Weaker ties more likely to help you land next job

A team of researchers from LinkedIn, Harvard Business School, Stanford and MIT set out to gather some empirical evidence on how weak ties affect job mobility.
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NEW DELHI: Say you are looking for a new job. You head to LinkedIn to spruce up your profile and look around your social network.

But who should you reach out to for an introduction to a potential new employer? A new study of over 20 million people, published in Science, shows that your close friends (on LinkedIn) are not your best bet: instead you should look to acquaintances you don’t know well enough to share a personal connection with.

A team of researchers from LinkedIn, Harvard Business School, Stanford and MIT set out to gather some empirical evidence on how weak ties affect job mobility.

Their research piggy-backed on the efforts of engineers at LinkedIn to test and improve the platform’s “People You May Know” recommendation algorithm. LinkedIn regularly updates this algorithm, which recommends new people to add to your network.

More than 20 million LinkedIn users worldwide were randomly assigned to well-defined treatment groups. Users in each group were shown slightly different new contact recommendations, which led users in some groups to form more strong ties and users in other groups to form more weak ties.

There are three important findings. First, the recommender engine significantly shapes link formation. Second, the experiment provides causal evidence that moderately weak ties are more than twice as effective as strong ties in helping a job-seeker join a new employer. Third, the strength of weak ties varied by industry. Whereas weak ties increased job mobility in more digital industries, strong ties increased job mobility in less digital industries.

This study resolves the paradox and again proves the limitations of correlation studies. From a practical point of view, the study outlines the best parameters for suggesting new links. It revealed that the connections most helpful in landing a job are your acquaintances, people you meet in professional settings, or friends of friends, rather than your closest friends – people with whom you share about 10 mutual contacts and with whom one is less likely to interact regularly.

(The Conversation)

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