Social Networking Your Way to a New Job? New Research Suggests Social Ties Help in the Search for Employment

May 03, 2011

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In a down economy, many professionals have found themselves unemployed and actively seeking new job opportunities. Much has been said recently about the power of social networks, but can relationships that occur on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn benefit job seekers as they attempt to secure new positions? New research emerging from Carnegie Mellon University’s H. John Heinz III College indicates that the answer is yes.

Heinz College’s Rajiv Garg and Rahul Telang, along with executives from Los Angeles-based human resources consulting firm TTG Consultants, conducted an in-depth study and published the corresponding findings paper, Job Search on Online Social Networks. The research team surveyed recently unemployed individuals actively seeking employment and found that social ties play a significant role in helping these individuals land new career opportunities.

“Our findings suggest that LinkedIn.com, the social network designed for establishing professional relationships, provides a relatively higher outcome return for job seekers,” says Garg, who is finishing his fourth year in Heinz College’s Ph.D. program.

The team’s research relies on past research findings that examine the strength of social ties and their ability to relay information. The team found that both strong and weak ties impact a job seeker’s ability to receive job leads.

“Social media has changed the way things are done on the Internet, and the issue has really become relevance of information,” Garg says. “Social ties, either weak or strong, diffuse relevant information but differ in the type of information diffused. Weak-ties help in finding job leads and strong-ties help in converting leads to job interviews or offers.”

When it comes to job leads, the researchers found the benefit of online social networks to be higher than in-person relationships such as friends and family, job placement agencies or print media. The team adds, though, that job placement agencies had the highest conversion rate from leads to interviews.

“Generally speaking, it is well known that social networks matter,” says Telang, a professor of information systems and economics at Heinz College and advisor to the research team.

“Online social networks reduce uncertainty, as well as the cost of maintaining professional relationships, which in today’s technological and economic environments greatly impact the effectiveness of an individual’s job search,” he says.

More information about the study and a research report can be found at http://www.andrew.cmu.edu/user/rgarg/linkedin/ 

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