There is an article in the New York Times that discusses the increased use of employee referral programs by large companies. There are many reasons to use employee referral programs but the article implies that there is one that is becoming predominate. Sneaky discrimination. It points out the main reason the unemployed need to stay connected.
Referral programs speed up hiring
The New York Times article was entitled In Hiring, a Friend in Need Is a Prospect, Indeed and it starts off with the story of an individual who was fast tracked through the hiring process at Ernst & Young because she had a friend submit her résumé. I don’t have a problem with that. I am a big proponent of using employee referral programs to find good candidates. The article goes on to tell us of other companies that have increased the use of their employee referral programs. Again, this is a good thing. However, the news of the use of these programs to get good employees was tempered by this statement “Big companies … are increasingly using their own workers to find new hires, saving time and money but lengthening the odds for job seekers without connections, especially among the long-term unemployed.” (My emphasis)
I have written several times about the campaign against the long-term unemployed here, here and here. The early attempts were about blatant attempts to exclude the long-term unemployed. Now it appears companies are getting more discrete about their attempts to exclude workers who have been out of work for a while. They look for employees to refer friends and past co-workers. On the surface this seems innocent enough, but a reality is that if we have a friend who is unemployed and has been for a longer period of time we become more distant from them and subsequently are less likely to refer them. We start thinking they have that “taint” about them and since our reputations are on the line we are more careful about whom we present. As the article states: “Economists and other experts say the recession has severed networks for many workers, especially the long-term unemployed, whose ranks have remained high even as the economy recovers.”
Job board discrimination
A secondary result that comes from this is that many companies are beginning to avoid résumés that have been submitted from the major job boards, such as Monster. In fact Dr. John Sullivan, a recognized expert in hiring, says “We call it Monster.ugly” referring to Monster.com. “In the H.R. world, applicants from Monster or other job boards carry a stigma.” He sees the job boards as “black holes” and implies that companies will only find quality candidates from employee referrals rather than job boards and job fairs.
Nelson Schwartz, the author of this article says “For those who make it to the interview stage, the referred candidates had a 40 percent better chance of being hired than other applicants.” For one company he cites the referred candidate is ten times more likely to get hired.
The critical necessity of staying connected
If you are unemployed it is CRITICALLY important you stay connected with ex-coworkers. Just having your profile on Linked In is not sufficient to get you noticed. You must maintain an active connection with as many people as you can. Don’t just link with them, COMMUNICATE WITH THEM. Emails and occasional phone calls to them will be very important to keep your name in front of them.
If you used to associate with the outside of work don’t stop. You may have to make some adjustments due to finances, but don’t disappear. If you find yourself shunned find out why. Maybe they are embarrassed because they are doing things they think you cannot afford. Help them work around it.
Of course you need to stay on top of what is happening in the world of your chosen profession. Read, read, read and then comment PUBLICALLY on what you have read. Make some contact with the people who have written something you find interesting. The key point of this is to STAY CONNECTED. Don’t become that person that Sullivan refers to as a “Homer” referring to Homer Simpson.