HR Survey - Networking is most valuable tool in a job search

August 19, 2009

A recent survey from Challenger, Gray & Christmas indicates that networking offline and online are the most effective job search methods.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas released results from a survey of HR executives, asking them to rate the effectiveness of various job search methods on a scale of 1 (least effective) to 5 (most effective).  The results show that networking both offline and online (on sites such as LinkedIn) were the most effective methods with average ratings of 3.98 and 3.3, respectively.  Responding to newspaper classified ads (1.7) and attending job fairs (1.6) were the least effective.

Here is the ranked list of all the job search methods asked in the Challenger, Gray & Christmas survey

  1. Networking
  2. Using social/professional networking sites
  3. Targeted management recruiting firms
  4. Using online job boards
  5. Applying for jobs via an employer's website
  6. Cold-calling employers
  7. Sending unsolicited resumes to employers
  8. Responding to newspaper ads
  9. Attending job fairs

While this ranking represents the effectiveness of job search methods, HR executives likely answered the question based on their experience sourcing candidates.  We believe this ranking also represents the most effective methods for sourcing candidates.  Here are our thoughts on the topic:

Traditional networking lives on
Traditional networking represents the old model - it's "who you know and how well".  If you are not connected, you will have trouble even coming up with candidates names.  However, traditional networking has its drawbacks - lacking scale, efficiency and discoverability. Finding the right target  is the first hurdle for traditional networking, requiring a lot of time, phone calls, emails, etc. to see if anyone in your extended "offline network" has the background and qualifications you are looking for.

Social and Professional networks represent the new way of doing things
"Who you know and how well" is still very current, but the the second part of the proposition, i.e. "how well", is increasingly becoming the real differentiator. Indeed, now anyone can find target names with tools like LinkedIn Recruiter.

Not only will LinkedIn help you find candidates, it will also help you jump-start the conversation.  Locking in the best candidate for a job is beyond just identifying a name.   The real value-add is finding a way to engage the candidate and start a conversation - building the best story or angle of approach.   We consistently hear from recruiters that the response rate is very high for contacts via LinkedIn InMail.  LinkedIn members are receptive to having conversations about networking or job opportunities.

So, if online networks are so great, then why does traditional networking still rank the highest?
Well first, because there are still a few people out there who have not fully understood the value of professional networking yet and have still to create a profile on LinkedIn, despite all the success stories. With about 2 million professionals signing up every month, this is changing very quickly though.

Second, having a strong network is still indispensable to find out who are truly the best people (and employers).

Third, your network helps you get an introduction to the target candidate so the first call is a warm call.

Lastly, your network helps you be a better informed and connected professional overall (the best recruiters are the ones who understand their companies and businesses best).

The smartest recruiters realize that online and offline networking are not mutually exclusive and that the internet helps augment their ability to maintain relationships and efficiently reach more candidates.  For every person that you meet offline, they have a whole network of people online who you can reach through them.  Recruiters that utilize online networks will have a competitive advantage over the folks who don’t adapt to the changing landscape.

What do you think is the most effective job search method?  Leave us a comment with your answer.