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Woman holding sign saying I need a job.
Getting a job through someone you know is nothing new. But many big companies are formalizing their preference for job-seekers who know someone—and that's bad news for people who don't already know people with the jobs they want to have, as well as for long-term unemployed people who've lost touch with their professional networks. The New York Times' Nelson D. Schwartz reports that:
Some, like Ernst & Young, the accounting firm, have set ambitious internal goals to increase the proportion of hirings that come from internal referrals. As a result, employee recommendations now account for 45 percent of nonentry-level placements at the firm, up from 28 percent in 2010.

The company’s goal is 50 percent. Others, such as Deloitte and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, have begun offering prizes like iPads and large-screen TVs in addition to traditional cash incentives for employees who refer new hires.

If you're referred by someone who already works at a company, you could be as much as 10 times more likely to be hired than if you just sent in a resume. And while it's good to have that information so you can think about who you know that could help your application get a second look, it's not good news for making the corporate world more diverse:
People tend to recommend people much like themselves, economists say, a phenomenon known as assortative matching. Mr. Topa’s study for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that 63.5 percent of employees recommended candidates of the same sex, while 71.5 percent favored the same race or ethnicity.
Some companies are capping the percentage of hires they make through employee referrals for that reason, but will that be enough to level the field for people who don't look like the people already at a company? Workers thinking about who to recommend to their employers also may be more reluctant to recommend friends who have been unemployed for a while, leaving the nearly 4.8 million people who've been jobless for more than 27 weeks with few options.

If you're unemployed, this should be a reminder to work the hell out of every connection you've got, no matter how weak your tie to someone working at a company you might like to work at. Former classmate or coworker? Neighbor you wave at while mowing the lawn? Cousin's brother-in-law? Can't hurt to ask. If you've already exhausted all your connections, though ... well, you probably already knew you were screwed in this job market, didn't you?

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 10:12 AM PST.

Also republished by Unemployment Chronicles and Daily Kos.

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