What is a job zone? And how to use it for hiring

October 16, 2023

What is a job zone? And how to use it for hiring

A job zone refers to a group of occupations that have similar requirements for education and experience. As a hiring manager, you can use job zones to tailor your hiring materials to the right people. According to recent CareerBuilder research, 1 in 4 adults are focused on trying to find a new job. By knowing what these workers want and how they search for jobs, you can make sure you're attracting quality candidates to your organization. Explore this guide to learn more about the different job zones and the goals, motivations, and methods of each group.

What is a job zone?

A job zone is a category of occupations with similar education, experience, and training requirements. Instead of grouping occupations by industry, job zones reflect the preparation an employee needs to do a job successfully.

The Occupational Information Network, an occupational database application created for the U.S. Department of Labor, developed the different job zones. They include:

  • Zone 1: Occupations in this zone require little or no preparation. Examples include baristas, landscaping workers, and logging equipment operators.
  • Zone 2: This zone includes jobs that need some preparation but less than the higher zones. Some jobs in this category include retail workers, security guards, and rideshare drivers.
  • Zone 3: Jobs in this zone require mid-level preparation. For example, legal secretaries, electricians, and medical assistants all fall within Job zone 3.
  • Zone 4: This zone applies to occupations that need considerable preparation. Examples include sales managers, software developers, and teachers.
  • Zone 5: As the highest category, Job zone 5 includes jobs that require extensive preparation. Examples in this zone include pharmacists, lawyers, and astronomers.

Key takeaways about job zones

CareerBuilder recently released the second wave of the "Job Seekers: What They Want" survey, a study analyzing the motivations, frustrations, and goals of job seekers across the different zones. Completed in partnership with Morning Consult, our study surveyed 2,800 adults in the United States who were seeking new positions. The respondents represented Job zones 2, 3, and 4.

Like the results from the first wave, the updated study found that most people, regardless of their job zone, prioritize a good salary, comprehensive benefits, and interesting work. Employees in all job zones want to not only manage their finances and provide for their families but also do work that makes them feel proud and valued.

Here are some other key takeaways from our research.

Career goals

Depending on their job zone, people have different career goals. These include:

  • Getting a raise: This is an important milestone for people working in Job zones 2 and 3.
  • Getting promoted/becoming a manager: People in Job zone 4 are more likely to cite career advancement as their top goal.

"Employees in all job zones want to not only manage their finances and provide for their families but also do work that makes them feel proud and valued."


Like career goals, the motivations people have for switching jobs can vary between job zones. Our study found the following motivations for job seekers:

  • More money: People in Job zones 2 and 3 are more likely to search for new jobs because they believe they can make more money elsewhere.
  • Work-life balance: Many workers in Job zone 4 say they want to find a new job for better work-life balance.
  • Stagnation: People in Job zone 4 also discuss feeling stagnant in their current roles as a motivation for seeking a new position.


When searching for a new job, candidates experience different barriers, depending on their job zone. These barriers include:

  • Lack of qualifications or experience: People in Job Zone 2 are most likely to feel they lack the qualifications or experience necessary to get a new job.
  • Fear of the unfamiliar: In Job Zone 3, workers have a greater fear of leaving a job they feel comfortable doing.
  • Not enough interesting jobs: Workers in Job Zone 4 say they struggle to find interesting jobs that make them want to apply.


Many job seekers use the same methods to find new jobs, regardless of their job zone. The most common resources are employer websites and personal networks, including friends and family. Job boards round out the top three places where people look for new jobs.

While searching for positions, people in Job Zone 3 want to get job alerts that match their experience. Prospective candidates in Job Zone 4 want to see salary insights and company reviews as they search. Job seekers in these higher job zones often have more resources to find new positions than workers in the lower zones. Regardless of job zone, most candidates want career sites to be easy to use and show them relevant job postings.

What do candidates want in Job Zone 2?

In Job Zone 2, employees often view their job as a means to an end. Working allows them to pay their bills and take care of their families. Among all employees in different job zones, they're the most likely to feel frustrated about their current salary or benefits. Additionally, they may feel undervalued in their roles.

People working in this job zone are the most likely to consider switching jobs, especially if they believe they can make more money and get better benefits in a new position. They may also feel unsure about their job security in their current role, leading them to search for new jobs.

Those in Job Zone 2 want to find good-paying jobs, but they often feel that they lack the necessary qualifications or experience. You can attract candidates to open positions in this job zone by emphasizing the employee benefits you offer. You can also highlight opportunities they may have for further training, such as an apprenticeship program.

What do candidates want in Job Zone 3?

People working in this job zone tend to enjoy their work. They find it interesting and rewarding. For this reason, they're the least likely to consider switching jobs or industries.

However, there are ways you can work to recruit qualified candidates for these positions. Employees in Job Zone 3 say the biggest issues they have with their current jobs include salary, benefits, and working arrangements. Remote or hybrid work can be a great way to encourage candidates to apply for jobs in this job zone.

Since people working in Job Zone 3 usually have specialized skill sets, they find it harder to learn about new positions than those in the other job zones. They're particularly interested in getting job alerts that match their experience. When hiring for a Job Zone 3 position, make sure you're writing job descriptions that clearly target people with the technical skills and abilities required to perform well.

What do candidates want in Job Zone 4?

Compared to employees in other job zones, workers in Job Zone 4 have more education and experience. As qualified employees, they expect to receive a good salary and benefits package. As a hiring manager, you can appeal more to these prospective candidates by emphasizing other perks.

For example, these professionals want to work remotely or in convenient locations. They also want to know they're making a positive impact on the world. In your job description and hiring materials, outline the reasons a candidate should apply for this position rather than listing boilerplate language about duties, requirements, and benefits.

While people working in Job Zone 4 are the happiest with their current jobs, they're still willing to apply for new positions if they think they can achieve better work-life balance or have more opportunities for advancement. They want to get promoted and be responsible for managing others. As you recruit potential candidates in this category, emphasize the career progression they could have within the organization.

When you understand the different job zones and what workers want in each one, you can target candidates effectively in your recruiting efforts. Use these takeaways to know the goals, barriers, and motivations prospective applicants have when they search for new jobs. With the right approach, you can make sure you're attracting the top talent to your organization. For more insights, download the full CareerBuilder "Job Seekers: What They Want" survey to learn more.

More tips on effective recruiting and hiring:

Building a productive workforce starts with hiring the right people. Check out these elements of a successful recruiting strategy.

Everyone benefits when the hiring process is simplified. Take these steps to make it easier for great candidates to apply for jobs.

You may feel like you're competing with dozens of other companies for the best candidates. Here's how to hire in a competitive market.

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