Survey: Here’s Why People Don’t Share Your Job Openings on Social Media

Employee referral programs are consistently at the top of the source-of-hire list. Refer a friend to your employer, and if they get hired, you get paid. For over a decade, startups hoping to capitalize on this win-win-win transaction have tried to cash in, only to end up bankrupt and out of business.

In theory, it makes perfect sense. In the past, companies like H3 and Jobster looked to tap into personal networks through email in order to make hires and deliver payouts. The business model looked to displace traditional job postings with the power of personal relationships. It didn’t really turn out that way, of course. Jobster 1.0 is long gone, and so is H3.

H3 founder Hans Gieskes wrote an interesting post for ERE in 2010 that tried to explain the challenges of this model. “Real ‘connectors’ make incredibly prudent and balanced decisions when it comes to referring a job or a candidate: they will only make a referral if they truly believe they’re doing the right thing for both people on each side of the referral,” Gieskes wrote.

“Whereas a financial reward can certainly add urgency to a referral request, money will not corrupt their decision, as we saw at where $10,000 rewards never resulted in resume spam and never yielded bad candidates. It’s not about financial rewards; it’s about prudent people carefully managing their social credit balance sheet to first of all help people whose relationship they value.”

He was writing in reaction to the growing number of companies looking to cash in on the social sharing economy, and how jobs might fit in. For a while, share buttons were on every job posted online. There were businesses built on the idea that everyone would be sharing every job they saw to help their network find employment. Of course, mass sharing didn’t happen, Facebook pages dedicated to employment became (and still are) ghost towns and startups like Branchout are dead and buried.

A new study by Indeed, also ironically looking to cash in on the referral trend with Indeed Crowd, shines more light on why social and employment just don’t mix. Looking at the responses of some 10,000 job seekers from around the world, the company discover the following:

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  • Two-thirds (65 percent) of respondents worry others will find out they are looking for a new job.
  • A quarter of job seekers (24 percent) 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.)
  • Fifty percent of job seekers wouldn’t tell a partner when applying for a role. Those aged 55+ are the most sensitive, with 60 percent of them keeping their job applications hidden from a partner.
  • Fifty-two percent said their biggest concern was work colleagues finding out about their job search, which far outweighs the risk of not getting a position at 29 percent.
  • Two thirds of job seekers are concerned (very to somewhat) about their job search process being made public.
  • Two thirds (64 percent) said they feel anxious when searching for a new job, half feel secretive, and a third even feel like they’re leading a double life.

“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,” said Paul D’Arcy, SVP at Indeed. “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.”

Global findings were equally revealing.

  • UK job seekers were the most secretive, with just 37 percent telling their partner they’re applying for a new job.
  • Forty-two percent of Americans would give their partner a heads-up.
  • Dutch are the most open, with 61 percent of them saying they’d share their job search with a partner.

“These findings reveal the anxiety faced by many of those seeking employment,” said Professor Paul Dolan, Behavioral Economist at London School of Economics.”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.”

Turns out, people will gladly go to Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat to show-off pics of themselves living the high life, share articles that make them look smart, clever, or morally superior, and check in to well-reviewed restaurants and popular events. But similarly share a job posting? No way, Jóse!

Joel Cheesman has over 20 years experience in the online recruitment space. He worked for both international and local job boards in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. In 2005, Cheesman founded HRSEO, a search engine marketing company for HR, as well as launching an award-winning industry blog called Cheezhead. He has been featured in Fast Company and US News and World Report. He sold his company in 2009 to He was employed by EmployeeScreenIQ, a background check company. He is the founder of Ratedly, an app that monitors anonymous employee reviews. He is married and the father of three children. He lives in Indianapolis.


10 Comments on “ Survey: Here’s Why People Don’t Share Your Job Openings on Social Media

  1. Neat stats and good piece. I’m not questioning the validity of the data itself but puzzled as to how it supports the reason why people don’t share a job on their social pages. The person doing the sharing isn’t the one looking for work (so none of that data is applicable). The person doing the sharing isn’t looking for work, they have nothing to keep hidden. In fact, their showing growth at their company. So while the data is good stuff, it doesn’t seem to support the question originally posed.

    1. I guess I could’ve written my opinion differently, but I think it boils down to the fact that social media is a place to showcase our own lives in a positive light, and sharing job postings simply doesn’t support this objective. I have a lot of recruiters in my various networks and job sharing doesn’t even occur to any significant degree within this group of contacts. It certainly doesn’t happen with the accountants, sales people and marketers I know.

      1. I’d argue that the reason people don’t share jobs to their network is because they don’t trust the recruiter to actually follow up with the people they refer. You can only get burned so many times when you ask your friends to apply to a job, only for the recruiter behind the job to ignore it. No different than Lucy constantly telling Charlie Brown to kick the field goal. Sooner or later, Charlie Brown will stop falling for it.

          1. My data backing Dan’s point is only anecdotal. Remember LinkedIn’s attempt at referrals? My nickname for it was “the deadpool” because the recruiters I worked with would not go to it because it was filled with unqualified referrals so it would fill up with untouched referrals. Keep in mind also, no response from a recruiter is also a “bad response” from the candidate’s perspective.

            I’m not recruiter bashing, I’d do the same thing. I need to spend my time filtering in and not filtering out. Referral programs need to follow a marketing workflow, not an applicant workflow.

          2. I’d base it off something you mentioned in what you wrote above and wish you had expanded more on – that when the “prize” of referrals was increased in value, it did not result in increased resumes being referred. I’ve seen other studies done on similar veins in the past with relatively similar results. With a larger reward, more referrals should be made because I’d be throwing all the noodles I can against the wall hoping that eventually 1 would stick. The employee referral is about a connection and the value is felt by both parties helping each other (that seems to be the real motivation) and the monetary prize is just icing on the cake and an added bonus. It’s more about scoring the “social credit balance sheet”. And every time I refer someone in to a job somewhere that they don’t get responded to or have a poor experience.. goes in the negative column in my social credit balance sheet. Those social credits, are worth much more than the dollars related to a referral.

  2. I couldn’t disagree more. Will older folks and some workers resist sharing job postings at their firms and others, maybe. Will some workers be scared to share they are looking to move, sure. The bigger picture here is job boards/traditional recruiters become less important as traditional employees and employers DISAPPEAR. The gig economy is here and for small /medium private employers it’s 1099, not W-2. Workers become entrepreneurs and have little worry if their current 1099 relationships know they are going to another gig eventually . The government folks will be the last to change as they have huge pensions and a vested interest to not change to a gig economy but make no mistake the GIG economy will require social selling. Here is my prediction, and I am willing to bet a dinner on it: over 50% of new workers are 1099 in private sector by 2021 and are connected into several groups via Apps like Slack ( it’s like having a virtual work community). Jobs will be shared via social media, recruiters exist but there fees have come way down to reflect the shorter engagements and social media job sharing like Preferhired will dominate the landscape. Job Boards that adopted and saw the bigger picture acquired social selling firms, those who stuck their head in the sands go the way of AOL……

  3. I have to say that I do agree on the point that job referral is not taking off. I also agree that jobseekers that are currently employed are not likely to make themselves know as actively seeking a job on SoMe. We do however run a large number of job pages on Facebook, where sharing is a huge organic traffic contributor. The Facbook users share our posted jobads in three different ways. 1. the “share” 2. they “like” the jobad, and the most common one 3. they “tag” a friend in a comment on the jobad.
    It is our experience that SoMe users are always looking for ways to help a friend, by doing a very easy and uncommiting share of a post.

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