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Huge study of 20 million people reveals who can help you get a job!

A new study of more than 20 million people, published in the journal Science, shows that your close friends (on LinkedIn) are not the best choice for finding a new job.

Instead, you should seek out people you don’t know well enough to share a personal connection with.

In 1973, American sociologist Mark Granofter coined the phrase “the power of weak ties” in the context of social media. He said that the stronger the relationship between two people, the more their networks of friendship intersect.

Simply put, you most likely know all the friends of a close friend, but few of the friends of an acquaintance.

So if you’re looking for a job, you probably already know everything your local area has to offer. Intuitively, it is your weak ties – your acquaintances – that provide the most opportunities for new discoveries.

A group of researchers from LinkedIn, Harvard Business School, Stanford and MIT set out to gather some empirical data on how bad relationships affect job mobility.

Their research supports efforts by LinkedIn engineers to test and improve the People You May Know platform’s recommendation algorithm. LinkedIn updates this algorithm regularly, which recommends new people to add to your network.

One of these updates tested the impact of encouraging strong relationships (recommend to add your close friends) versus weak relationships (recommend friends and acquaintances). The researchers then followed the users who participated in this “A/B test” to see if the difference affected their employment results.

Over 20 million LinkedIn users worldwide were randomly assigned to well-defined treatment groups. He proposed slightly different new communication guidelines for users in each group, encouraging users in some groups to form stronger bonds and users in other groups to form weaker bonds.

The team then measured the number of jobs that users in each group applied for and the number of “job transfers” that occurred. Job transfers are especially important because they are defined as getting a job at the same company as the new contact. Rescheduling a job indicates that the new contact helped you get the job.

Somewhat weak relationships are best

The study uses causal analysis to go beyond mere associations and link association formation to employment. There are three important results.

First, the recommender engine is highly correlated. Users who recommended more weak links made links significantly weaker, and users who recommended stronger links made stronger links.

Second, experience provides causal evidence that somewhat weak ties are more than twice as effective as strong ties in helping a job seeker find a job with a new employer.

Research has shown that the transition to work more often comes from acquaintances with whom you have about 10 mutual friends and with whom you rarely communicate.

Third, the strength of weak links varied across industries. While weak ties increase job mobility in more digital industries, strong ties increase job mobility in less digital industries.

This LinkedIn study is the first to substantiate Granoviter’s labor market theory. Causal analysis plays a key role here, as large-scale studies of the relationship between bond strength and function transfer have shown that strong ties are more beneficial, which has hitherto been considered a paradox.

This study resolves the paradox and further proves the limitations of association studies, which do a poor job of unraveling confounding factors and sometimes lead to erroneous conclusions.

From a practical point of view, research determines the best criteria for suggesting new links.

She said that the contacts most useful for getting a job are people you know, people you meet in a professional setting, friends of friends, not your closest friends.

They can be translated into algorithmic recommendations, which can make professional network recommendation engines such as LinkedIn more effective in helping job seekers find jobs.

Theoretically, users in the “strong tie” group could miss out on the weak ties that could land them the next job.

However, all groups had some degree of functional mobility – some more than others. Moreover, since the researchers were observing an engineering experiment, the study itself does not appear to raise ethical concerns.

The presentation was co-authored by Marianne Andre Rizuio, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Behavioral Data at the University of Technology Sydney.

Source: Science Alert.


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