Why networking doesn’t always work

Marina Gapeenkova|

Are you worried that, supposedly, 80% of jobs are not advertised and you don’t know how to tap into that hidden job market?

The statement about hidden job market has become a staple on any self-respecting career advice website or workshop. It’s usually followed by recommendations to look for jobs by networking directly with companies through dropping by or calling in. The advice also suggests talking about your job search quest and qualifications to family, friends, “people to whom you wrote a check in the last year”, your kids’ friends’ parents and anyone else who may listen.

You have probably tried to find the right person to whom you could forward your resume, trying to avoid HR intermediaries. How did that work out for you? If it didn’t, you are not alone.

Let me explain why I believe recommendation about networking in job search is outdated and what you should do instead.

In the last 10 years, because of the Internet, electronic job boards such as and career sections on companies’ websites have become essentials in both job search and recruitment process.

Recruitment is a complex process. Even for small companies, asking around if someone knows someone who could do “the job” is like looking for a needle in a haystack. It’s much more efficient to advertise on job boards. Such advertising attracts candidates with the required qualifications and interest and makes the process easier for employers.

This may be different for small companies with less than 50 employees and calling directly may get you somewhere. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Here is an example from my personal experience. I worked in HR in a small company with only 20 staff. Even in such a small corporation, recruitment functions were outsourced to a recruitment agency.

These days simply calling a company asking them about job openings will lead you nowhere. You will most likely be directed to an HR person. They, in turn, will politely direct you to the career section on the company’s website or to the job board.

If there are no postings, it means they don’t have jobs available.

Even if you are referred, most likely you’ll still have to go through the online application process.

So, to procure a job, should you forget about networking all together?

Well, that depends…

Networking can work well when and if you have established long-term professional relationships in your field. You don’t do it on spur of the moment. That takes years and deliberate work. Getting a job through a contact usually means that the contact actually knows you professionally; had seen your work; can vouch for your performance and support a business case for hiring you.

Now, if you don’t have an established professional network and are actively searching for a job, don’t force networking. Electronic job boards and career sections on companies’ websites will be the easiest and most direct way for finding new job opportunities.

Marina Gapeenkova, CHRP, HR and Recruitment Specialist

Author of Invincible Interview, What Every Candidate Needs To Know To Succeed At An Interview

Category: Job Search Strategies,