The Toilet Paper

Online job search: Study of users’ search behavior using search engine query logs

How people use search engines to find their new job.

A researcher who looks at someone who is looking for a job in a cardboard box filled with jobs
Look for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow

This week’s paper by Mansouri, Zahedi, Campos, and Farhoodi shows how job seekers use search engines to find new jobs.

Why it matters


Now that there’s a shortage of knowledge workers on the labour market again, companies need to spend more resources to attract new talent.

While that’s not really what this study is about – its goal is simply to better understand what job search queries look like, and what sets them apart from general search queries – it does provide insight into the applicants’ job search process, which can be used to optimise recruitment strategies.

How the study was conducted


A dataset containing 27 million search queries from was used for the study. Of those 27 million queries, less than 1.8% (about 512,000) were related to job searches. The authors randomly selected another 512,000 queries for comparison with the 512,000 job search-related queries.

What discoveries were made


Job search activity is highest in the first half of the week and lowest during the weekend. This is in sharp contrast with overall search query volume, which is gradually grows throughout the week until it peaks on the last day of the weekend.

What also sets job searches apart from general searches is their thoroughness: compared to other users, job seekers submit more queries, click through to search results more often, and spend more time querying for and evaluating search results.

The 300 most-visited URLs account for 71% of all clicks on search engine result pages (SERPs). Dedicated employment search engines (51%) constitute the majority of the results, followed by websites of well-known organisations with dedicated vacancy sections (29%).

The keywords used in queries suggest that most job seekers look for jobs in specific locations. Only a small portion of users (15%) looks for jobs outside their hometown.

It should be noted though that this study is about all job seekers in Iran that choose to use the #2 search engine. Knowledge workers and workers in smaller countries (like the Netherlands) may be considerably more willing to travel or relocate to different cities.


  1. Most job search queries are done in the first half of the week

  2. Job seekers often end up on dedicated employment sites and company websites

  3. Most job seekers look for jobs in (or close to) their hometown