Networking or knowledge? 4 in 5 people say who you know is more important than what you know

LONDON — Go to college, work hard, and eventually you’ll land your dream job, right? Maybe not, according to a recent poll of 2,000 people. In fact, four in five respondents say no matter how hard they work, other people with better business connections have the advantage.

Besides the 68 percent of adults in the United Kingdom who think people use their connections to land a job, many believe others also use that network to land promotions (58%), get their names on exclusive guest lists (54%), and gain further work experience (50%). However, if they had the same opportunity, 84 percent would still prefer to know they earned something due to what they know as opposed to who they know.

Interestingly, 20 percent admit the only reason they landed their current job is due to a social connection. Among that group, 26 percent feel bad for others who applied for that role, but 29 percent actually think they had to work harder due to their pre-existing connection to the job.

This research was conducted by OnePoll and commissioned by Virgin Media O2 to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week.

Hiring potential over experience?

All in all, the survey makes one thing clear: most people wish the world didn’t work this way. In fact, 70 percent believe they should be judged purely on who they are, not who or what they know. More specifically, 71 percent of respondents between 18 and 24 think it’s totally unfair if a company doesn’t consider a job candidate due to a lack of contacts. Another 78 percent of young adults think all job candidates should receive consideration based on their potential, not their experience or qualifications.

When researchers asked people why they chose not to apply to certain jobs, the most common responses included a lack of interview experience, not having good enough grades, and a general fear that they weren’t “good enough.”

“We know how difficult it can be for people – especially youngsters starting out – to get a foot on the career ladder. That’s why it’s a real shame the research shows that many people believe ‘it’s who you know’ that counts when applying for a job,” says Karen Handley, head of future careers at Virgin Media O2, in a statement. “And it’s disappointing that people are missing out on applying for an apprenticeship because they’re worried they’re not good enough or don’t have the right experience. That’s why, for Virgin Media O2’s apprenticeships, we don’t care ‘who you know’, or ask for CVs or prior experience. Instead, we care about who you are and your potential.”

Get rid of resumes?

One in five respondents think the people who conduct job interviews focus far too much on grades or experiences over potential and personal strengths or talents. Over 25 percent would like employers to stop focusing so heavily on resumes in general. Similarly, 28 percent believe it is difficult to truly display their potential using a resume.

It’s worth noting that one in six respondents say they’ve lied on a resume in an effort to either land a job or at least make themselves appear more interesting.

What can employers do to make the process easier for first-time job applicants? Nearly half the poll (45%) say employers should more clearly lay out each step of the hiring process, while 30 percent would like employers to stop asking about prior knowledge or experience. Another 17 percent think resumes should not be part of the interview process at all.

The general consensus seems to be that job interviews should be much more personable. Two in five people don’t think employers ask enough about them as a person. Job candidates would like to share more in regard to their life experiences (58%), hobbies and interests (37%), and personalities in general (35%) during employment interviews.

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