The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession severely impacted the U.S. job market. Many companies struggled to survive during quarantine, forcing them to temporarily or permanently cut staff members. Now that more than 40% of the population is fully vaccinated and the economy is recovering, many companies are operating with skeleton crews. They need to hire soon, but the job market is saturated — and their old hiring processes won’t work.

Instead of conducting in-person interviews, hiring managers and talent professionals are using Zoom. Many traditional recruiting events like trade shows and job fairs remain canceled. Plus, LinkedIn data indicates that about 50% of organizations are decreasing their recruiting budgets. How can companies effectively fill their empty positions when everything looks different?

The answer: professional introductions. On average, 27% of hires came from introductions in 2020, according to a report by Drafted. And from the job seeker perspective, more than one-third of adults think networking will be more important moving forward because of the pandemic. Finding talent isn’t easy, so companies are asking their employees, customers, and partners for input on who they should hire.

Why Choose Introductions Over Recruiting?

Hiring managers and talent professionals have always preferred to rely on introductions rather than job listings. When trusted connections introduce people for jobs, the candidates have already passed an invaluable pre-screening process. They’re typically the kind of top talent every employer is seeking, and they come hand-delivered.

Job seekers think the same way. Getting a foot in the door at a potential employer by leveraging a professional connection sounds so much easier than throwing another résumé into an endless pool. Savvy job seekers look to their professional networks first to see if there are any opportunities available and to increase their chances of getting hired.

A pre-pandemic survey discovered that 85% of jobs are filled through networking to some degree. So much hiring happens through professional introductions rather than conventional recruiting that personal introductions are known as the “hidden job market.” It helps fill many positions before they’re even announced to the public.

This hidden job market will be more critical than ever in the post-pandemic world when it’s hard to find and vet talent. It’s time for hiring managers and job seekers alike to acknowledge the vital role that professional introductions play in the hiring process — and then lean into them like never before.

A Long-Term Shift in Hiring

As networking plays a more significant role in recruiting, the hiring process will become less of a cutthroat competition. After all, employers and job seekers have overlapping objectives. Professional introductions reveal what those are and ensure that everyone wins. Here are four ways this will change hiring:

1. Creating New Incentives

Having vibrant networks of connections increases the chances that people will make professional introductions. Cultivating robust networks will likely become central to both companies’ hiring processes and individuals’ career journeys.

2. Empowering Job Seekers

Most people find jobs by sending out as many résumés as possible, which can feel like a hopeless and endless process. But when hiring happens through professional introductions, job seekers are given control and are more likely to find a better job in less time.

3. Reshaping Employment Expectations

Hiring strangers is partly why some employment structures are so rigid. Recruiting through professional introductions allows for more flexibility and freedom because other people can speak to their strengths and weaknesses. Companies can rethink how they use human capital when connections introduce talent to them.

4. Making Hiring Human

For years, hiring has been turning into a cold, automated process. As networking plays a bigger role, it will start to feel more human again. This should improve how candidates and hiring managers feel about the recruitment process while also boosting companies’ onboarding outcomes.

It’s clear that professional introductions are the best way for hiring managers to find top talent. Candidates found through companies’ networks have already been vetted by whoever referred them. As the world moves into a new normal, it will be essential to adopt a hiring process that produces the best results.

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