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Guide to Job Search Networking

By Susan P. Joyce

For now and the future, networking is a critical survival skill. For some of us, it comes easily. For others, not so much. This section of Job-Hunt will help you understand, cope, and succeed.

Effective Networking Is Fun!

Networking has a bad reputation in many circles. Skeptics (or the inexperienced/uneducated) equate it with "using" people or being in large rooms filled with strangers.

But good networking - effective networking - is NOT "using" anyone. Good networking is catching up with old friends or colleagues, meeting new people you have something in common with. 

Good networking is seldom being in large rooms filled with strangers. It is meeting new people, hopefully introduced by someone you know.  If you don't like large rooms filled with strangers, avoid them. But, don't avoid talking with other people, helping other people, learning from other people, and meeting new people.  Just do it in much smaller groups if that makes it more comfortable for you.

Good networking is people helping each other solve problems and succeed. It is a two-way street - always - or it doesn't last, and it is not successful or effective.

Effective Networking Works!

In countless surveys and research, including those conducted by Job-Hunt, networking is the dominant method used by successful job seekers. More than 75% of the time! NOT a job site. NOT an e-mailed resume - at least not initially. NETWORKING!

If you have ever been responsible for hiring someone, you know it is a scary thing to do, particularly if your success - as well as your job - depend on the quality of the work of the person you choose to hire. So you approach it very cautiously.

You want someone with the right skills and experience. You also want someone you can trust, someone you can depend upon to do the job they were hired to do. Someone who will work hard, work honestly, do their best, do the right thing, AND be nice to talk with over lunch or coffee.

Take a Seat on the "Other Side" of the Desk - the Hiring Manager's Side

Imagine you must hire someone. The person will work for you, doing work that is very important to your success. If you hire someone who doesn't do well, you'll have to work harder to fix what they don't do well, and you'll have to explain to your boss why you picked that less-than-stellar employee, who will now be difficult to fire.

Impact of making the wrong choice in a new employee:

  • Make your job more difficult.
  • Impact your salary and bonus negatively.
  • Make you look less competent to your boss, co-workers, and perhaps even customers.
  • Potentially put your job at risk.

So, with your success and your job on the line, how do you find a good candidate to fill that job?

  • You ask around. You ask other employees and maybe post the job internally so that anyone who knows anyone who might be a "good fit" is identified and contacted.
  • You look out at your own network - the people you know personally and professionally to see if there is anyone who might be appropriate and interested or if anyone you know has someone appropriate in their network.
  • You place an ad in the paper or on the Web, and you hope "the right person" sees it and responds.

Who Would You Hire?

When the whole process is over, you have two people to choose from:

  1. Michelle, the former colleague of a co-worker
    Michelle worked with your co-worker Ed for 5 years. Ed knows she is very well-regarded where she works now (where they worked together), and he referred her for the job. She did fine in the interviews, but she doesn't have as much experience or polish as Louise, although she is equally qualified on paper. HR says her references were fine, and she passed the background check.
  2. Louise, the stranger
    Louise responded to the published ad. She has a very impressive resume. She performed well in the interview with you, and the others who interviewed her thought she'd do well in the job. HR says her references were all positive, and there were no problems with the background check.

So, both of the top candidates seem well-qualified.

And the winner is?

My bet is that you would hire Michelle, even though she isn't the "perfect" candidate.  Because hiring Michelle (known-quantity) appears to be safer than hiring than Louise (the stranger), you would do what everyone else usually does and choose the known-quantity. 

And, if Michelle had made as impressive a presentation as Louise, the decision would be easier.  Michelle would definitely win.

This is called networking your way into a job!

If you have any questions or issues you'd like covered, please send an e-mail to

About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.