LinkedIn research highlights the limitations of job-based referrals

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Find out how we think differently about referrals

There has been some interesting research, published recently in Science, based on data sourced from LinkedIn. This data comes from randomised changes in what was shown to users and how they responded to it.

This has triggered some debate about LinkedIn users being “experimented upon without their knowledge” but the researchers insist nobody was put at a disadvantage and that this experimentation is covered, of course, by the terms and conditions…

Leaving aside the ethics of this case, the results themselves provide compelling evidence for the “strength of weak ties” theory which promotes the “importance of weak associations (e.g., acquaintance versus close friendship) in influencing the transmission of information through social networks.”

“the weakest ties had the greatest impact on job mobility, whereas the strongest ties had the least”

A causal test of the strength of weak ties | Science

We have always been strong proponents of this theory and it informs our approach to employee referrals. We encourage referrals of weak ties via an ‘Introduce the people you know’ approach as well as enabling ‘referrals of referrals’ – widening the net further.

Traditional job-based referrals tend to only work with strong ties because they require significant effort on the part of the referrer – to find a live opening, think of someone that might fit, and, also, check that they are thinking of moving.

The results achieved by our clients through a more people-based approach speak for themselves, but we always like to confirm the science via independent analysis. Using data from user behaviours and tying it to real-life outcomes is also proving a very valuable tool for our own predictive analytics.

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