Social networks can offer up career opportunities, but your chances of switching jobs are better if you’re a well-paid professional, according to a new study from North Carolina State University, where researchers studies the role of social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn in so-called “informal recruitment” -- meaning when someone who isn’t looking for work is recruited for a new job.
According to the research, some 27% of jobs in the U.S. are filled through informal recruitment, but the percentage goes up significantly with the salary of the position to be filled. In other words, a high-powered sales executive is much more likely to be recruited through a social network than, say, a fast-food cashier.
In fact, the researchers were able to determine that the likelihood of a job being filled via informal recruitment through social networks increases 2% for every incremental dollar of hourly wages for the job being filled. Thus a job paying $50 per hour, or $100,000 per year, is about 86% more likely to be filled through informal recruitment than a minimum wage job paying $7.25 per hour, or $14,500 per year.
Whether this proves that the U.S. high-end job market is dominated by “nepotism” and “favoritism,” as some observers have concluded from the study results, is open to debate. This suggests that filling high-paid roles through personal connections is somehow antithetical to America’s meritocratic ethos. I disagree, for a number of reasons.
First of all, in terms of knowing what you (the employer) are getting, hiring someone on the basis of their “on paper” qualifications, e.g. a resume or curriculum vitae, is no better -- and possibly far worse -- than hiring someone who is known to you personally, to at least some degree, through a social network. The same goes for hiring someone otherwise unknown to you on the basis of “great” recommendations: how do you, the employer, know their old boss isn’t, say, trying to shoo a loser out the door before their contract is up?
Furthermore, many industries consist of fairly small communities where it would be impossible not to forge personal connections -- and therefore difficult to find a pool of qualified applicants who are unknown to you.
Ultimately, of course, the proof is in the pudding: if employers were unhappy with the results of informal recruitment, they would stop doing it.