The mantra of job search will always be. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. But in the past that represented the ideal. Personal referrals have always been great if you can get them, but headhunters, newspaper want ads, and employment agencies generated a profitable industry by connecting employers with qualified strangers.
It used to be that you didn’t have to know an applicant before the interview process began, but that’s changing. This is the information age 2.0, the relationship age. Forging personal connections frequently used to be a later phase in the hiring process, but it’s quickly becoming the essential first step.
With LinkedIn at the front of the job search pack, social media is making it easy for employers to get to know potential recruits. And online job boards are making it less expensive. As reported by Inc.com , a recent poll showed that online recruiting delivers new hires to small and mid-size companies at a rate lower than $300 a head one sixth of the cost of traditional recruiting methods. Naturally it’s becoming the most popular option, yet referrals are by far the most trusted option.
Even online job boards are becoming old fashioned in a shifting landscape dominated by social media. Human Resource Executive Online cited a report showing the big three job search engines (CareerBuilder, Monster, and HotJobs) rapidly losing their grip on the recruiting market. In 2006, the trio held a collective 31% market share it has now dropped to 17.1%. They quoted Katherine Hansen of QuintessentialCareers, who went so far as to predict the extinction of job boards as we know them before 2020.
The plain and simple truth is that employers trust people they knowâ€”or at least the people recommended by people they know. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and a growing list of industry-specific social networks are making it quite simple to find qualified people with trustworthy connections. And it’s not just employers who are looking for more than a name on a resume.
Job seekers are far less likely to apply for jobs advertised for unnamed organizations, a commonplace practice in old-school recruitment ads. A points out the need for face-to-face connections, showing that even the federal government is making enormous efforts to erase the traditional stereotype about government employment. They recognize that recruits need to identify with the people they’ll be working with rather than getting lost in a robotic system of bureaucracy.
Even recruiters themselves are having a hard time of it. Most recruiting blogs these days seem to focus on strategies to succeed in an economy where recruiting budgets are among the first (and biggest) corporate spending cuts. Internal HR departments are discovering how to leverage social media to render recruiting firms obsolete they aren’t yet, but recruiters and headhunters are being forced to adapt to the shifting market of knowing where to find the best jobs and the best people to fill them.
We’re living in a world where we can search for people by their specializations in real time and with pinpoint accuracy. But it’s also a world where relationships rule. As a job seeker, it might be too early to abandon the want ads altogether but you can’t afford to wait to capitalize on your existing social networks. You easily have hundreds, and maybe thousands of referrals just waiting to be made. Finding jobs where you have no personal connections . . . it’s a dead end in a dying industry.