The Five Challenges of Job Seekers

Topic(s): interviewing, recruiting
Publication: Personnel Psychology (2012)
Article: Navigating the black hole: Explicating layers of job search context and adaptational responses
Authors: C. Wanberg, G. Basbug, E.A.J. Van Hooft, A. Samtani
Reviewed by: Neil Morelli

Researchers have typically studied the job search process by focusing on how hard employees are trying, what method they are using, or how their personalities predicts the former. Instead, researchers (Wanberg et al., 2012) recently defined the contextual variables, or situational demands, that affect a person’s job search by categorizing interviews with over 70 white-collar job seekers. They placed the responses into five categories that describe the specific types of demands of the job search process.


1. Omnibus: These are the overall environmental aspects of the job searching process that can potentially affect all the other aspects; for example, national economic conditions and the stigmas associated with the person’s employment status. In other words, these are demands from “it just being the way it is.”

2. Organizational: These demands are experienced when an organization insists on perfect fit (“buyers market”) or publishes vague or dated advertising about the job. The frequency of these demands can vary from organization to organization, but that makes them no less frustrating.

3. Social: We’ve all heard it, “network network network.” These contextual demands include the frustrations of not having an expansive network, or the hit a person’s network takes after becoming unemployed.

4. Task: These demands are those that come from the job search itself: depersonalization due to technology (automatic responses or automated resume scanners), uncertainty with what to do next, or repeated rejections.

5. Personal: These demands hit closest to home. They include the negative impact on home finances and personal relationships, and the stress that comes with accepting lower offers or relocating. These demands are the most proximal because they affect one’s everyday life.


Why list these demands? Because the authors believe knowledge is power. Knowing these demands on the front end can help future job seekers prepare for what’s to come, as well as encourage them to see these demands as challenges instead of hindrances (a useful coping technique). Understanding these demands is also helpful for HR professionals and recruiters. Making the hiring process less depersonalized and updating job opening information is a useful way to boost an organization’s reputation with job seekers.


Wanberg, C., Basbug, G., Van Hooft, E.A.J., & Samtani, A. (2012). Navigating the black hole: Explicating layers of job search context and adaptational responses. Personnel Psychology, 65, 887-926.