Up to 85% of jobs are filled via networking: How to get referrals and boost your chances of getting hired

With a referral, you can more easily access the “hidden job market” and boost your chances of getting hired. Here’s how to use your network to build connections.


The idea of a hidden job market — jobs that are filled without being advertised or posted online, or after being posted as a technicality — sounds like the stuff of myth. But career experts say it's very real. Largely, whether or not positions appear on job boards, they're filled internally or by way of referrals.

Up to 85% of jobs may work this way and get filled via networking, according to a 2016 LinkedIn survey, instead of getting filled by an applicant who used traditional methods like applying after seeing a posting on a job board.

Networking gives job hunters a boost, too. Nearly half of them "hear about jobs by word of mouth via friends, while 37% say they also learn through professional networks," per a 2019 survey from Jobvite.

Austin Belcak, founder of Cultivated Culture and director of partner development at Microsoft, breaks down the numbers further to show just how critical networking is to landing a job. He estimates that only 2% of people who apply online get an interview. If you have a referral, your chances of getting an interview, and then getting hired, are much higher. 

"Only 7% of candidates come from referrals," he says. "So 7% of people have a 40% to 80% chance of getting hired and 75% of people [who apply online] have a 2% change of just getting an interview. That's why referrals are so important." 

How to find the hidden job market by networking

Video by Courtney Stith

Access the hidden job market by utilizing your network

"Don't be afraid to network and seek informational interviews to get referral links," says career coach Lakrisha Davis, founder of NextUp Resume. One of her previous clients used networking to get interviews with companies like Facebook and LinkedIn. 

The client reached out to his primary network, she says, telling contacts, "Hey, I'm on the market. For the past couple of years, this is what I've been doing. I'm looking to transition out, and this is what I'm looking for."

Using tools like LinkedIn's Groups and attending virtual events can make networking easier while you're at home during the pandemic.

How to continue networking while social distancing

Video by Mariam Abdallah

You might also create a networking event yourself.

"You can benefit from being the person who organizes online gatherings, inviting people from various parts of your life to get together and meet each other, especially if you or people close to you are looking for a new position," Susan RoAne, bestselling author of "How to Work a Room" and "The Secrets of Savvy Networking," recently told Grow. "If there's a colleague, former co-worker, or classmate you'd like to see, this is the perfect time."

It's important to remember when networking that you're building a relationship, rather than just asking for a favor, says Davis. "I think where people mess up with networking and why they don't want to do it is because they face so much rejection," she says. "They do it the wrong way."

Instead, she says, take your time and have conversations that build trust. "You have to seek knowledge and give service and not just go for the ask right away like, 'Hey, can you hook me up with the referral link?' You don't want to do that."

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