Tag Archives: employment referrals

It’s that time of year…..for layoffs and promoting your brand equity

layoffOver my entire working career…starting in 1972, I’ve been laid off 8 times: twice as a house carpenter in south Florida (the first time right after my daughter was born) when the building boom busted; once as a geologist in the oil business when the oil boom busted in 1986; 5 times in different marketing/technical communications positions in the high-tech industry due to reorganizations or the economic state of the industry/company. The quality of my work or my professionalism was never a factor in those layoffs. I survived my share of layoffs as well, but–except for one instance–I came out of every layoff with a better position and higher salary.

But of the high-tech layoffs, three of them occurred within two weeks of Christmas. The last layoff was the “easiest” to get through for a few reasons: (1) the severance package was a very good one (got paid for the remaining 2 weeks of the year plus a week of unused vacation; another 4 months’ worth of salary, and company-paid COBRA for a couple months); (2) my family was in a very good financial position that minimized the effect of losing my job even after the severance was depleted; (3) the company put on a good outward face to investors and analysts but internally was run like a Chinese laundry, so there was no separation regret, sorrow, or anxiety.

The downside of this last layoff had a few elements as well: (1) I missed working with a great team of individuals who had been together for several years; (2) I was a couple years away from retiring (i.e. = working on my own projects of interest) and wasn’t able to walk away on my own terms; (3) I lost several thousand Restricted Stock Units that I had been granted as rewards for past annual performances because they had not vested yet; and (4) I still had to work through the emotional kick in the stomach–regardless of whether I hit the Powerball Jackpot the day before. Being laid off–even if you have millions in the bank–can’t remove the blow to your ego or self-esteem for a day or so because you never hear the real reason why you are being let go. The closest you’ll get is corporate speak that sounds like, “The company regrets to inform you that it no longer has a need for your services.”

(I thought about just hanging it up and “retiring” a few years before our goal; however, it would have meant that we would have fewer and less frequent vacations for awhile, and traveling is what we love to do as a family. So, I made the decision to see if I can fill the remaining two years with contract work.)

The whole scenario of being let go from your job is uncomfortable. Either your manager or someone from security is watching you pack up your personal belongings in a scrounged-up cardboard box as others around make themselves scarce because they don’t know what to say or hover uncomfortably nearby–like buzzards near roadkill ready to scavenge what you leave behind in your cube. Your email access is likely already cut off so you can’t send out that last farewell email to your peers and c0-workers, and can’t go the bathroom without someone letting you back in the office because you had to turn in your security access card immediately.

Yes, you still have to deal with the emotional kick to the gut, but I can assure you: as you mature in your career, it gets easier. You have a wider network of contacts to alert for potential job openings or contracting positions; you may have a monetary cushion–a rainy day fund–to help you deal with such unforeseen contingencies.

A strategy I used throughout my career was to build relationships with people I worked with; whether I was a member of a team, an individual contributor, or a team manager, I tried to always display a servant’s attitude. I made it one of the features of my professional brand. A servant attitude over time becomes an expertise that others will seek you out for. You will be seen as a resource, an expediter, who can connect people with other people or people with other ideas. Zig Ziglar wrote that “if you help enough people get what they want, eventually you will get what you want.” In that order: help others first, but do it without any expectation of reward or favor. Do it because it’s the right thing to do and it will pay off huge dividends.

I remember the day before my last layoff, I received a LinkedIn request from a friend I had worked with for more than a dozen years. We had worked together at two different companies and on the same projects. After I got home on the afternoon of my last layoff, I responded to his LinkedIn request and sent him a message that the company had just handed me my walking papers and that after the first of the year, I’d be looking for some contract work, so if he heard of any opportunities to please let me know.

He responded two minutes later: “I was thinking about you for some time now and hoping to connect you with my team. I have some connections to the XYZ project team and you would be a great resource to tap. I will gladly buy you lunch to catch up anyway.” The next week, we had lunch and I received a very nice contract after the start of the new year.

True story. I have no doubt that the years I spent learning how to foster relationships up and down the corporate ladder, helping others succeed, and strengthening the quality of my professional brand were instrumental in getting back on my feet quickly.  Once your professional brand has been established, others will “polish” it (promote it) for you, as my friend did, and that led to that great contracting opportunity.

I would be remiss here not to state that after having fretted about losing my job and threats to my family’s financial security early in my working career, I have learned the lesson of I Chronicles 16:34, which states, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

And serendipity played a role here, too, by turning that severance package into an opportunity to add to our investment portfolio, which helped shorten that two-year gap to about 18 months.

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What does effective networking look like?

Karl Reuning responded to my request for career topics you’d like to see me address with this: “What does effective networking look like?”

Here’s my take (from a former hiring manager’s perspective) on that question. I think you start with taking a look at how people are hired; which avenues into a company are the most successful for candidates, and then take a strategic approach to how and with whom you develop your professional networks. You want in with Company ABC? Then

  • Find folks on LinkedIn who work for Company ABC and connect with them on a professional level.
  • Exchange ideas, generate topics of discussion that demonstrate your expertise in subjects that may be important to your industry or profession.
  • Connect with people in a business or trade association for your industry or profession; attend local chapter meetings, conferences, give a presentation, write an article or paper for a peer-reviewed journal: establish yourself as an expert.
  • Be the first person to help someone else in your growing network with a referral or job lead; be seen as a resource first.

There are three ways by which you enter the hiring process: as an external candidate, as a referral candidate, or as an internal candidate. In my experience, internal candidates generally enjoy the biggest advantage, followed closely by referral candidates, and then external candidates a distant third. Somewhere between 33 and 67 percent of jobs found and filled are through personal referrals. Through personal referrals, much of the uncertainty in the hiring process is reduced or eliminated altogether from the equation, which leads to a higher probability of getting a job offer (and more quickly). It is also a low-cost recruitment tool. You simply must be strategic in designing and building your professional networks to increase the probably of being referred for an open position.

The chart below is from a report at http://www.silkroad.com listing the top 10 external sources for interviews and hires.

Top 10 External Sources for Interviews and Hires (Source: Indeed.com)

Top 10 External Sources for Interviews and Hires

A 2012 comprehensive study (222,000 job postings, 9.3 million applications, 147,440 interviews, and 94,155 hires) from SilkRoad (www.silkroad.com) provides some interesting conclusions about the effectiveness of recruiting:

  • External (specific job search engines, job boards, print advertising, job fairs) and internal (referrals, inside hires, walk-ins, company career sites) sources result in about the same number of interviews, although internal sources produce almost twice the number of hires.
  • Company career sites are the greatest online recruitment source based on interviews and hires.
  • Referrals remain the strongest base for internal recruitment marketing, followed by inside hires and company career sites.
  • Job search engines are singularly far more effective than job boards at returning both interviews and hires.

In a landmark study on social networks (with real people, not Facebook “friends”) and hiring conducted by Stanford University in 1996, researchers concluded the following:

  • Social networks favorably influence the composition of the pool of job candidates
  • Applicants referred by current employees are more likely to be interviewed and offered jobs than external non-referral candidates
  • Network referrals are advantaged at both the interview and job offer stages compared to external non-referral applicants

The researchers also determined why referral candidates had such an advantage over non-referral candidates:

  • During labor shortages, using referrals is a quick and inexpensive method for generating a pool of applicants (fewer applicants for every open position)
  • The “benefit of the doubt” effect that creates a tendency for recruiters to give referral candidates the benefit of the doubt during screening, which encourages employees to continue to recommend referrals, thereby creating a process closed to non-referral candidates
  • Social network hiring tends to produce better job description-worker matches than other types of recruitment

Another reason employee referrals are the preferred entry method to  jobs is because the average length of employment is greater with referrals than the other two methods for entering the hiring process, as the following chart reveals.

(Source: Indeed.com)

Good question, Karl…I hope that helps, and go Red Sox!

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Using Social Media Platforms for Employment Referrals

There’s a lot of buzz these days about the various social media platforms and their effectiveness a job search/job placement tools. Many will agree that LinkedIn is one of the best for obtaining endorsements and recommendations from people in your network who are familiar with your expertise. Google Plus is highly rated as well; however, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are efficient or effective for generating referrals that lead to a job, contract, or career change.

There are three ways by which you enter the hiring process: as an external candidate, as a referral candidate, or as an internal candidate. In my experience (and the research confirms this), internal candidates generally enjoy the biggest advantage, followed closely by referral candidates, and then external candidates a distant third. Somewhere between 33 and 67 percent of jobs found and filled are through personal referrals. Through personal referrals, much of the uncertainty in the hiring process is reduced or eliminated altogether from the equation, which leads to a higher probability of getting a job offer (and more quickly). It is also a low-cost recruitment tool. You simply must be strategic in designing and building your professional networks to increase the probably of being referred for an open position.

RECRUITMENT MARKETING EFFECTIVENESS

A 2012 comprehensive study (222,000 job postings, 9.3 million applications, 147,440 interviews, and 94,155 hires) from SilkRoad (www.silkroad.com) provides some interesting conclusions about the effectiveness of recruiting:

  • External (specific job search engines, job boards, print advertising, job fairs) and internal (referrals, inside hires, walk-ins, company career sites) sources result in about the same number of interviews, although internal sources produce almost twice the number of hires.
  • Company career sites are the greatest online recruitment source based on interviews and hires.
  • Referrals remain the strongest base for internal recruitment marketing, followed by inside hires and company career sites.
  • Job search engines are singularly far more effective than job boards at returning both interviews and hires.

In a landmark study on social networks (with real people, not Facebook “friends”) and hiring conducted by Stanford University in 1996[1], researchers concluded the following:

  • Social networks favorably influence the composition of the pool of job candidates
  • Applicants referred by current employees are more likely to be interviewed and offered jobs than external non-referral candidates
  • Network referrals are advantaged at both the interview and job offer stages compared to external non-referral applicants

The researchers also determined why referral candidates had such an advantage over non-referral candidates:

  • During labor shortages, using referrals is a quick and inexpensive method for generating a pool of applicants (fewer applicants for every open position)
  • The “benefit of the doubt” effect that creates a tendency for recruiters to give referral candidates the benefit of the doubt during screening, which encourages employees to continue to recommend referrals, thereby creating a process closed to non-referral candidates
  • Social network hiring tends to produce better job description-worker matches than other types of recruitment
SOCIAL NETWORK SITES AS AN EXCLUSIONARY RECRUITING TOOL

Technology and the rise of social network sites (SNS) has changed the face of employee recruiting. Research has revealed that corporate Facebook sites receive more hits than the corresponding company websites for job postings. While many companies are now integrating SNS with traditional recruitment practices (internal job postings, referrals from current employees), more are using job board sites (monster.com, indeed.com).

Employers also use SNS to screen candidates; in fact, use of SNS for such purposes increased to 37% in 2012 compared to 12% in 2006 according to a CareerBuilder survey.[2] In 2012, more hiring managers rejected candidates because of the variety of negative information discovered on SNS, with nearly 50% of survey respondents expressing concern about inappropriate photos or information about candidate drug and alcohol use, often conveyed in inappropriate photos.[3]

So, do employers use SNS in recruiting efforts? Yes; not necessarily to locate candidates, but to exclude candidates from further consideration because of the posting of questionable content or content that raises issues about a candidate’s character. Need I state the obvious that it is imperative that you scrub all social media content of questionable postings and images because if there’s a way to discover it, a hiring manager will find it and use it to eliminate you from consideration for a position. If it doesn’t present you in the most favorable professional light, remove it.

I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has had success using social media platforms to either hire employees or to obtain a job.


[1] Fernandez, Roberto et al (2006). “Getting a Job: Networks and Hiring in a Retail Bank.” Stanford University. pp. 1-47.

[2] Grasz, J. (2012). CareerBuilder Survey from http://www.careerbuilder.com (4/18/2012)

[3] Ibid., Grasz.


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