On the Hunt for a Job? 'Weak Ties' May Help

New LinkedIn research shows you're most likely to get a new gig through casual acquaintances
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 26, 2022 11:51 AM CDT
In Your Job Hunt, 'Weak Ties' May Be Key
Stock photo of people waiting to be interviewed.   (Getty Images/fizkes)

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.

After the latest findings, then, you might not want to ignore those LinkedIn recommendations for folks you didn't keep in touch with after college or your last job. "If you get a recommendation for somebody, and you don't see what the connection could possibly be ... those are the ... weak ties that might actually be the source of your next job," says Aral, per Scientific American. But while the results of the study are interesting, there's been some controversy on how it was conducted: Some users of the site might not be happy that all of this data was collected without their consent. In a statement to the New York Times, LinkedIn defends its methods, noting it used "noninvasive techniques" for the study and "acted consistently with" its user agreement and privacy policy, the latter of which states that the company uses member data for research. (Read more discoveries stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.