Is your company encouraging you to bring in referrals from your social networks? Are you using your social web connections for your next career move? The New York Times  recently ran an interesting story (prompting hundreds of comments) about this practice. It identified companies such as Ernst & Young who have “set ambitious internal goals to increase the proportion of hirings” from their own employees.  Accordingly, employee recommendations at that firm make up 45 percent of new hires (non entry-level ) up from 28 percent two years earlier. Wow. That is a huge jump.

My takeaways from this trend are two-fold:

  1. Employees: Get your social networks in order! If you haven’t already, be sure you are keeping up your connections, updating your resume, and getting “recommendations” on Linked In before you need to job search.  When you do search, remember that you can mine your own networks—much like these companies are doing looking for you. In Linked In, for example, you can use the “search” function to find companies you are interested in applying to. This will generate a list of contacts. Some of these will already be your contacts. Others will be one or two degrees away from you, and so you can ask for a referral from your own contact to reach them. You’ll of course need to do more than shove your resume at your new contact. Generate dialogue inside and outside social web to let them know your skills, ask them questions about the company, etc.
  2. Employers: Re-examine fairness in hiring practices in the new social web context. Today’s social networks can resemble the “good old boys” network of yesteryear. Just as social clubs once excluded the outsiders of the day–including women, Jews, and African-Americans—people’s Facebook and Linked In Networks can also be limited by race and ethnicity, but also educational background, religious affiliation, and other factors.  By asking  employees for referrals from these, are we just moving an old practice onto a new technology platform?

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

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