Why You Should Care About Networking

January 5, 2015

Featured in 2015 Guide to Getting an Engineering JobYou’ve heard it hundreds of time: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. Is it just an old saying, or the most important advice you ever received?

Studies from researchers at the University of Minnesota, Harvard, MIT, and others confirm that the dominant factor in recruitment is having a good referral.

Networking Wins Your Job Search

Here’s how much difference a referral makes:

Online job applications via public job boards or or a firm’s Web site account for around 80% of applicants across a wide range of industries. Those applicants constitute around 40% of interviews and 30% of hires.

By comparison, referrals account for just 6% of applicants, but they make up 30% of interviews and as much as 50% of hires.

(The balance of applicants typically consists of internal candidates.)

If you’re referred by someone already at the company, you’re nearly ten times as likely to get the job as someone applying purely on the strength of their resume.

Why You Should Care About Networking USACE

Credit: USACE

Speaking from personal experience, every single job I’ve got since 1988 came about through knowing someone – including both regular and freelance work. When I was hiring people regularly, particularly in high-tech areas like Cambridge, England, or Silicon Valley, the first thing I would do would be to ask friends or business acquaintances if they knew of anyone suitable.

As many as half those jobs were never even advertised.

The Better the Job, The More Important Your Network

Referred applicants don’t necessarily have better resumes or more experience than their competitors. Their advantage is threefold:

  1. The employer is taking less of a risk, because someone they trust is willing to vouch for them. That gives them more knowledge than a resume and a short interview.
  2. Referrals are usually far more cost-effective than paying recruiters. A member of staff who refers a successful candidate will typically get a bonus of $3000-$5000. Many recruitment agencies will charge 15%-25% of the first year’s salary – that can easily work out as $20,000 or more for a qualified engineer.
  3. Referred candidates tend to stay longer and perform better. This may be because they feel additional loyalty, or because having friends at the company helps them to adjust better and fit in with the team.

For the prime jobs, employers need prime candidates. Most of the time, they’ll start by seeking referrals. If the search expands to public job postings, any new applicants could already be in competition with a preferred candidate.

Why You Should Care About Networking Tulane-Public-Relations

Credit: Tulane Public Relations

Start Networking Early, Never Stop

If you want to work with pioneering spacecraft, world-beating electric cars, or astonishing civil engineering structures, having a good degree and an impressive resume isn’t enough. You won’t get those jobs without the right contacts.

As early as possible, start developing relationships with people. An internship or vacation job is more than an opportunity to gain experience and earn some money. Go to conferences, take part in competitions, and join societies. Go to meetup groups and networking events, and get as many names as you can.

Then follow up. A business card tucked away in a desk drawer will do you no good. If you want to be remembered at hiring time, you have to work on those relationships.

Networking is the most valuable skill you can acquire.