Are you a “Homer” or a “purple squirrel”? The answer depends on whether you have connections. According to an article in the New York Times that will make you want to burn your interview suit and go live in a yurt on the Oregon coast, “random” job applicants who send in resumes over the Internet are frequently referred to as “Homers” by corporate recruiters. As in Homer Simpson, icon of loserdom. Desirable applicants, on the other hand, are “purple squirrels,” because they’re rare. Blech.
It’s conventional career wisdom that one of the best ways to get a job is to have a connection in the company. A friend’s recommendation goes leagues farther than a resume blindly emailed to an anonymous-sounding email address like HRJob@dreamcompany.com. (“Dear Sir or Madam…” *delete*). But apparently this old wisdom is truer than ever. According to the Times, there’s been a a “fundamental shift in the job market”: Employee recommendations count for more than ever.
See, employee recommendations are cheaper than casting a wide net and combing through hundreds of those “Dear Sir…” cover letters. So big companies are relying on them more and more. Ernst & Young, the giant accounting firm, wants to increase the percentage of new nonentry-level hires that come from employee referrals to 50%; it has already increased its numbers to 45% from 28% in 2010.
That’s good news for the LinkedIn-savvy, network-y types who already have jobs and great connections. Referred candidates are about twice as likely to land an interview as “Homers,” and even among those who make it to the interview stage, they’re 40% likelier to be hired.
It’s terrible news for the country’s 4.8 million longterm unemployed, or for those trying to get their foot in the door in a new industry.
“You’re submitting your résumé to a black hole,” one human resources consultant tells the Times. “You’re not going to find top performers at a job fair. Whether it’s fair or not, you need to have employees make referrals for you if you want to find a job.” He says his cohort refers to Monster.com as “Monster.ugly,” adding that “In the H.R. world, applicants from Monster or other job boards carry a stigma.”