Hiring is expensive. Companies have to put in training, and then there's the adjustment period, and the hassles and bother of having to pay severance and rehiring if the new hire doesn't work out. For that reason, bosses and hiring managers are more likely to give the resumes of people that they know a second look.
If you're the person who's hiring, this is great for you to internalize. Building a strong set of employees isn't an easy task, and you have your work set out for you in creating the perfect team.
When a standout employee gives a personal reference for a friend, they vouch for that person. They're saying, "I believe this person will be an asset to the team." That kind of help is useful.
If you think that you don't know a lot of people, think again. There are the people you've worked with--your old bosses, colleagues, and even your clients--and the people who know you and your friends personally, your neighbors, old family friends, people you meet at networking events, even people you meet at volunteer activities and extracurriculars.
These people can all know what you are like and can (ideally) vouch for your character, integrity and work ethic, which sometimes means just as much as your ability, when it comes down to a few potential candidates to shortlist for an interview.
This is why it's important to make a great impression wherever you go, and to be polite and professional with everyone--you never know who their connections are or where your next opportunity will be.
Here are a few tips on getting your foot in the door based on who you know:
1. Remember the six degrees of separation.
Even if you don't know anyone who works at a company you want to get in with, don't give up hope. The six degrees of separation--the idea that you are only six connections away from anyone else on Earth--is really true.
Do a little digging. You might find that a childhood friend or an old sports coach or even that waiter at the eatery you frequent has connections to someone you want to talk to.
2. Ask a friend to make an introduction.
Once you find out who has a connection to someone you need to speak with, ask that person out for a coffee, drink or lunch. Tell that person upfront that you have a work-favor to ask, and tell them that you'd like to meet so-and-so.
Be honest about who you are trying to reach, and tell them that you'd be grateful if your friend could make an email or in-person (if it's geographically possible) introduction. Offer to return the favor sometime--it's ideal if there's something in it for your friend, too.
3. Never waste a chance to make a connection.
It's Thursday night, and you're tired. You have an invitation to attend a networking event or an industry dinner, or even a cocktail meet and greet with people you hardly know.
Your first instinct is to cancel, crawl into your pajamas and turn on Netflix. But the best thing to do would be to put on a smile, a fresh outfit, and put yourself out there.
Once you're there, make the most of it. Hand out business cards, shake some hands, kiss some babies if you have to, but put your name out there.
Even if you aren't really interested in someone's business initially, don't discount them yet. Treat them with interest and respect. You never know what that connection can lead to.
4. Bring your game face with you wherever you go.
Even when you're not at a work event, don't let yourself slide. Keep your radar on when you're out and about, at a public event, or even riding in an elevator with someone or at a dentist's appointment. Remember that every interaction counts.
Who you know can't replace what you know, or your real-life work experience. But it can get you a second look on LinkedIn or your resume, and a possible foot in the door.