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Should Employers Place A Heavier Value On The Size Of Someone's Network?


Employers should, and WILL, start placing a higher value on an individual's network size when hiring. These days when people change jobs, they take their network with them. We have already started placing a much higher value on the concept of networking, why? Because people do business with people they know! So, when filling a position (all over things equal) the employer would be very wise to hire the individual with a larger network simply for the potential business it could bring. If someone has a vast network, they automatically bring awareness of the company to almost that entire network. That is free marketing, and a very valuable thing. As we see networks grow, and networking become a larger part of how we do business in our society, we will see it become a much bigger part of the hiring process. Get ahead of the game and build your network now, it may just lead to you beating someone out for a job. 

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That's an interesting point of view, and I agree.

I have not actually witnessed such an attitude from employers yet, though.

Not yet, but I guarantee it will happen. Employers are always trying to look for new ways to get the advantage when hiring. They have invested billions in just being the "cool place" to work to attract top talent. Someone with a networking oriented mind will come along, and realize the value in a large network, and the first time that works it will spread like wildfire. 

It's the size that matters?  Not the quality?  As I always mention on the Anti-LION linked in group (how's that for Irony?), if everyone's a link, then nobody's a link. 

Great point! So the next question is, how do you measure the quality? Size speaks for its self... but how do you measure the quality of that network? 

Yep social network connections should have an "expiration date" or be ranked according to the level of involvement. I routinely decline random connection requests from the people, who I never even met. There are plenty of people, who connected once and never seen each other again.Unfortunately, LinkedIn view of professional network has a little resemblance of the real one.

I think size and quality both have their benefits. With size (whether they are quality or not) the individual still has the reach to those connections directly. You never know what kind of post is going to spark interest from someone that would be considered a "random" connection. Then obviously your quality connections in your network have many benefits as well. Food for thought.

That's good food for thought.

A healthy network has some strong ties (people you trust and vice versa), many more weak ties (acquaintances and friends of friends), and even more dormant ties (haven't contacted in years).

Unlike Sergey I find value in dormant ties. Sometimes it's a person who resurfaces after 10 years who has the most interesting opportunity.

Adam, Myles I never thought about the professional network this way. I guess I need to rethink how the professional social network works. It's good to learn something new.

I concur. A personal network helps with emotional support but a professional network helps with career!

If network size becomes a serious measure of an employee's suitability then people will simply start to game that measure by having a lot of network links irrespective of whether those links have real value. There has to be a quality measure of some kind, probably some kind of dynamic pattern of behaviour with regards to how an individual interacts with his or her network. Adam is undoubtedly a master at this, and I suspect if he analyses and systematizes his pattern it could function as a template for identifying a truly effective networker. The online component of that behaviour shouldn't be that hard to track and measure. Gaming that pattern would be more difficult, as the easiest method for most people would be to imitate the behaviour pattern, which would make them effective networkers. Of course someone could develop software that automates a kind of faking of the pattern, but I suspect it would be relatively easy to detect that fakery with a little effort refining the measurements. As long as the effort to game the system is roughly equivalent to actually behaving in the effective pattern most people will choose to practice instead of cheat. 

James, you make an excellent point. With every game or system there are going to be people that try to cheat it. Ultimately their fraud is exploited and removed. There are already things out there like Klout and Followerwonk that measure how influential someone is with their network. A measure of quality would definitely be needed, but it will not stop this from becoming a legitimate factor in highering (obviously not the only factor). It already happens. In the real estate world, brokers carry clientel with them from firm to firm. It is the same thing elsewhere, but simply someone's personal reach holds a certain value. That person instantly has free exposure to "market" to that pool of people. It holds value, and it is only a matter of time before companies realize that and try to take advantage of it. 

I have no doubt, if done right, measuring the quality of a network will certainly be an important factor in hiring for many positions, provided the network is relevant to the position. Right now though I have doubts about how quality is being measured. Something like Klout certainly measures how people respond to content you create online. But I suspect some of the more valuable behaviours in networking, like Adam's 5 minute favour, and many other behaviours that are personalized to individual members of your network do not get captured. It would be interesting to know what are the qualitative differences between networks, and if those differences can be quantified. For example, I'm not sure if I can properly put the idea into words, but I inuit that there can be weak ties (infrequent contact) that are deep (strong response to calls to action), and strong ties that are shallow. I suspect that how you behave with the individuals in your network can have a huge impact on its quality. That quality needs to be far better measured than it is currently to be safely used as a general hiring tool. A good Klout score may correlate to a good employee, or it may correlate to someone who will spend most of their time social networking when they should be doing something else. I also have no doubt that there is probably a ton of research in this area that I am unaware of that probably provides real data on a lot of what I've mentioned.  :)

Anecdote of one, but I have not experienced this IRL either.

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