As much as we want to be hired based on our skills and personalities alone, it’s an open secret that that’s not always—or often—how things happen. There are usually other factors at play that can tip the scale in a candidate’s favor—like knowing someone who already works for the organization, or a hiring manager’s own biases about the kind of person they’re looking for.
Turns out your social connections can also come into account during hiring and salary decisions. An analysis of a huge amount of data from companies between 2007 and 2013 showed that not only are connections ideal, they’re actually paid for.
Companies pay their governing board members more when they’re connected, according to the study, conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri, Florida Atlantic University College of Business and Keck Graduate Institute. (Yeah, you’re probably not applying to be on the board of some huge company right now, but the takeaway is the same.)
And when companies have growth potential or are trying to recover from stumbles in the recent past (like dipping performance, a bad merger or cut dividends), they’re more likely to pay a premium for connected folks. The more firms stand to benefit from the connections, the more they’re willing to pay.
The researchers pointed out that the findings myth-bust the theory that companies are reluctant to bring on busy, connected board members because they might be distracted from their work for the company.
In reality, these connections, especially those within the an organization’s industry, outweigh the worry that someone who knows a lot of people might be trying to balance too many things.
Building a resume isn’t just about showing up to work and collecting skills. Here are some things to keep in mind as you start or continue your career:
1. Beef up your LinkedIn connections. Managers really do use LinkedIn to check up on you when they’re considering applicants (plus you never know who will just randomly click on your profile), and the more professional connections you have on the site, the better. You’re also more likely to have a connection in common with someone already within the organization if you have a robust list. Here’s how to do LinkedIn the right way.
2. Go to networking events. There are professional organizations for young people all over the country, and these organizations often throw networking events. (Do some Googling for what’s available in your area.) Meetup.org can also easily direct you to a professional networking meetup close to you.
3. Maintain relationships with people you’ve worked with in the past. Check in with your references throughout the year, not just when you’ve applied for a job. Keep your professional mentors and champions updated on what you’re doing.
When you’re interviewing for a job, flex your relevant connections a bit. It might make you stand out as the most attractive candidate, depending on what the organization is looking for.
Katie Moritz is Rewire’s senior editor and a Pisces who enjoys thrift stores, rock concerts and pho. She covered politics for a newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, before driving down to balmy Minnesota to help produce long-standing public affairs show “Almanac” at Twin Cities PBS. Now she works on this here website. Reach her via email at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.