Why Are Informal Connections So Popular?

Informal connections are the most commonly used recruitment channel. Only 32 % use job ads while 60 % use informal connections. One job hunter told me that understanding this would save him a year of his life.

In this post, I want to share why informal connections are a common recruitment channel. It might not be what you believe.

A Typical Scenario

I want to talk about a typical scenario at a Swedish company.

So, think about a company with ten employees. Let’s say that it is a small grocery store, an ICA. Something I think we all can understand and relate to. The process is similar for other kinds of companies. One day, Maria, who works in the cashier tells her colleagues that she is pregnant. Naturally, she will then have to take some time off to give birth to the baby, right?

In Sweden, we have 480 days of parental leave divided up among the two parents. In this case, Maria would be off work for at least 240 days.

So, someone has to come and do Maria’s work while she is gone. Because the existing people working there cannot work for Maria also for 240 days. If the firm doesn’t already have some employees that want to take on more work.

What would happen in this scenario is this. The employees would know about the future job opening long before the job market knows about it. Between the time Maria says she is pregnant and the new person needs to start working, there are a considerable amount of time. Giving room for an informal connection recruitment.

The Recruitment Process

So let’s think about what a recruitment process can look like in this case.

  • Month 1: Maria tells her colleagues she is pregnant.
  • Month 2: Boss asks the employees if they want to work more or stay with current workload. If the employees in the firm want to increase workload, there will not be a recruitment of a new employee through a job ad.
  • Month 3: If the employees don’t want to work more, then Maria, her colleagues, and her boss will ask in their informal networks if they know someone that would fit for the role. Also, if they have any spontaneous applications that they have received, they might look into these. If they find someone in this search they will not create a job ad.
  • Month 4: If they don’t find someone, they put up a job ad and the recruit someone in the last months.
  • Month 5: Interviews and new colleague start working
  • Month 6: Maria takes off work. New colleague starts.

In the extreme cases, job ads are only used when the people in the company didn’t find someone in their informal network.

Finding Someone Good Enough

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that employers will always search for the optimal new employee and therefore will spread the information that they are hiring as wide as possible. However, this is usually not the case. The usual case is finding someone that is good enough for the job after a reasonable amount of searching.

So, one critical reason to why companies want to hire in their informal networks is that it limits the work from the side of the company.

If an employee in the firm already put their reputation at stake early on in the process and say there is a potential candidate, that makes it possible for the company to just eliminate all the hassle of putting up job ads, selecting candidates among hundreds of CVs etc. By using informal connections and also spontaneous applications, you expose yourself to the possibility of being in the recruitment process before the job is even advertised. In fact, you will make it so that the job is not advertised at all. Because they already found you.


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