NY Times Gets It Wrong – Good Nets Work On Merit

Yesterday’s article in the NY Times misses the boat, and I’ve got to call them on it.  The shocking suggestion is that networking sites will lead to nepotism.  (And by networking sites, they mean ones just like LinkedIn – and since the article only mentions LinkedIn, there’s not much doubt about it…)

Misguided reporting

The article in question is here – titled “Networks Too Big for Their Own Good” and you should certainly check it out – to see how far off the mark they’ve gone.

The claim is that by helping the good-old-boys, the site supports nepotism.  And when some members adopt the “all connections are good connections” philosophy, even the trust factor from an inner circle is lost.

Let’s unravel these shocking claims…

Networking leaves out merit

The first suggestion is that companies succeed by rewarding success – making decisions based on merit.

I doubt that anyone will find a problem with this statement, it’s the followup that gets my attention – that by using a network, individuals will be rewarded based on something other than merit.

Just why is that?

The article moves onto show that companies are recruiting based on network connections.

Oh  – so networking isn’t actually leading a company to make decisions about people that already work for the company based on merit, it’s only leading them to hire based on something other than merit…

But what about networking suggests that unqualified individuals get the job?

Finding the best employees through your network

Let’s review the process of hiring an employee: A job is defined, a notice is made of the opening, that notice is publicized in a variety of ways, candidates offer themselves for consideration, and after a screening / interview process, one candidate gets the job.

A process that accomplishes the same task can be “better” if it costs less, happens faster, or gets better candidates – as shown by the success of the employees hired.

Organizations are putting more weight in network based employment situations because it is better on all three of those dimensions! The Times would like us to believe that companies have invested in this effort because it get’s worse results?

The trust factor

I reviewed Stephen M.R. Covey’s book “The Speed of Trust” the other week on another blog, and it’s clearly the factor at work here.

If I connect to a network of  trust, and recommend someone for an opening, both the organization filling the position, and my recommended candidate step into the process ahead of the game.

They’ll be able to quickly identify fit, skills, and motivations because the relationship doesn’t start with distrust.

It’s not guaranteed to work – and there is no expectation that a poor candidate will get the job.  The expectation is that there is enough on the table to find out, that it’s worth everyone’s time to invest.

And at the end of the day – candidates entering the process from trusted connections – either by employees in a job referral program or personal contacts – have demonstrated success patterns.

LinkedIn megalomaniacs

One class of LinkedIn user does bear talking about – the ones that connect indiscriminately.

If LinkedIn is used as an address book, it is absolutely true that one must discount (or at least consider) the relationship – to some degree.

If Sammy Smith connects to fifteen thousand people, and is recommending Lola Perfect for a position, and it’s clear that there’s no relationship between any of the players involved, there is no trust factor to build on.

It doesn’t mean that Lola is a bad candidate, and it should be notable that she’s gotten ahead of the “submit your resume through the computer” line.  (It just means that she doesn’t come with the advantage that friends of friends get…)

But that’s a minority of LinkedIn users

And they self-identify themselves!

You’ll find their email address prominently displayed on their profile along with some sort of moniker or text that says “I’ll connect to anyone, please invite me”

They have boatloads of connections – often to other people just like them…

Self networkers

The last point the article makes is that people who find a way to a hiring manager’s desk are deserving of consideration.

That is just as undeniable today as it ever was – and nothing in the “use LinkedIn to get an introduction” philosophy tells people not to do that.

It’s just that if you’ve been active in an industry for some amount of time you probably know somebody that knows the person you’re trying to reach.

And wouldn’t it be better if you could discover that information and make that first contact through your mutual friend?

Taking the hard road

In the past we never had the potential of following the thread from our personal connections in to that company or hiring manager that we wanted to work for.

Now we do.

And we should refrain from taking advantage of having built relationships and a reputation?

No, NY Times got it wrong – nepotists never lacked for friends to hire.

LinkedIn helps great organizations reach out to tap into the extended network of the great people that already touch the organization.

And that’s also what you do with it.  Right?-)

To your continued success,

Steven Tylock