help someone get a jobI’m a regular reader. Most of the articles are about “How do I get a job?” How about one that talks about “How do I help someone else get a job?”

This just happened last week. I told a former co-worker that I would give him a recommendation. I was happy to do it because the company we worked at was bad, and he was a very professional guy. He told me a staffing firm would be calling, so I was ready.

The young recruiter asked me some typical questions like, “What tools does he use? Does he use Power BI?” These questions were mostly irrelevant to the job requirements. The recruiter was just checking off boxes on a form.

I interrupted. “What you need to know is that this guy can go into any job, figure out what needs to be done, and do it without being told. I saw it.”

The recruiter said, “Really? Oh, hold on, let me write that down.” I took him off his script, and I think I helped my guy out.

Because isn’t that what every staffing service wants? Someone who just walks in, does the job, and makes the staffing service look good? A recruiter asking for a recommendation may not realize it, so you just have to work with them a little to make them realize it.

I’ll bet the readership could come up with lots of examples of how to help someone else out.

Nick’s Reply

When I suggest to people that they turn to their professional contacts when they want a new job, many lament that they don’t really have any. “I don’t know anybody!” You just showed how to make such contacts in what might be viewed as an usual way: by helping someone else get a job.

Personal referrals start with you

We all know that most jobs are found and filled through personal contacts. Yet we spend too much if not most of our time applying online via forms and clicks. Or, we wait for recruiters to spam us with unspecified “opportunities.” That’s a million miles from the nearest personal contact — and the nearest good job.

I learned long ago that even in the most volatile markets the best companies are quietly hiring — through personal referrals. But people misunderstand the personal referral. It doesn’t mean taking your friend’s resume to your HR department or passing it to your boss. It means sticking your neck out for someone like you’d want them to do for you.

Break the script when making a recommendation

Your story is not unusual but it’s instructive because you took the initiative to do more than answer a recruiter’s questions. You broke the recruiter’s standard script. Those scripts are designed to gather data points the company can process to judge whether a person is worth interviewing and hiring.

But you did the “processing” for the recruiter. You interrupted and gave the recruiter the answer: “This person is worth hiring. I saw it with my own eyes.” You made your recommendation personal to that recruiter. You stuck your neck out. That moved your buddy to the front of the hiring line.

Tap into a new network: help someone get a job

Sometimes we get so wrapped up trying to get ourselves a job that we forget where jobs come from: one another. Applying to a job posted online does not produce good will, or reciprocity, or personal recommendations. Helping someone else get a job does. It’s a far better investment.

That’s not to say you should help someone get a job just so they’ll help you get a job. My point is that helping others is a shared experience that fosters sharing help.

People are often confused about what good networking is and how to do it. Shared experiences are the most powerful component of good networking. In your case, your buddy just had a great experience with you. Now your network bond is stronger. The recruiter you spoke with had a very valuable experience with you and will think of you when looking for more good candidates — not just referrals, but perhaps to place you.

If you call your buddy or the recruiter in a few months and tell them you’re looking to make a change, do you think they might be the personal referral that gets you your next job? Or would you rather “network” with a stranger on LinkedIn with whom you’ve got no shared experiences?

Help: Be a network hub

When I started headhunting engineers in Silicon Valley I didn’t know anyone. I asked the senior guy in the office what I should do to be successful. “Spend every dime you can to take engineers to lunch. Get to know them. Make friends. Then introduce the best to one another. Do them that favor, then keep doing it.”

This pivotal practice made me the hub of an ever widening engineering network. I made many introductions that didn’t yield any placement fees. But most of those introductions were shared experiences that created trust and built many solid relationships. When I called these engineers for personal referrals to help me fill assignments I was working on, do you think they trusted me to share their best contacts? Do you think they put in a good word for me?

Don’t know anybody that can help you get a new job? Help somebody else fill a job or get a job by sticking your neck out, by breaking the script, and creating an unexpected shared experience. That’s how to tap into a new network. That’s what creates new and valuable personal contacts for you, too.

How have you helped someone get a job? How did you go the extra mile? How did you “say it” when you made a successful personal referral? Did it pay off indirectly for you? Has anyone ever made a special effort to help you get a job?

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  1. So in a way Nick, you’re a “network” engineer?


    • @J: Ouch, didn’t see that one coming. :-)

  2. Networking presupposes that your network has your back. If you have that, then good for you. What I’ve seen time and again over many years of being in the workplace is nepotism (e.g. hiring a manager’s or owner’s golf buddy, or drinking buddy) under the guise of “networking”. I’ve had a couple of interviews through networking, but I’ve never found gainful employment through it, and I know very few others who have as well. Every job I’ve ever landed, good, or not so good, has been found through my own efforts. Networking is grossly overrated.

    • Networking works extremely well if you’ve taken the time and effort to build relationships with people. Friends, family, coworkers, bosses all are willing to help you out if they believe in you, trust in you and are willing to put their name on the line for you.

      I work with about 200 clients a year coaching them in their job search. Easily 60 – 70% of them land jobs through networking. Almost all did not know the hiring manager directly, but were introduced to them through a trusted contact. A client last month was juggling 4 job offers, all made from companies she had no connections with until she was introduced to them by former managers and colleagues.

      Every job I landed since 1991 was through networking where I was introduced to the hiring manager and interviewed directly with them.

      It works if you do it right, have a great attitude and build solid relationships.

      Networking can only get you the interview. Landing the job is all on you, but can be helped along with a good referral.

      • “Easily 60-70% of them land jobs through networking”. That’s absolute baloney, and a fabrication. No way! I was born at night, but not last night. 20-30%, maybe, and that’s a generous stretch.

        • I too have trouble believing “easily 60-70%”. Even Nick’s book, “How to Work with Headhunters” gives the same range, but at least here he adds an inexact citation to back it up: he says Forrester Research backs up this figure (“How to Work with Headhunters”, p19).

          Well, OK, the lower end of the range is different: 40% instead of 60%.

          Now since you are quick to call it ‘baloney’, I assume for now your reason is the same as mine: personal experience. In my career of 40 years in the high tech industry, I have got only about two positions through “personal contacts”. Most of the other jobs (and it was a lot of them) were through recruiters, a dependency I would love to break.

          But this is one example where a failure to understand some basic math (here: Law of Large Numbers) can confuse us: you and I have our own personal experiences, but what evidence do we have that ours are typical? There is a huge variety of possible experiences out there, and if you wait long enough, you can find almost whatever you like — but it will still not be what is typical.

          The point is that, unpleasant though it may be to think it, such personal experiences may be atypical, while the 40% to 70% estimate might be more typical.

          Furthermore, a possibility I do not see addressed either in Tom’s claim nor even in Nick’s is also very important: the percentage who do well with networking may be very different from industry to industry. That could go a long way to explain why the variance is so huge: 40% to 70% is much too wide a variance!

          There are various reasons, after all, why I can believe the percentage is much lower in high tech than in business development. Tech workers are notorious for being better at the technical skills of their jobs than at the ‘soft’ skills so necessary for networking. Worse yet, someone you worked with in the same specialty may have moved on to a specialty so different, he is no longer a useful contact for you. This has happened to me several times. The best recruiter I ever worked with, for example, left recruiting to go into real estate during the dry spell of the Bush Recession.

          • @Matt J., a lot on here is focused on computer jockeys, shingle hangers (consultants), academia, government workers, bean counters, and money shufflers. While my words often irk the many posters from that insulated world, I too have been in the trenches for well over 40 years, but in manufacturing and parallel manufacturing industries. Sure, I look at things from my experience and observation, but I know very-very few folks in the manufacturing world who’ve ever landed jobs through networking, or for that matter, through recruiters. I’ve watched friends urinate on their shoes while spinning their wheels trying to network or use recruiters. I’ve wasted life and air on those futile techniques myself.
            Obviously, you’ve been out in the trenches long enough to know that these elaborate claims are bogus.
            I live in the show me state (not a native), so show me the stats, facts, and figures to prove the alleged success of networking claimed by some on here. Otherwise, it’s more fluff from the Ted Talk/rainbow and puppy dogs ilk!

    • Antonio, my experience is the opposite of your. Of my last five jobs or job offers, every single one was a networked opportunity.

    • I agree with this as well. No matter if I have a great contact at a company, I still have to deal with the HR dolt whose intervention negates any networking relationship. I guess I don’t have friends high up enough in the food chain to make a difference! LinkedIn connections are 95% recruiters (in the pharma/medical device biz) with whom I have no relationship whatsoever. Sigh.

      • So much for “networking”.

      • I don’t know exactly what point it started at, but the takeover of LinkedIn by recruiters has been a tragic example of how LinkedIn promises much to job seekers but delivers little or nothing, while slavishly serving recruiters and HR departments giving them what they want even when it is not so good for them!

        Lots of recruiters try to contact me through LinkedIn, about 80% of them expect me to connect in my initial reply. I usually do not connect until they show me they can give me a thing of value, such as a well-written (how rare!) job description. All too often, they cannot read a resume or profile and match it to the job description, so I have to do that for them.

        And yes, they really do not know what is good for them. I even saw a claim on Quora that most people asking for LinkedIn connections do so only because they do not understand how the system works, they really get no benefit out of oodles of connections. Again (so the claim goes) it is quality, not quantity that helps: they should be striving for connections they can make use of because they know the people, people they have cultivated relationships with. But just as with the high-tech job seekers, too few of these recruiters have any idea how to “cultivate a relationship”.

  3. A special thank you for this one Nick. ‘Sticking your neck out for someone like you’d want them to do for you!’ Profound and such a great reminder.

    Continue to be very appreciative of you sharing your experienced learnings/wisdom and the genuineness with which you communicate and care.

    • @Tony: That’s very kind of you, thanks!

  4. I hope you’re right about the “shared experiences” of networking. I had been building up my LI network (including some that were indeed more than mere digital notches on my belt, with genuine interaction, personal messaging and the like) but since I’ve been kicked off of LI, I now have to start again from scratch the old-fashioned way…no mean feat in this day and age of “cooties,” and with the added hurdle of introversion to boot.

    • @Askeladd: This may be a blessing. The low-tech approach will force you to select more carefully. This has been helpful to many introverts:

      I’d love to know why LinkedIn kicked you off, if you’d care to share.

      • Thanks for the link to the article, Nick.

        As for why I was kicked off (“account restricted,” which sounds like I could get it reinstated if I go back groveling, which I will not do because I didn’t do anything wrong) – I apparently violated their conveniently vague “community standards,” which they NEVER elaborate on even if you contest the decision and ask them to provide details. At no time did I ever engage in profanity, vulgarity, “harassment” or “bullying,” or any similarly unprofessional conduct. I suppose that I made a comment that ran contrary to an official narrative, which displeased the cancel culture gods. It’s a shame, because I was brought up in a era when people could engage in civil discourse and discuss topics by examining all sides of an issue. Now if you try to do that, you’re labeled “fake news” rather than “critical thinker.”

        What’s really weird is that I was literally in the middle of a PM exchange (mid-sentence, actually) with one of my contacts when I was unceremoniously logged out. Now I have no idea what has become of all my personal data associated with my LI account. Did it get memory holed? Will LI still continue to profit off it somehow, even though I no longer have access to it? What would a potential employer think if they somehow got a presumably now-dead link to my LI profile?

        Screw LI.

        • @Askeladd: Wow. I don’t know anyone that’s been kicked off LinkedIn. I’ve been kicked off Facebook because their censors don’t get jokes. Do you feel untethered? Cast off? Alone in the universe? Free from all that spam telling you to link, link, link??

          Now they can’t claim EVERYBODY is on LinkedIn.

  5. I am responsibly generous with my network. I always like it when I connect someone with someone else and it helps.

    There have also been occasions when people could not figure out “what I wanted” when I took an interest in their job search. Which is ok…it is their choice.

    A couple of my favorite networking stories:

    At the suggestion of someone who was a Team Lead on a contract I worked on, I applied for a role with the company. We discussed, she needed someone in a role she could depend on, and she was unimpressed with the other candidates. I did an interview with three people. Guess who one of the three was?

    I was on LinkedIn. An executive posted that they needed some Director-level roles filled. I messaged her that I was not Director-level, but I admired her company, and wanted to connect because I had completed some certifications in her line of work and wanted to connect with other professionals. She messaged me back with her email and a request for my resume. Not sure how it will turn out, but I have interviewed twice with the company.

    I will conclude with, regardless of the percentages, being connected with someone on the inside always gives an edge.

    Also, there are a variety of reasons why we do not sit for a role we are qualified for. Everything from budget problems, kpi/bonus numbers, to academic snobbery, the COO’s girlfriend needs a job, to someone say “No.” just because they can.

  6. I’ll say it again ..

    If networking works so well ..

    Then why do we still have +25% REAL unemployment?

    And have had +20% REAL unemployment since 2008!

    Do people just not know how to effectively — network?

    Or, is there really just something else going on here?

    That we fail to put our finger on ..

    One is somewhat curious (including me) of what really precipitated the ..

    “long-term discouraged workers, who were defined out of official existence in 1994.”

    What brought us to that?

  7. Not even the best networking can overcome macroeconomics. But even during economic downturns (and in terms of real unemployment especially, there is no reasonable doubt but that we are in a downturn), people who are in a position to network and have those skills are better off. Especially if we are in an industry segment unaffected by President Biden opening the spigot of H1B visas again!