- Scroll to the bottom for the video of Dr. Garg's presentation.
- There are two kinds of connections, strong ties and weak ties. Both have advantages and disadvantages in a job search.
- There is a 90 percent chance the hiring manager will review a resume when it’s been sent through a shared connection.
SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEO.
It’s something most job seekers have probably wondered: Are sites like LinkedIn really that useful when it comes to finding work?
Rajiv Garg, assistant professor in the department of Information, Risk, and Operations Management (IROM) at the McCombs School of Business, was determined to find out.
Originally, says Garg, “I didn’t believe in most of the online social networks I saw. I thought, ‘It’s a fad.’”
But in the process of trying to prove that they held no value, he observed something that would inspire his own research: The diffusion of information.
“I proved myself wrong. There is value in social networks,” Garg says. He found that when people share music online, their friends actually listen to it, which results in significant, measurable new music discovery.
Garg wondered, If friends help you discover new music through online social networks, maybe they can help you find more jobs. This led him to ask a critical question: Should job seekers spend more time on LinkedIn, or should they spend time on other job search modes? And given how much job information is readily available online, do people really need a network?
Cutting Through the Clutter
Garg concludes that yes, people really do need networks, and here’s why: Information availability has become information overload. When it comes to employment, that overload affects both job seekers and hiring managers.
There was a time when people had to scour the “Help Wanted” section of their local newspapers to find an opening, but now we can go online and find job announcements easily and instantly. Information is accessible, and someone can apply for a job anywhere in the world as soon as the position is posted. But with this availability comes redundancy and overload — the sheer number of jobs posted online can be overwhelming to sift through, and most job listings are posted on multiple sites, making the search process even more onerous.
On average, Garg says, each job posted online receives about 250 resumes, and 427,000 resumes are posted online each week through Monster.com. Simply put, hiring managers and recruiters will never see most of the resumes submitted for a job. Having a connection at a company, then, can be critical.
To emphasize the point, Garg reveals that there is only a 25 percent probability that a manager will look at any given resume submitted through an online application, but there is a better-than-90 percent chance the hiring manager will review a resume when it’s been sent through a shared connection.
So, the more connections you have, the better — right? Not necessarily. The type of connections you have on LinkedIn makes a big difference in how useful they are in helping you find a job.
Weak Ties Bring Information, Few Jobs
Garg explains that people have two kinds of connections — strong ties and weak ties. Strong ties are close friends, colleagues, and family members that we communicate with regularly, and weak ties are more distant friends, family, or acquaintances.
Both have their advantages, but when it comes to actually landing a new job, strong ties are more useful.
The value of weak ties, Garg says, is that they bring more new information to you. Because these are people you don’t communicate with frequently, you probably aren’t aware of job opportunities at their companies, so they contribute to your search by giving you new job leads that you can apply for.
However, it’s a strong tie that can recommend you for a job, and it’s often this personal referral that leads to an interview and offer.
Strong Ties Result in More Interviews and Offers
Garg’s research shows that when people increase the number of weak ties in their networks, they apply for more jobs, but they receive fewer interviews and offers compared to those who increased their number of strong ties. Additionally, adding contacts you don’t know well (or have never met) simply to have more friends in your network could backfire.
Garg points out that when it comes to a job search, “time is a limited resource.” If a person spends what time they do have just adding new contacts instead of building existing relationships, even strong ties can become weak, and the people who could have recommended you in the past might not be comfortable doing it now that you have lost touch.
Furthermore, the value of a recommendation depends on the strength of your connection, says Garg. A weak tie might only be able to tell a prospective employer that you’re connected on LinkedIn and can’t really vouch for your abilities. A hiring manager is likely to perceive this neutral recommendation negatively.
Identify, Connect, Convert
Garg offers three key suggestions for building a professional LinkedIn network to improve a job search:
- Identify: Use LinkedIn search functions to identify the people in your extended network (first-, second-, and even third-degree connections) who are linked to companies you’re interested in working for.
- Connect: Maintain existing relationships with your close friends and colleagues. Stay in contact to ensure those ties stay strong. If you find second-degree shared connections who are linked to a company you’d like to work for, ask to be introduced.
- Convert: Invest the time and effort to convert weak ties to strong ties and re-establish relationships with friends and former colleagues you’ve lost touch with. Garg recommends meeting for lunch or coffee, attending a social event or conference, and connecting through other online networks such as Twitter.
When it comes to managing your LinkedIn network, Garg says there is no magic number, but he encourages people to add at least one strong tie for every 10 weak ties. The value of your network lies in how easily you can get a job when you need one, and your strongest connections are your greatest asset when it comes to getting an offer letter.
Garg was the first guest presenter for the 2014-2015 Texas Enterprise Speaker Series, held at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center. To learn more about Dr. Garg’s research and get specific job search tips and suggestions, watch his presentation on video below and view the Q/A session here.
Getting a Job: A Study of Contracts and Careers, by Mark Granovetter
First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
Read the Research
To Be or Not to Be LinkedIn: Job Search Using Online Social Networks
Think Before You Link: On LinkedIn, Strong Ties Lead to Job Offers
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