Monday, January 28, 2013

Networking 103

Just when I thought I had covered this topic, I found a new article from the New York Times, “In Hiring, a Friend in Need Is a Prospect, Indeed” by Nelson Schwartz. It turns out in some companies about 50% of their new hires come from personal recommendations made by their existing employees. This is a growing trend that crosses many types of businesses.

The article starts with the story of a young woman who was not even looking for a job. A friend working at Ernst & Young supplied a copy of her resume with a personal recommendation to the company personnel office. Three weeks later this young woman had a new job! Ernst & Young processes thousands of resumes. Most end up in the circular file or the recycle bin on the computer desktop of some faceless corporate functionary.

Companies are offering iPads, large screen TVs, and cash prizes to employees who recommend new hires. They save time and money bypassing bins filled with shotguned resumes and the services of websites like If you follow this path, “You’re submitting your résumé to a black hole,” said John Sullivan, a human resources consultant for large companies who teaches management at San Francisco State University. “You’re not going to find top performers at a job fair. Whether it’s fair or not, you need to have employees make referrals for you if you want to find a job.”

The article notes that job seekers who follow the traditional path (resumes, internet sites, and job fairs) are called “Homers” by personnel officers. That would refer to Homer Simpson, a lazy donut eating dullard.

Current statistics indicate that job seekers with a referral are twice as likely to get an interview. “At Sodexo, a food service and facilities management company that hires 4,600 managers and executives a year, referred employees are 10 times more likely to be hired than other applicants.”

Companies are looking for quick efficient results. If a high quality ambitious employee is willing to put their reputation on the line by recommending someone in their network, there is a very high probability this person will be a very good employee. “Human resource departments have recognized the same pattern. “Our analysis shows referred hires perform better, stay longer and are quicker to integrate into our teams,” said Mr. Nash of Ernst & Young.”

Now for some bad news, “Nearly 4.8 million Americans have been out of work for 27 weeks or more, according to the Labor Department, three times as many as in late 2007. The typical unemployed worker has been jobless for 38 weeks, compared with 17 weeks before the recession.” These people generally don’t have good networks to begin with. The longer they remain unemployed the weaker their network becomes. I also imagine that the longer they remain unemployed the less likely it would be that an existing employee would risk their reputation to provide a recommendation.

Besides the usual exhortation to develop your network the article recommends LinkedIn as a tool used by corporate recruiters to trace connections between potential and existing employees.

As I have said before, my skills and experience in this critical area are 27 years out of date, but even back then who you knew or who knew you was the single most important component in finding a job.

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