Friday, October 19, 2012

Damned Lies of the Week

After watching @snarke's vlog from yesterday, I was going to post a comment about the most effective job search strategy being talking to people you know—friends, family, co-workers and former colleagues. I even had a statistic: my wife, who's also job-hunting right now, recently looked at her past work experience and determined that she got roughly 70% of all the jobs she's ever had through personal connections.

But that was only anecdotal evidence. I was sure somebody had done a more comprehensive study of this phenomenon, so I decided to go looking for primary sources.

And then the Internet disappointed me.

This is the statistic—totally made-up, as far as I can tell—which everyone likes to throw around: "80% of jobs are found through networking." (Sometimes it's "70%," but most people seem to like "80%.") The earliest online reference I could find is this 2008 article, which says: "According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of all jobs are found through networking." Of course, I couldn't verify that anywhere on the BLS web site, and the fact that does no editing or fact-checking does not inspire confidence.

There's further discussion in this LinkedIn Q&A thread from 2009. But the only source named there is a New York State Department of Labor web page which actually says "over half of all employees get their jobs through networking, according to BH Careers International." Please note that "over half" is not a specific number, and the company "BH Careers International" seems really sketchy.

A lot of the web sites who cite the "80%" number these days seem to credit "ABC News." The earliest reference to that appears to be this career coach blog post, dated May 7th, 2010. I haven't been able to find any actual news report which provides this information, either national or local. Also quoted in that same blog post is "70% of jobs are found through networking" according to the "US Dept of Labor & Statistics." Sound familiar? See above to close the circle of lies.

So I'm going to call this an urban legend of sorts, and stick with DeeAnn's provable 70% figure, even though it's a small sample size. Meanwhile, here are some other job hunt-related statistics which may or may not be correct, but are actually sourced:
  • The 2011 US edition of SimplyHired's "Today's Job Seeker Report" reports that "over half of job seekers have been hired through a friend’s referral at some point in their career" and "nearly a third of job seekers found their last job through networking—by far the most effective of all job sources."
  • In April, 2012, a CareerBuilder survey indicated that 37% of employers use social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) to research job candidates.
  • Finally, Jobvite's 2012 Social Job Seeker Survey (registration required for download) was conducted in early September of this year. One of their findings was that "1 in 6 job seekers credits social media with their current job"—specifically, "Internet job board (such as craigslist or hotjobs)" was the most popular response at 32%, with "referral from professional or personal contacts" a close second at 31%. However, also note that "41% of job seekers found [their] favorite/best job from friends or family," versus only 17% for "online job board[s]."
Keep in mind that these were all voluntary surveys, and self-reported information tends to skew toward what people want to remember more than actual facts. You'll have to take methodology into account when deciding how much you want to trust each source above.

There you have it: still unscientific and hardly rigorous, but at least properly attributed, so you know who to blame. Happy Friday!



Corby said...

I think your data's spot on! I read it in a blog post (

Unknown said...

I suspect I may be an outlying data point. I had two different 3000 mile moves and one 1000 mile move that were "move first, find job next." My number is only 22%. The flip side of the equation is that once I established myself in a job, I'd pull my friends in, upping their percentages. 56% of my jobs were ones where I successfully recruited friends into.

CKL said...


Brian: Yeah, this is why I was hoping to find a more exhaustive study. Somebody should start a company to scientifically debunk Internet myths. There'd be VC funding for that, right? :)

Karl said...

100% (6 of 6) jobs through personal/professional connections (including going back to a previous employer a couple weeks ago).

When I've had multiple offers, I've picked the one where I feel like I know what I'm getting in for, even when they offer less compensation. Also, at this point, it's relatively hard to find a startup job where I don't know somebody.

Wanda said...

25% for me.

Anonymous said...

really helpful. i've been scouring the web for citations related these job search / employment statistics that everyone is using and can't seem to find anything concrete.