Why does networking work? – Part 1

Why networking works

A large recruiting company did a survey recently of about 250 of the largest companies in the U.S., mostly well-known brands of national and international scope that cover a range of major industries. They wanted to find out what were the major sources of hiring for these companies.

They found that most hires, about 45%, are done internally by promoting or transferring existing staff. The biggest source of hiring outside the company was from referrals, about 25% of hires. What is true for these huge companies is true for most companies of 500 employees or more in Ottawa or anywhere.

Moreover, a job seeker who is referred is conservatively 3-4 times more likely to be hired (some studies have found that a job seeker who is referred is 14 times more likely to be hired) than someone who applies for a position without a referral. This is essential information for anyone seeking a job or wanting to make a job change.

In a recent article, I explained how networking works, but WHY is it so effective?

The answer is simple: human nature.

The problem with human beings is that we are not perfect! We all have weaknesses, shortcomings, faults, biases, prejudices and vices. In short, there is a downside to every individual. Every potential employee is a risk to a manager… a risk that might jeopardize his or her career!

You are an unknown quantity. Human beings are full of rational and irrational fears when it comes to protecting their self-interests. You need to understand how hiring works from the employer’s point of view.

As a certified job change expert, I have also been in the position to hire others. Believe me, when a hiring manager looks at resumes from people whom they don’t know, they might be thinking: “This person looks good on paper but what if they have a personality flaw and can’t get along with anybody here, we get into a dispute, end up in a grievance or, worse, end up in court? What if they have a secret addiction and fall to pieces as soon as I give them a deadline or put them under pressure, and we lose our biggest account, millions of dollars in revenue, and the CEO fires me? What if they have a secret agenda to [insert your irrational fear of choice]?

We live in a litigious society, and managers must protect themselves from litigation, not to mention all the aggravation that comes with making a bad hire. One of the easiest ways to do that is to minimize risk. Since you, as a job seeker, are a potential risk, the easiest way to minimize that risk is to NOT hire you.

In other words, a manager will not hire you until they feel SAFE with you. And, they cannot feel safe with you, unless they meet you face-to-face. In most cases, managers are not going to jeopardize their careers by hiring candidates with whom they don’t feel safe.

As human beings, we fear what we don’t know. I’m not saying it’s right or equitable or fair; it’s human nature!

When you approach potential employers as a stranger, their automatic fear response kicks in because they don’t know you, and they fear what they don’t know.

Here is some key job change advice: networking is not first and foremost about you, about your needs and priorities for a job. It’s first and foremost about a manager’s need to protect his/her career, to ensure that they can proceed with developing their career without looking over their shoulder. They want you to cover their back.

This is why the old adage, “People hire who they know” is so true…not because of nepotism, cronyism, or corruption (all exist of course but rarely operate in a hiring situation which is governed by law and common sense)…but because of human nature, the desire for a sure thing, the desire to first, protect, then promote our own careers.

In this context, my next article will explain why referrals are so highly regarded by managers, why it helps make a hiring decision easier.

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