What Employers Aren’t Telling You

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In a nation that is already dealing with inadequate employment opportunities for recent college graduates, a new trend has emerged which may make it even more difficult for you to land that post-grad job.

The Atlantic writes that companies are showing an increasing tendency to make hiring decisions based on internal referrals rather than from the wider general applicant pool. They note: “The New York Times reports that referrals from employees make up a growing number of hires at some large companies that face the daunting task of wading through thousands of applications to fill a single position.” The article also reveals that at accounting and consulting firm Ernst & Young, nearly half of advanced hires are recommended by the company’s own workers—around a 20% increase from 2010. The company, and they are by no means alone in this policy, intends to raise that number even higher.

The rationale seems to be twofold. First, there's the assumption that those who already work for the company are more trustworthy and have a better grasp of the culture of the workplace. Therefore, they're well-suited to recommend candidates. The second is an efficiency argument. With so many applicants for a single position, and so many of them boasting equally impressive transcripts and experiences, who to hire becomes a guessing game. Relying on internal referrals at least gives employers a starting point from which to proceed and cuts down on the time and energy expended by the human resources department.

Seems reasonable enough. But this tendency creates one glaring problem. Barring stellar internships, recent college graduates are far less likely to have many contacts within their chosen field than someone who has been on the scene for a few years. What ends up being created is a sort of closed loop—a club that the recent college grad simply isn’t in.

Nevertheless, some individuals support this hiring policy. According to University of Florida alumna and NYC-based account manager Lynne Guey, "a part of being successful…is seeing your network as an asset and capitalizing on it. I think it may teach college students to expand upon their existing relationships and really ‘keep in touch.’ After all, you never know where an old friend will land.”

For college students, optimizing the use of what connections they do have is certainly a skill that would appear worthwhile. However, not everyone is fortunate enough to have these connections in the first place. It’s really a shame—with all the national rhetoric about the youth being the future of this country and the value of a college education, one would think our college grads deserve better than to be rejected in favor of whomever plays racquetball with the boss’s assistant.

Images: TheAtlantic.com and About.com

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