Job seekers try to take advantage of every possible "in" they might have at a company, and, in line with the maxim of "it's who you know," it might seem like having a family member or best buddy embedded at a potential employer could be the best bet. New research from LinkedIn, however, indicates that the "who you know" doesn't have to be someone terribly close—in fact, a casual acquaintance is the most likely to help you find a new position, reports Scientific American. The vast study conducted by the career-focused social network, in conjunction with MIT and Harvard Business School, examined the data of more than 20 million LinkedIn users from 2015 to 2019—a period that saw 2 billion new connections made and 600,000 new jobs, per the research published earlier this month in Science.
The researchers conducted "multiple large-scale, randomized experiments" on the platform's "People You Know" algorithm, offering users recommendations to link up with contacts who were both close and not so close, then seeing what jobs emerged out of those ties. It turns out that "moderately weak ties" (not the very weakest, as measured by mutual connections) proved most valuable in nabbing LinkedIn users that job offer, says Sinan Aral, co-author of the study, per USA Today. That finding varied among industries, with weak ties increasing job moves in more digital industries, and stronger ties doing the same for less digital industries. The research was designed to test a nearly 50-year-old theory by sociologist Mark Granovetter called "the strength of weak ties," which has lacked causal evidence to back it up.