At HireBetter, we're always looking at our processes and results to try to identify trends and figure out better ways to help our clients confidently make great hiring decisions.

One of those trends that we've noticed has held true over the past 6 years of business has been the SOURCE of where candidates come from and then who our clients ultimately hire. Here are our findings:

If you have 100 Candidates* that you're considering, our experience would suggest that:

  • 82-87 will be Direct Applicants [defined as those who see your posting somewhere and send in their resume via email]
  • 12-15 will come from a Headhunter or Recruiting Researcher
  • 1-3 will be Referrals [defined as anyone who you learn about through your network or the network of those you trust]

*Author's Note: the reason I've chosen 100 is because it makes the %'s really easy to calculate. If you have greater or fewer than 100, look at the total % of the pipeline instead of the # of people.

For the FINAL 3 People, we've found that it's very likely the make-up of that pool looks like this:

  • 1 Direct Applicant
  • 1 From a Headhunter
  • 1 Referral

And when you make your Ultimate Hiring Decision - you're at least TWICE as likely to hire the Referral versus the other 2 candidates.

Granted, there are some obvious reasons why Hiring Managers choose the referrals. Things like the stigma that might be attached to an unemployed direct applicant or the costs associated with an external headhunter that might impact your Department's P&L. But even with those things stated, I set out to find some more answers as to just WHY a referral is so much more likely to get hired than anyone else for open positions.

To help answer this question, I turned to Thom Singer. Thom's a well-known Author and Speaker on Professional Networking and Personal Brands and he had this to say:

[JDavis] What's the significance in your mind of earning that referral introduction that gets you an interview?

[TSinger] Hiring Mangaers are human beings - no matter how many pre-screening tests they can use, how much training they've had on the psychology of hiring. At the end of the day people are drawn to do business with people they know, like and trust. When someone they know, like and trust strongly encourages them to meet with someone it's going to get preference because ultimately what a Hiring Manager is trying to do is eliminate people so that they can have a "short list". Being a referral from someone that the hiring manager likes and trusts, means you're going to have a much higher likelihood of landing on the short list. If that Hiring Manager knows somebody, likes somebody - that candidate gets to ride on the coattails of those human emotions and can benefit from their referee's reputation.

One other thought here: I've said for years people will do biz with people they know, like and trust (this isn't an original thought - it's widely accepted). The problem is that in the last two years, the definition of the word "know" has changed. Because of the mass adoption of social media, we all think we "know" everyone else. This used to be a process [getting to know someone] that took years to develop. It's served to make the act of "know" less important but makes LIKE and TRUST significantly more important. Just knowing "Of" someone doesn't necessarily lead to like and trust. Today, referrals need to come from someone that the referee TRULY likes and trusts.

[JDavis] What are the dangers of being a referral if the person who is referring you just KNOWS you, and you're not SURE that they LIKE and TRUST you?

[TSinger] Asking a stranger or an acquaintance to introduce you to their company is just slightly better than picking up an employee directory and calling through it. The risks are that (a) the referral might not happen [as the candidate you may think you got referred but it didn't happen] or (b) the referee could give a "lip service" referral that indicates that they don't really support you or won't stand up for you. The power of a REAL referral is that the person will stand up for you and can really make a strong case for why the hiring manager should hire that person.

If you're a Hiring Manager and you receive a referral from someone, what should you look for in that referral to know it's "real"

1. How do you know this person? (look for the fact that they really KNOW the person, not just know "of" them. Get to the bottom of the story by asking, "Do you just follow them on Twitter?" or do they actually use statements like, "I worked with them for three years and they're a rock star".

2. What does their work product look like? Do they have direct knowledge? How do they know them related to the job that you're referring them for?

It gets back again to that danger I referenced in the first section of "just because you follow them on twitter or you're connected on facebook, that doesn't amount to a hill of beans."

Ultimately, it's got to be MORE THAN "Ambient Awareness". As a Hiring Manager your goal is to be working with a stronger foundation of knowledge versus just a marketing brochure disguised as a resume.

While the tools we use to communicate over the past 2 decades have changed, how we're wired as humans to make decisions is still the same. How people speak about others (yourself included) and your personal brand is just as important as it has ever been.

[JDavis] Why should an interviewer or hiring manager CARE about the size of someone's network and influence or reputation?

[TSinger] As the world has gotten more digital and electronic, the ABILITY to connect with someone and to get others to stand up and say, "I like them, I trust them" is exponentially more valuable than in previous years. This ability has become "capital" - because people just don't do it any more (or more importantly, do it well). There's also so much more noise. When you've got people who stand up and say, "I REALLY KNOW John Doe - then you've got a winner." When you see that someone has real human connections that care about them, it's more valuable because it is genuine and says people care.

But there's more to it than just being liked! Just because someone has a lot of visibility and people like them doesn't mean they're good at a job. But it's my opinion that if you have two people whose ability is equal but one of those people has great interpersonal skills and a strong network of who will stand up for them, the tie MUST go to that person because it says that they are much more well-rounded.

Bottom Line: It's not just about the network. You still have to be good. Being good at what you do is your "admission ticket". Too many Professionals today subscribe to what I like to call the Kevin Costner Business Model: if you build it they will come. What I tell people is, "If you're the best kept secret in your industry, you lose". When it comes down to a hiring decision, with all things being equal, a Hiring Manager is going with the person who has the reputation.

Thom Singer is a Professional Speaker, Consultant and the Award-Winning Author of seven books on the power of networking and business relationships. He has trained thousands of people on the art of creating a personal and professional brand. Thom's Blog, Some Assembly Required, is widely considered one of the top resources on or off-line for Professionals and Job Seekers and his Networking Quotient Test was created to help assess and then provide the action steps needed to make networking a priority. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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