LinkedIn, cover letters, and applying in the morning – how people are searching for jobs in South Africa right now

Covid-19 changed the employment market in 2020, and the effects of the global health crisis will continue to be felt for many years across many sectors, says specialist recruitment firm Michael Page.

The firm has published new research focusing on job applicants and how they are applying to open roles in South Africa.

Its data shows that the most popular website for job applicants in South Africa is LinkedIn, with 43% the candidates using the site to find and apply for open roles.

Almost a third (31%) of candidates also share they connect with recruitment consultancies for support with their career progression. This is followed by employer websites and job boards.

The survey shows that social media sites like Facebook rank as the least used platforms to search and apply for jobs.

When do candidates think it is too late to apply to an open role?  

Other key statistics from the survey relate to the frequency people apply for jobs and when they consider it too late for a role.

In general, 43% of applicants use LinkedIn every day, 29% several times a week, and 8% once a week.

Around a third (31%) apply for roles via recruitment firms every day, 31% several times a week and 9% once a week.

The figures suggest that candidates want to apply for roles even if not recently posted, suggesting they think they will be more likely to have their application viewed by a hiring manager.

And in terms of time of day for applications, it seems as though candidates in South Africa follow the saying “the early bird gets the worm”, with 40% applying in the morning.

Although not all of our job applicants think like this – 38% apply at any time of day, and only 6% use their lunchtimes to find new roles.

Specific vs shotgun approach 

When applying for open roles, candidates in South Africa generally look for positions that match their skills and experience, with 74% following this path, and only 5% applying for all roles.

Further statistics from the survey suggest that candidates today know about keywords on CVs and in cover letters, with 12% adapting their CVs for each role they apply to, 22% alter their CV most of the times and 31% only sometimes.

Their knowledge of keywords and of applicant tracking systems (ATS) means that job seekers today are very aware of the why behind adapting a CV for a specific role.

But why specifically do job applicants take the effort of tailoring their CV according to the role?

Half (52%) said that they know it adds value to an application, 35% adapt their CV because the role is a perfect fit, 33% of job applicants adapt their CV to meet a specific job description and 28% said they do this to increase the response rate from the potential employer.

Cover letters 

Job applicants in South Africa are very aware of the importance of cover letters when sending in an application – or at least 24% of them are, as they include one with every CV sent.

13% include a cover letter specific to the role, and 20% include one sometimes and specific. However, a surprising 39% only send a cover letter when it is mandatory. Which prompts the question – why do candidates include a cover letter?

Half said it is to prove their relevance for the role, 48% to communicate their experience in an engaging way, 45% explain it is to demonstrate their motivation, and 22% to demonstrate their understanding of the role.

With only 16% saying they include a cover letter only because it is mandatory, are cover letters declining in importance?

“Cover letters can help an application pass through specific points of a job application process by helping the candidate detail their history in an engaging way, and by meeting search terms from the potential employer” said the recruitment firm.


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LinkedIn, cover letters, and applying in the morning – how people are searching for jobs in South Africa right now