Story at a glance
- A sweeping new study published in the journal Science argues that weaker relationships are the most likely to help you land a better job, at least on LinkedIn.
- Study crafters conducted experiments with the website’s “People You May Know” algorithm to test out sociologist Mark Granovetter’s “strength of weak ties” theory.
- Crafters found that weaker relationships, like those a person has with an acquaintance versus a close friend, provided the most job mobility.
An acquaintance is more likely to help you land a new job than a close friend, according to a new study from a team of researchers at LinkedIn, Harvard Business School, Stanford and MIT.
The study, published Thursday in Science, suggests that networking with strong ties on LinkedIn — close friends, in this case — may not be the best source for someone trying to find a new job.
Instead, researchers found that job hunters were better off when they turned to their weak connections – acquaintances and friends of friends, underpinning a decades-old social theory known as the “strength of weak ties.”
The phrase was coined in 1973 by American sociologist Mark Granovetter, who argued that the closer two people are the more their friendship networks are likely to overlap.
That overlap is something a job seeker wants to avoid since most people running in the same circles have the same information and career options.
A person’s weak ties, on the other hand, can provide bridges to new social circles and new job opportunities.
Study crafters tested out the theory by conducting experiments on variations of LinkedIn’s “People You May Know” algorithm, which recommends new connections to users.
Crafters tracked the impact of “weak” connections to 20 million users over five years. During that time, two billion new ties were made on the site and 600,000 new jobs were recorded.
Study authors found that the weakest connections had the greatest impact on users’ job mobility.
At the same time, “weak” connections only increased job mobility to a point, and the strength of weak ties varied by industry with these connections having increased job mobility the most in the tech industry, according to the study.