Want a Job? Earn an Enthusiastic Referral!

networkingI read about 30 career blogs a day. Typically, I am in “scan” mode as I read because, to be honest, most of what I read falls into the “blah, blah, blah” category.

Yesterday was different, because there was a post in the New York Times that not only caught my attention, it really made me think… and then really pissed me off.

The thinking part was instigated by learning (again) just how much enthusiastic referrals have become a career “golden ticket” in our current economy, especially at large volume employers. Take a look at these excerpts from the NYT post:

  • Big companies like Ernst & Young are increasingly using their own workers to find new hires, saving time and money. “…a referral puts them in the express lane,” said Larry Nash, director of experienced and executive recruiting. “Indeed, as referred candidates get fast-tracked, applicants from other sources like corporate Web sites, Internet job boards and job fairs sink to the bottom of the pile.”
  • “You’re submitting your résumé to a black hole [online],” said John Sullivan, a human resources consultant. “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 most desirable candidates, nicknamed “purple squirrels” because they are so elusive, usually come recommended. “We call it Monster.ugly,” said Mr. Sullivan, referring to Monster.com. “In the H.R. world, applicants from Monster or other job boards carry a stigma.”
  • Referred candidates are twice as likely to land an interview as other applicants, according to a new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. For those who make it to the interview stage, the referred candidates had a 40 percent better chance of being hired than other applicants.
  • At Sodexo, referred employees are 10 times more likely to be hired than other applicants. “We’re focusing on what will be most efficient,” said Arie Ball, Sodexo’s vice president for talent acquisition.
  • “Our analysis shows referred hires perform better, stay longer and are quicker to integrate into our teams,” said Mr. Nash of Ernst & Young.
  • At Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the proportion of workers hired through employee referrals has risen from 33 percent to just under 40 percent in the last two years.
  • Deloitte receives more than 400,000 résumés a year, but recommended employees are guided along by a 12-person team.

These are very, very strong points… and all emphasize the importance of networking your way into your next job. They also show, at least among these large employers, how insignificant big job boards, career fairs and anonymous applications through corporate web sites have become.

I couldn’t agree more… we have seen the same “black hole” phenomena become increasingly more apparent every day, it seems, since 2010.

However, here’s where I disagree, strongly, with a theme within the article:

  • “The long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged people don’t have access to the network,” said Mara Swan, executive vice president for global strategy and talent at Manpower Group, which provides temporary help and job placement services. “The more you’ve been out of the work force, the weaker your connections are.”
  • “We’re in a period of historic displacement in the labor market,” Ms. Hellerstein said. “The long-term unemployed are a huge problem that we haven’t figured out. All this human capital is being wasted and their skills are atrophying.”

These two statements seem to imply that if you aren’t currently employed, you can’t build an effective personal or career network. Furthermore, these comments seem to indicate that if you haven’t yet been in the workforce, you don’t stand a chance… because you’ve never had the opportunity to network, at work.

This is just… crap.

True, professional networking is perhaps more natural when you’re already in the workforce. True, networking is far easier when you’re immersed in your industry 8, 10, 12 hours per day.

But the idea that you can’t effectively network your way into a job while not working, or still in college, is bunk. There are so many networking resources available, to all of us. Alumni and industry associations, local business organizations, LinkedIn and Facebook groups, Twitter Chats, Google+ communities, blogging and talent communities… the list goes on and on.

Human capital (yes, that phrase always pisses me off, too) is not being “wasted”. They are wasting away, by choice. Or at least, by default.

They are in denial, perhaps, as they think the old-school methods of job search still work today – and insist on hitting the ‘Apply Now’ button over and over. They are still getting bad advice that a new college degree or 10 years of experience somehow entitles them to a job.

They are choosing NOT to network… so… they are choosing not to work.

Referrals don’t just happen. They are secured through demonstration of relevancy and a consistent display of expertise and passion. Referrals are deserved when you show you’re willing to hustle and stick your neck out just far enough to leave your comfort zones. Referrals are earned through networking (both online and off)… regardless of whether you are currently working, or not.

Referrals, I am convinced, have become the single best method of finding and keeping your next, or first, job. The only way to get them… is to network. And you simply can’t wait until you have a job, or have entered the workforce, to get started. This is simply a mental barrier you must break down, now.

Get busy. Network. Earn an enthusiastic referral. Get a job.





Mark_AuthorAbout the Author: CEO and Founder of YouTern, Mark Babbitt is a serial mentor who has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Forbes and Under30CEO.com regarding job search, career development, internships and higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce. A keynote speaker and blogger, Mark’s contributions include Huffington Post, Switch and Shift, The Daily Muse and Under30CEO.

Mark has been honored to be named to GenJuice’s list of “Top 100 Most Desirable Mentors” and was recently featured on HR Examiner’s “Top 25 Trendspotters in HR” and several top blogger lists, including JobMob’s “Top Career Bloggers of 2012”. Contact Mark via email or on Twitter!


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