Pay it forward. Random acts of kindness. Helping someone without the expectation of quid pro quo. What does this mean in the context of a job search? What should you do the next time a student from your alma mater or your friend's brother's college roommate emails you about a job opening at your company?
As the National Association of Colleges and Employers' (NACE) Annual Conference and Expo unfolds this week in Chicago, with featured sessions ranging from Addressing Workforce Readiness to Building Alumni/Parent Connections to GPA is Not Predictive of Job Performance, I'm reminded that the simple answer is to help job seekers with a smile. Job search is overwhelming. Lend a helping hand to those who are working to conquer the vast sea of online resources and secure a coveted job. According to the Department of Labor, 48 percent of jobs are found through "word of mouth."
We can collectively make the job search world a friendlier place. Here's how:
Spirit of Generosity. When you were looking for a job, what do you wish a contact had done for you? Would you have liked an introduction to her co-worker? Do you wish that your contact had taken the time to give you better insight into a company before an interview?
Courtesy, Patience, and Understanding. Now that you are settled in and busy at your job, did you let your friend's email fall to the bottom of your to-do list? How does it feel to be "stalked" by a networker? What about when the networker forgot to thank you for your time, follow up, or keep you posted on his job search? Hopefully, you won't mimic these behaviors when it is your turn again to look for a job.
Gainful Employment. When you help a candidate network, you could be helping an employer as well. A Federal Reserve Bank study revealed that candidates were much more likely to get the jobs when referred by a trusted contact.
Employers are looking to hire top quality candidates. They recognize the value of candidate referrals from internal employees and individuals they trust. So much so that many companies offer a "referral bonus" to employees who recommend candidates that ultimately get hired by the company.
There are a host of ways you can help job seekers whether or not your company is actually hiring:
If you think your friend Jane would be a terrific addition to your team or want to introduce her to another one of your contacts, you might tell the hiring manager, "I have known Jane for 10 years and I have always been impressed by her work ethic and intelligence...I remember when we were working on a group project together, she..." Hiring managers and professional colleagues can read between the lines and recognize the difference between a referral that is a rave review and one that is a neutral endorsement.
What if you are lukewarm on John or don't think he is qualified for the job? While it's much easier to help someone you respect and believe is qualified, there are still plenty of ways to be helpful. Educate John about your industry, help him identify target companies, offer to conduct a mock interview, and/or suggest additional resources. You can also forward John's resume to the hiring manager with a neutral email. For example, "I was introduced to John through a mutual friend. Please let me know if you would like to meet him".
What if your boss asks you if you know a candidate that went to your alma mater (who you knew but had mixed feelings about)? You can say that you didn't really know the candidate. Unless you have real information about a candidate that would directly impact her ability to do the job, keep your mouth shut.
So whether you are a recent grad or a senior professional, looking for a job or gainfully employed, return the email from the student at your alma mater and welcome the opportunity to create to a more efficient and effective job ecosystem.