Online job vacancies (OJV) form an easily accessible source of data on skills demand by employers, thanks to advances in web crawling technologies, machine learning and big data techniques. Cedefop currently develops an EU-wide system to explore and analyse these data[1]. However, information on the use of the internet and online job market by employers is rather scarce. To draw meaningful conclusions from OJV data Cedefop is mapping the landscape of the online job market across the EU with the support of national experts[2].

What drives the spread of the online job market?

The online job market across EU countries is driven by two key factors – digitisation and economic growth and transformation (see figure 1). First, digitisation affects job seekers’ behaviour; especially younger generations are searching for jobs using the internet. At the same time, digitalisation is changing the nature of jobs’ and skills’ needs across occupations, making the internet an attractive means for job advertisement.  Moreover, digital tools are increasingly used by public employment services and online job portals to match job seekers with employers. All these factors change employers’ hiring strategies, leading to a wider use of the internet for job ads.

Second, economic growth and transformation may lead to recruitment difficulties and drive skills shortages. Therefore, employers are seeking for new and more effective channels to attract suitable candidates. The internet allows them to increase their reach to different regions or countries at relatively little costs. Moreover, employers can use specialised websites to target specific professionals (gig jobs, high level experts) or people with specific employment needs (e.g. the elderly, disabled or war veterans in the US).

Figure 1: Drivers of change in using online job vacancies by employers

Source: Outcomes of Cedefop workshop[3]

Note: Assignments of countries to various drivers was made by individual country experts during the workshop (see footnote 2).

In the majority of EU countries, the landscape of online job-portals is very dynamic. Big platforms for online job posting and matching are being developed, bringing closer the public and the private actors. Moreover the lines between online job-portals and social media are getting thinner, boosting the online labour markets even further. However it must be acknowledged that in all EU Member States the use of OJVs differs greatly across economic sectors, companies, occupations and skills level.

What information can be retrieved from online job vacancies?

The information contained in OJVs differs not only between portals but also from country to country. Public employment services websites tend to be highly structured, formalised and focused on requirements, while the OJVs on private portals have diverse formats (for instance to accommodate corporate design and support employer branding) and content (descriptions of skills, behaviour and other personal characteristics). Employers using job ads aim to appear attractive to the right talent by shaping potential candidates’ perception of who they are, what is expected from applicants and what they will be offered if they take the job.

As indicated by country experts, OJVs generally contain rich information on soft and job-specific skills (Figure 2 and 3) – confirming the potential added-value of a system able to retrieve such information. However, there are few countries where, for various reasons, transversal or even job specific skills are not so much used by employers when advertising vacancies. It is likely that in these countries using a job title – e.g. plumber or secretary – is enough to seek for the right skills, i.e. holding a formal qualification is sufficient or required to perform a job.

Figure 2: Amount of information on soft and transversal skills (e.g. communication, flexibility) in OJVs, assessment by country experts

Source: Cedefop[4]

Note: Assessment of richness of OJV content was provided by country experts during the workshop (see footnote 2).

Figure 3: Amount of information on job specific skills (e.g. programming languages), assessment by country experts


Source: Cedefop[5]

Note: Assessment of richness of OJV content was provided by country experts during the workshop.

What next?

Our explorative work on the online job market has proven very valuable to understand how employers use the internet to recruit across countries. It fills a key knowledge gap and is needed to understand any data collected from online job portals. It will inform the first release of online job vacancy data on skills demand that will take place end 2018.

This blog was based only on preliminary results from Cedefop’s landscaping of the online job market. The final report, offering deeper insight and comparative analysis of OJVs across Member States, will be available in autumn 2018.