Backdoor Job Searches Work Better Than Front-door Applies!

This might seem rather obvious, but it’s not. I have people reach out to me frequently looking for a job. Most out-of-college job searchers are only doing front-door applications/applying online. The more experienced you get, you are probably doing a little backdoor work, but honestly, even with experienced professionals, I’m shocked at how much time they spend on job boards applying for jobs with zero success.

There was a great Twitter thread recently by a hedge fund professional answering the age-old question about how do you get a job in a hedge fund? Here’s a link to the thread

Brett gets way more detailed in his thread about the process, and he also gives two different scenarios of how people can get in – one traditional A-school education and one B-school grinder. I’m taking some creative liberty with his concept to talk about Front Door applying for a job and Back Door networking for a job!

Talent Acquisition Spends 99% of Their Time on the Front Door Process!

I’m not sure this is a problem. It’s more of a philosophy. TA/HR are true believers in the process. Build a great process that is repeatable and equal for everyone. There’s a ton of merit in that philosophy. It’s hard to argue with the righteousness of that philosophy.

Repeatable. Equitable. Fair. (Even though that’s in theory, not, in reality, we control what we control)

In many organizations, there are as many positions filled via the back door as the front door. I like to tell the kids this is called “networking.” It’s how LinkedIn was built. And before LinkedIn, it’s how most business and job filling got done, at a high level. The lower down the pay scale, the more front door work is needed. As you rise up the pay scale, the more the back door process comes into play. But, this isn’t just about how we fill executive roles. Mid-level and entry-level professional roles get filled in this way a lot.

The question really is, what’s more valuable?

If you’re an applicant and if you’re an organization?

It seems like both parties are served better in the back door process if you have the network, and therein lies the problem. Not all people have the same networks. If you graduate from a great school, you have a better network than someone who didn’t. If you have professional parents who have a long history and network in the market and industry you want to get into, your network will be more helpful than someone who didn’t have those advantages.

Getting hired through the back door isn’t wrong for organizations, though. Many will tell you it is, but in so many ways, this networking uncovers high performers much more efficiently. The problem truly lies in nepotism when hiring managers don’t hire for high performance but only for relationships. But throwing the baby out with the bath water doesn’t make sense either.

The Reality of How People Get Hired That Isn’t Going to Change.

Most people will get hired by their network. Everyone has a network. Every network is different. I can’t get you hired at Apple, I don’t have a good network in that world. But I can get you hired by a lot of companies! I can get you hired if you’re a teacher, but I can get you hired if you’re in HR or TA. My network is robust, but it’s specific.

I will never discount anyone who uses their network to get hired. That’s just intelligent. You use what you have to be as successful as you can be. If you got the job you don’t deserve from your network, it will play itself out in the end when you fail. People like to think this isn’t true. “Tim! My boss’s nephew is horrible, and he got promoted!” Yep, that might happen, but 99% of the time, it doesn’t play out that way in reality.

I have had CEOs I’ve worked with in my career come to me and demand I hire one of their relatives. “Put Timmy in this job. Period.” What did I do? I put Timmy in the job. If Timmy worked out, it is what it is. Timmy has to deal with that. If Timmy failed, I went directly to the CEO, and we had that conversation, and 100% of the time, they supported me in getting rid of Timmy!

Hate the game, but if you fight the game, you’ll lose. Front door hiring is inefficient and doesn’t have a better success rate than back door hiring. So, you can hate it, but you look foolish to your executives who know the reality.

3 thoughts on “Backdoor Job Searches Work Better Than Front-door Applies!

  1. I 100% agree with you. In fact, I think the only job I got through the front-door in my career was my first job. BUT – back door hiring gets you the same type of people you already have – probably mostly white men. It is terrible for diversity, unless you find/build the back doors that lead to different networks than what your current population can bring you…which probably isn’t as diverse as it needs to be.

  2. I contracted for four years while my husband went back to school in his 40’s. My first contact I applied through the front door. Every other contract I got was through networking. When my contract was ending, I’d put out my availability on LinkedIn and I’d be back working in no time. I truly believe, as you gain experience and built your network, that it is not what you know, but who you know.

    However, interesting thing…when I was looking for my current role, I networked into several organizations, but I front door applied via LinkedIN for this position and viola, here I am, 6 years later loving it. I think there was otherworldly actions that brought me to FORUM.

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