A recent study by CareerXroads found that of all the full-time positions filled in 2017, 51% came from internal transfers and promotions, up from 39% in 2016 and 34% in 2015. And of the remaining positions that were filled by outsiders, 27% came from referrals.
One executive at a marketing firm with open positions on his team recently told me that he’s considering only candidates he knows personally or who come recommended by a trusted colleague. “It’s just too much of a risk to bring in someone from the outside,” he said. “They might look good on paper and do well in a few interviews, but you really don’t know how they’ll actually perform on the job once they get here.”
In an uncertain economy, companies are less willing to take on risk, whether it’s investing in new projects or bringing in untested employees. In addition, departments have to do the same amount of work with fewer people, so someone who doesn’t work out as expected can harm overall team performance and morale. Therefore, hiring the right person is especially critical.
If you’re someone on the outside trying to get in, then, what can you do?
One key strategy that’s more important than ever is to leverage your network (of course, that presumes you have been building a network that you can leverage). When you find a posting for a job you’re qualified for, find an ally in the company. Ask your closest contacts if they know someone there and would be willing to make an introduction, or find a connection through a business networking site like LinkedIn.
Also, research other avenues to get into the company through contract, temp or project work. That doesn’t mean taking a job as their interim receptionist if you’re qualified for an executive position, that might do you more harm than good.
But you might be able to get some insider scoop from your network on projects that are planned where you have strong expertise, or departments that are short-staffed but can’t hire a full-time person. There may be a hiring freeze on permanent full-time employees, for example, but enough flexibility in their budget for a freelancer.
Once you’re inside, do the job well and start to build relationships, and you won’t be considered an outsider anymore.