A Golden Age of Referral Recruitment?

Earlier in the year I wrote a post underlining my strong belief that we're entering a golden age of referral recruiting as improving technology
makes it possible to unlock the power of people's social graphs.
This is all very well in theory but I thought it was time I found some
actual examples to prove the point.

After a bit of digging around I found an interesting economic study called "The Strength of Weak Ties" by Stanford sociologist Mark
Granovetter
(I can't link to the study for reasons that will soon
become apparent). Granovetter surveyed a number of working
professionals in an unnamed Boston suburb, who had recently found a new
job via a referral, to see how well they actually knew the person who
told them about the job. The overwhelming majority indicated that they
had found jobs through "weak ties" In other words they were helped by
people they didn't actually know well or talk to regularly such as old
college friends, past work mates and friends of friends.


Granovetter observed: " Usually such ties had not even been very strong when first forged....Chance meetings or mutual friends operated
to reactivate such ties. It is remarkable that people receive crucial
information from individuals whose very existence they have forgotten"


The most interesting thing of all is that Granovetter's study wasn't done in 2010, he did it 37 years ago in 1973! I can't link to it
because it isn't even on the Internet, I found it in a book.*


So if all this was the case in 1973 imagine the huge potential for the strength of weak ties to benefit recruiting efforts in the modern
world! The rise of online social networking has dramatically increased
the number and geographical range of weak ties in a typical person's
social graph. It is also far easier for people to have a dialogue with
their weak ties than it would have been in 1973 and possible to
massively increase the reach of any job related message through social
graphs via automation and the viral effect of sites like Twitter and
Facebook. While this isn't exactly an up to date case study I think it
serves to further underline the massive potential of this area of
social recruiting.


The key question for me is which parts of the recruitment market are going to step up and really make the most of this massive opportunity.
Although there have been a few attempts to capitalize on it, I don't
believe anyone has yet managed to fully unlock the potential. It may be
that it is still too early in the evolution of the social web for
these type of referrals to benefit everyone but I can absolute
guarantee you that they are the future of recruitment.



(*You can actually download a pdf if you like reading academic papers!)

Views: 121

Comment by Brian Meeks on April 14, 2010 at 7:13pm
Wow.....That was a very effective blog piece. Great teaser on the source and when you did reveal that it was from 1973, it hit me like 2000 pounds of reddish, rectangular, box like, building materials.

I have never once concered the power of weak ties, but it makes sense. I just forwarded the information of a recruiter I only know through twitter, to the daughter of a another person I only know through my other twitter account, because her mother, who I don't know at all, is looking for work. I am quite fond of the daughter, she is very bright, well spoken, and I assume she takes after her mother, so I took a few minutes to get them all together.

I hope it works out for them. Thanks for writing this, it has opened my eyes.
Comment by Amy Gardner on April 15, 2010 at 5:38pm
Great post. This is the golden era of referral recruiting. I've been recruiting for 15 years and have always heard that a real recruiter uses their extensive network of people to recruit on a position. These last two years have proven that my clients pay my fee because of the network I have--which is heavily referral driven. I used to talk the talk about most of my candidate's being through my referral network--but now my only placements are from referrals. Yes, I was only a young punk when that study was conducted, and now I do use social networking to get candidates--but the era of the referral is now.

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