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In Your Job Search, Is It Really Who You Know?

job search networking

People often say about a job search: It’s not WHAT you know but WHO you know. There’s some truth to it because human connections are essential. After all, the longer your job search lasts, the more you can feel like you’re dealing with a bunch of bots designed to weed you out. But don’t assume that you need to buddy up to VIPs or exploit your closest friends to get ahead, either. Here’s why:

Cast a Wide Net with Networking

A 2022 study sheds surprising light on the personal connections that best serve your job search. It turns out that moderately weak connections—not strong connections—are the most useful in finding a new job.

“Your strongest ties — namely, your connections to immediate coworkers, close friends, and family — were the least helpful for finding new opportunities and securing a job. You’ll have better luck with your weak ties: the more infrequent, arm’s-length relationships with acquaintances,” the study authors—from Harvard, LinkedIn, Stanford, and MIT—wrote in the Harvard Business Review. “[These connections] strike a balance between exposing you to new social circles and information and having enough familiarity and overlapping interests so that the information is useful.”

The researchers further found that these moderately weak ties are especially vital in certain tech fields, where skills are niche and evolve rapidly (so a more diverse scope of acquaintances can give you better access to connections) and for those involved in remote work.

So, what can you take from this? Use your close connections as jumping-off points for your job search. Ask them for introductions to others who may be higher quality sources for job leads. And get out there and meet people, people. Here’s some of our favorite advice to help you hone your skills:

Don’t Overlook These Referral Sources

Despite popular belief, you do not need to know the big-wigs or hiring managers to get your foot in the door. Employee referrals are golden for your job search. Companies that have employee referral programs know just how valuable they are. For instance, while only about 7% of applicants are referrals on average, they comprise up to 45% of all internal hires. It’s a win-win-win for you, the employer, and the employee. And it doesn’t matter where on the ladder the employee is. Anyone can put in a good word for you.

Recruiters are crucial in bridging the gap between job seekers and employers. Yes, you need to “check their boxes” with qualifications, but the true magic about working with a recruiter during your job search is human connection. Recruiters understand the importance of cultural fit and the nuances that make a candidate suitable for a role beyond the technical requirements. 

Engaging with a recruiter can provide insights into the company culture and the team you might be joining, which is information often unavailable through job postings alone. And they can be some of your most refreshingly honest and deep connections throughout your job search. Worried about team dynamics? Workload? Compensation? Talk to your recruiter. To dive deeper into how to best leverage your relationship with your recruiter, check out Using a Recruiter for Job Hunting: 5 Ways to Win.

Human connections are genuinely vital to a job search. But don’t get caught up in needing close or VIP connections to make your mark. Relevance of the connection is the most critical factor.


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