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Job Hunting? Who You Know Still Matters

Job Hunting? Who You Know Still Matters
Credit: Jirsak/Shutterstock

The old adage, "It's not what you know, but who you know," still holds true in today's job market, new research finds.

Compared with other job search tactics, employee referrals give job seekers and employers the best chance at making a successful match, according to a new study by the online career site Glassdoor. A referral by a current employee for an open position in an organization increases the odds of being offered and accepting a job by as much as 6.6 percent, more than any of the other five most popular job search strategies: in-person applications/connections, staffing agencies, recruiters, online applications and college and university referrals.

"Of the six job interview sources we examined, employee referrals performed best," Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor's chief economist, wrote in the study. "This is consistent with the prevailing conventional wisdom among HR managers today and illustrates the power of employee referrals as an effective recruiting tool."

Staffing agency referrals and in-person connections with employers are the only other search strategies that have a positive impact on getting a job. The other three sources of job interviews – recruiters, online applications and college and university referrals – all are associated with lower odds of successful job matches.

"Employee referrals are effective because they provide useful context both to job seekers and companies: job seekers gain insights about prospective employers from the employee, and companies learn about the reputation of candidates from the recommender," Chamberlain wrote.

Despite the increased chances of employee referrals leading to an accepted job offer, just 10 percent of job seekers tap into their personal network for job opportunities. Overall, 42 percent of those looking for work use online applications to try to land a job, the most of any search approach. [The Number One Thing to Avoid Doing in a Job Interview ]

The study shows that employers in the technology, consulting and finance industries rely most heavily on employee referrals, while government, retail and food service, and energy and transportation employers use employee referrals the least.

"As employers search for ways to streamline hiring processes, our results suggest tapping the personal networks of employees remains an effective hiring strategy," Chamberlain wrote.

The study was based on a sample of 441,553 job interviews from U.S. job seekers submitted to Glassdoor between 2009 and 2015.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.