons for leaving

This means that men and women leave organisations for different reasons. Women come to the job search market later and sometimes less automatically than male candidates. Men are more likely to keep their finger on the overall market. They are more willing to pursue promotions and compensation increases outside their own business and will leverage any network connections in pursuit of these goals.

Men tend to network with other and senior men who act as career influencers and sponsors  (Monica Stallings) while women do not. The same research from Stallings also suggests that women are more reluctant to network with senior women in an instrumental way.

Without this support in external job search, women frequently leave their companies for other reasons than promotion. It tends to be due to changes in their personal circumstances, feeling blocked in their careers or in response to specific negative issues – usually connected to a toxic or unfulfilling workplace. This can be related to a lack of promotion or growth possibilities, poor work/life balance, a male coded culture, or issues with a boss or colleague.

#3 Women get fewer referrals

A very high percentage of openings are filled by network referrals.  Recent research from LinkedIn suggests that 1 in 16 candidates are  now placed through a referral system. As women do not have the same external networks as men, they are referred less frequently. Research from PayScale also shows that men will refer another man more frequently for a position than he will a woman.

About one-third of new job offers go to people who received a referral — and the vast majority of them are white men, a major new study by PayScale, a company that collects data on salaries, concluded. White women are 12% less likely to have received a referral for their current position, men of color are 26% less likely to have received a referral and women of color are 35% less likely to receive a referral, the analysis of data from 53,000 hiring decisions found.

#4 Different use of resources

Women are more likely to tap into a personal network for jobs search information amongst family and friends. Their use of social media tends also to be for personal rather than professional reasons. One major difference is related to the use of the professional platform LinkedIn favoured by recruiters.

Research from LinkedIn in 2017 has identified very specific gender differences in the way their platform is used.

  • Female profiles contain less information and their summaries are shorter. This means that they are not going to appear in searches carried out by recruiters as frequently and not near the top of the page. A LinkedIn summary can be up to 2000 characters.
  • Men up-sell their professional brands, show casing achievements more than the women on LinkedIn do. This means that women will get over looked because their achievements are downplayed or not stated at all.
  • Men have larger networks and therefore a wider reach than women.
  • Men frequently remove junior roles to give a more focused and senior directed profile. This is going to help older candidates beat some ATS which display years of experience. I don’t like to do this but this is what happens.
  • In the U.S., women on LinkedIn on average include 11% less skills than men on their LinkedIn profile, even at similar occupations and experience levels. This means that they will appear less frequently in searches for that particular skill. Women need to makes sure all their key skills are listed.
  • On average, LinkedIn members with five or more skills receive up to 17 times more profile views. If women don’t highlight enough skills they won’t appear in searches run by recruiters. This means that they don’t know what opportunities they are missing because they are not contacted.

Updated data

All this ensures that the chances of coming on the radar of headhunters or recruiters using “pull” marketing techniques are lower. Women are therefore less visible. Recruiters frequently target low hanging fruit which can often be male candidates. However, following a recent 3Plus survey asking people how they applied for their last job, it seems that LinkedIn alerts are growing in importance in the way that women look for jobs, compared to to other ways of tracking down openings.

Our research also contradicts UK findings, which suggests that women tend to apply for jobs from mobile devices. Our responses indicate that a larger percentage of women make applications via a desk top. Only a very small percentage of respondents (less than 3%) used a targeted, strategic approach to finding another job. Network referrals, friends and families, social media, and spontaneous applications all continue to play a role.

Don’t let social media get the better of you. 3Plus can teach you How to make the most of LinkedIn for career and business success.

#5 Different attraction points

Women are more attracted to openings if the role is presented around the value of the job holder and what she could potentially achieve in the job itself, rather than past successes. If the focus is on the past (experience required) rather than the future (tasks performed), women are more easily discouraged. If women can see that they can accomplish the tasks set out in the job description, and have an understanding of the support which is available to help them achieve that, they are more likely to be attracted to the role. It’s all about clarity and the tendency by organisations to inflate the skills required for roles. Most hiring processes focus on past achievements. “Tell me about yourself” is code for what have you done well so far in your career that you could do for us.

#6 More easily discouraged

There is compelling research to suggest that women are discouraged from applying for jobs if the advert is male coded. In contrast, minor tweaks to make the content gender neutral will not deter male applicants. (Gaucher et al 2011)

Evidence also shows that, on average, women apply for positions when they meet 100% of the required qualifications on a job advert. Men are likely to apply when they meet only 60% of those qualifications. So the list of what counts as ‘essential’ will dramatically affect who applies (Mohr 2014).

How women look for jobs

The same research suggests that for both men and women, “I didn’t think I could do the job well” was the least common of all the responses. Only about 10% of women and 12% of men indicated that this was their top reason for not applying.

# 7  More cautious

Women are characterized as being more risk and ambiguity-averse than men, although that notion is more linked to stereotyping and bias than reality (Nelson 2015). However, research (Gee 2015) on online applications to LinkedIn adverts suggests that the number of female applicants increased by 3% when they could see the number of applications for an individual role, even in male dominated environments. When this number was not available the number of male applicants remained constant and the number of female applicants rose. Potentially this could increase the number of female applicants significantly.

Anecdotally women take longer to engage with headhunters than men, with one U.K organisation, suggesting it may take 8 calls. My experience is that it’s not as high as that, but it is generally more than male candidates. Furthermore, the time taken to make a decision to commit is frequently slower. This is around women tending to factor in their wider circumstances, particularly domestic, rather than reticence. The recent Facebook scandal of the unauthorized sharing of data has added another layer of caution to the mix.

Female candidates are reluctant to engage and turn over information to “people they don’t know.” Complete transparency in the process with the bios and pictures of all involved overcomes that.

#8 Other considerations – invisible work

Women will factor in their non-revenue generating responsibilities which impact the attractiveness of a new role more than male candidates. This includes commuting time, distance from childcare, schools or other facilities. I am beginning to see a shift in this now. Men are also starting to take those issues into consideration, especially the length of a commute which is born out by research. As women assume the lion’s share of domestic responsibilities it is still a stronger presenting issue for them.

A study by the World Bank suggests that these factors contribute to women being forced or opting to work closer to home than their partners. Location or the opportunity for flexible or remote working will be a key issue when women look for jobs. For younger women distance seems less important and women are travelling more than ever, even more than men, according to the World Bank study.

What we have to realise that the uni-sex approach to recruiting talent is rapidly becoming out of date. Hiring managers need to become familiar with how women look for jobs and the ways that might differ from the approach men take. It’s about adjusting basic marketing strategies to meet the needs of the target demographic.

 Is your company attracting top female talent? 3Plus offer some specialist services to develop your Executive search and diversity recruitment

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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