Apparently “70% of people in 2016 were hired at a company where they had a connection,” per publicity tweeted by LinkedIn. This puts a number on the old saying, “it’s not what you know but who you know.” But beyond exhortations to network harder, what else might such a statistic tell us about the job market?
There are at least two other implications of how networks and contacts affect employment that are worth noting:
- A person without contacts in a particular company is at a disadvantage for employment with that company. Looking at the aggregate – job seekers across the whole economy – there is a large number people outside of the “who you know” system. This is the evident flip-side of the networking statistic (what percentage of people did not get a job because of lack of connections).
- A person getting a job through a contact may not be considering or being considered for employment outside of their network. This is less apparent – and probably not much considered by job seekers – aspect of how the job market works. Is there an opportunity cost to the way one’s particular network channels one’s attention?
Taken together, do these make a kind of “filter bubble” phenomenon in the job market, where choices and opportunities are more or less subtly limited by who one knows? What is the cost of missed opportunities, due to the configuration of social and professional contacts, compared to opportunities facilitated through networking?
And beyond the individual job seeker, what are the costs to organizations that hire largely through contacts – often of like-minded people – rather than from a wider pool of potential applicants?
Of course there are other factors that affect job opportunities and hiring choices, not the least of which is geography. But if we look just at networking, and consider not only its facilitative side but also its constraints, what might we change about it and how?
One possibility I think would be “AI” tools designed to help job seekers and employers meet and exchange information on a wider scale and more efficiently than is possible in the current system.
This post was originally published on LinkedIn on 24 June 2017.