Requirements in Job Advertisements – Employers are demanding with Formal education remaining the most important criterion

This paper analyses a sample of approximately two million job advertisements obtained from an online job portal called “Burning Glass”, in order to identify employers’ demands for the 30 most-frequently advertised occupations in the United States. With this sample of vacancies, we investigate how demanding employers are for occupations of different levels of complexity (two low-skilled, 20 medium-skilled and eight high-skilled occupations). We also examine which types of education, skills and other requirements are mentioned in the vacancies and how these requirements differ across the occupations.

Our main conclusions:

  • Employers are demanding in their job advertisements, even when these concern low- or medium-skilled occupations. The skill intensity in the advertisements – measured on the basis of the requirements for education (formal education and specialised training or licenses), cognitive skills (specific and genuine skills) and non-cognitive skills (social and personal skills) – is relatively high. In general, more complex jobs appear to have a somewhat higher skill intensity. For example, the vacancies for janitors and cleaners and labourers (both ‘unskilled’ jobs) have the lowest skill intensity of all 30 occupations. The highest skill intensities are reported for security guards, tellers (both are medium-skilled jobs) and meeting, convention and event planners (a high-skilled job). Nevertheless, there clearly is a lot of variation across the 30 occupations. The skill intensity in the advertisements for the occupation with the highest demand is over twice that of the occupation with the lowest intensity. When all requirements are considered simultaneously (education and skill intensity, experience, appearance, criminal record, drug testing and citizenship), similar conclusions are reached. These results were also documented in earlier work on the US labour market (see Maxwell, 2006). This trend therefore seems likely to continue in the future as well.
  • Formal education remains the most important criterion for employers in the selection and recruitment of job applicants in the United States. For the 30 most-often advertised occupations, 67% of the vacancies contain education requirements (which correspond to a high school degree or more in our study). This number ranges from 45% to 83% of the job advertisements when individual occupations are considered. In fact, for 28 out of the 30 occupations examined, which includes labourers, over 50% of the vacancies demand some formal education. Importantly, this finding applies to all occupations, also to the low-skilled (2 out of 30 occupations in the sample) and medium-skilled ones (20 out of 30). Specialised training and licenses, in contrast, appear to be less important (only demanded in about 16% of the vacancies). This type of education is particularly relevant for health-related occupations. Interestingly, these results are fairly different from those in other studies, notably on the European labour market. Education is also (highly) requested in some European countries like Slovakia (where education is listed in the vacancies for the majority of the occupations, Kureková et al., 2012), the Czech Republic and Ireland (Kureková et al., 2015b). However, in many of these countries, experience is even more important than education. In fact, in Denmark education does not appear to be a major selection criterion at all (Kureková et al., 2015b). In the United States, however, formal education remains the most common requirement.
  • Experience is another key criterion that employers use to screen job applicants, but interestingly it comes in third place. Overall, in 38% of the vacancies for the 30 most- frequently advertised occupations, some previous experience is demanded. Across the occupations, between 21% and 51% of all job advertisements list experience as a requirement. For 28 occupations, experience is demanded in at least one-quarter of the vacancies. For none of the 30 occupations, is experience ranked higher than formal education. The largest discrepancies are recorded for the security guards, cashiers, personal care aides, retail sale persons and sales workers supervisors, for which the percentage of vacancies that request education is substantially higher than the share of vacancies that list experience. In many other studies, the importance of experience has been noticed as well (Kureková et al., 2012 and Kureková et al., 2015b). In several European countries, such as Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Ireland, it is the most persistent request. Our results for the US labour market, in contrast, indicate that formal education still dominates previous work experience.
  • For the 30 most-frequently advertised occupations, we find that both cognitive and non- cognitive skills are high in demand. Interestingly, the number of vacancies referring to non-cognitive skills appears to be somewhat higher than the number calling for cognitive skills. For the non-cognitive skills, we find that both social and personal skills are highly requested. Across all 30 occupations, about 49% of the advertisements lists service skills and about 30% of the job vacancies call for team-working skills. As for the personal non-cognitive skills, especially flexibility (33%) and punctuality (27%) are required by employers. With regards to the cognitive skills, on average between 10% and 25% of the advertisements include computer skills (25%), analytical skills (12%) and language skills (16%). Across the 30 occupations, there is a positive relationship between the complexity of an occupation and the demand for computer skills: demand seems to go up as occupations become more complex. A similar pattern is found for communication skills and punctuality. In contrast, for other skills such as language and service skills, there does not appear to be a relationship with the complexity of the job.

Capture d’écran 2016-05-20 à 08.31.01

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at  Skills requirements for the 30 most-frequently advertised occupations in the United States: an analysis based on online vacancy data



  1. Pingback: Job Ads in Australia – Rising demand for enterprise skills | Job Market Monitor - May 24, 2016

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