When looking for a new job, it makes sense to cast your net far and wide. Ask your friends if they know of anything; chase up those contacts you made in your last position; scour internet job boards and check out the careers pages on the websites of your favourite companies.
LinkedIn is another great way of spotting leads and making connections. But according to a new study, the social network will only actually help you snag a job if you use it to form strong professional connections.
Researchers at the University of Texas and Carnegie Melon University in the US surveyed 424 LinkedIn users, all of whom were university graduates and were currently (or had recently been) searching for a new job.
The study, published in the journal Management Science, revealed that LinkedIn was the second most popular job-seeking method after internet job boards. However, LinkedIn was unlikely to lead to an interview – or an actual job offer – unless it was used to forge significant bonds with people.
LinkedIn users who increased their number of strong connections by 10% went on to experience an average 0.7% boost in job offers: a small jump, admittedly, but one that could prove all-important in the quest for the perfect job.
Carnegie Melon University’s Rahul Telang, who co-authored the study, says that forming strong connections on LinkedIn can be a way of making sure that potential employers remember you. If they’re familiar with you, he says, they may be more likely to get you in for an interview.
“For leads to convert into interviews, your connections will most likely be required to conduct follow up on their end, such as make phone calls or provide recommendations,” he says. “If the connection is weak, these individuals may be less likely to undertake these efforts.”
As with so many things in life, quality was found to be more important than quantity. Having lots of weak connections on LinkedIn – i.e. those people who you’ve never met and never spoken to, in real life or online – actually had a detrimental effect on users’ chances of being offered a job. A 10% rise in weaker connections was found to cause a 1.3% decrease in the number of job offers.
But if you’re yet to forge any strong connections on LinkedIn, don’t despair – and don’t delete your account. The researchers found that although weaker ties were unlikely to lead to job offers, they were actually more helpful in providing users with job leads.
In other words, more casual LinkedIn use can still throw up some great opportunities. You just may have to pursue them vigorously yourself.
Want more LinkedIn tips? For six ways to upcycle your profile, click here.