As they say in the business world, it's all about who you know. Sure, hard work and an impressive resume help, but having connections and possible referrals are often crucial to landing the job of your dreams.
In fact, according to a study by recruiting software Lever, referred applicants are almost 10 times more likely to be hired than candidates who aren't referred. Of candidates who aren't referred, only 1 in 100 is hired for every position on average, compared with 1 in 16 for those who are referred to the company and 1 in 22 for those who are recommended by an agency.
"For some time now, talent acquisition teams have been increasing their focus on proactively sourcing candidates and encouraging employee referrals," Sarah Nahm, CEO and co-founder of Lever, said in a statement. "[Our] findings prove that those efforts are worthwhile, and paying off."
Other key findings Lever highlighted in the study include:
- The size of a company correlates with its hiring ratio. The smaller the company, the greater the hiring efficiency. For example, Lever found that companies with fewer than 100 employees have an average of 94 candidates for every open position, while companies with more than 1,000 employees have an average of 129 candidates for every open position.
- The average candidate goes through 4 hours of interviews. Although it depends on the position, candidates spend an average of nearly 4 hours interviewing for a job. Candidates for technical jobs spend the most time interviewing, at 5.5 hours on average, while sales candidates spend an average of only about 3 hours interviewing.
- It takes an average of 34 days for a candidate to be hired. However, larger companies tend to take longer. The average hiring time for companies with more than 1,000 employees was 41 days.
- Recruiters consider nearly half of candidates "underqualified." Cold applicants who apply without a connection are the most likely to be seen as underqualified (52 percent). On the other hand, just 22 percent of proactively sourced (referred or headhunted) candidates are considered underqualified.
Building your referral path
So what can you do to ensure you stand out as a capable applicant?
1. Create a soft referral for yourself.
You can take matters into your own hands by reaching out to others for help. Leela Srinivasan, chief marketing officer at Lever, advised candidates to "think as broadly as you can about potential connections you have into the organization." Ask yourself if you know anyone, even just briefly, who can potentially offer a referral.
2. Search for first- or second-degree connections on LinkedIn.
If you find yourself empty-handed after considering possible connections, turn to the company's LinkedIn page, click "see all employees" and check if you have any first- or second-degree connections.
"If you have a first-degree connection, reach directly out to them, explaining why you're interested in working for the org[anization] and asking if they can refer you," Srinivasan told Business News Daily. "If you see a second-degree connection at the company, click on their profile to figure out how you're connected, and see if there's a mutual connection who might be able to give you a warm intro."
According to Srinivasan, many companies have referral programs and offer incentives to employees who refer candidates. You may be surprised by how eager your potential connections will be to refer you.
3. Establish a legitimate connection.
If all else fails, think about possible ties you can make with the company — for example, any positive experiences you've had.
"Try to establish a legitimate connection, even if it's experience-based," Srinivasan said. "As a candidate, your object[ive] is not to game the system. On the other hand, if you come to the table with authentic examples of times when you've exhibited a particular value that the company champions, those could come in handy during the process."
Additionally, it helps to show your curiosity about the company's culture and values. Don't be afraid to ask questions and show that you've done your research.
The Lever report collected data from more than 4 million candidates, across 999 companies that use Lever, from August 2015 to July 2016.