Job searches in 2012 are significantly different than just a few years ago. One of the main differences is that many job searchers are using social networks more than ever before.
They manage their resumes using Web-based applications; rely on job boards and digital advertising; spread the word via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook through people they know; and apply online. Some younger people may have never even seen a paper resume.
Many companies have come up with statistics about how many people are using each social network to recruit or to find a job. But some surprising results came from a study by Carnegie Mellon University doctoral candidate Rajiv Garg, co-authored with professor Rahul Telang, looking at how people are using LinkedIn to find jobs and trying to determine which tactics are more successful.
To understand what's happening in this recruitment realm, the authors asked several types of questions, including: What kind of connections on LinkedIn help find jobs? Are you more likely to search through LinkedIn if you have more connections? And what type of connecting will help you the most?
Mr. Garg and Mr. Telang found that two types of connections affect job hunting abilities: those weaker connections -- known in sociology circles as weak-ties -- and strong-ties.
In this study, a weak-tie is a connection via LinkedIn with somebody who you don't know very well, perhaps not at all as you may have found that person through the many opportunities that LinkedIn presents you to expand your network. A strong-tie is a connection that you have in LinkedIn with the person who you had already known before being connected via LinkedIn.
As expected, if you have already dug up some leads that you want to pursue for a job, the people with whom you have strong-ties can help you more. They can connect you directly with the person who's doing the hiring and give you recommendations that may have clout with the hiring company.
But if you're looking for leads to find available positions, you may benefit more from your weaker connections than you will from your strong-ties. According to Mr. Garg, the weak-ties let you know about more leads -- which is because you don't know them as well, so they bring you more novel information. You speak more often or otherwise communicate with your strong-ties, so the amount of new or novel information they can tell you about available positions is not as great.
That might lead you to think that you should go on a spree to make more weak-ties. According to that first finding, it might result in more leads.
However, the authors also found that the more weak-ties you get in your LinkedIn network, the weaker the strong-ties become for you. In other words, you're not able to communicate as often or as in depth with the people with whom you have the strongest relationships.
Additionally, they found that the leads you do get from your entire network of contacts are less likely to go to fruition -- that is, become a job offer -- than the leads you get from your strong-ties.
So while many of the reports we've seen so far concentrate on how many people use each social network and how a photo of you with a beer on Facebook can decrease your chances, the researchers offer a study that helps you use LinkedIn more effectively for job search. The authors plan to turn their attention soon to how recruiters use LinkedIn.