There’s an old phrase that many of you will have heard of, which says ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’. For many jobseekers, this phrase must never have felt so real.
It seems the days of your CV alone wowing employers are long-gone. To really get on, it feels like candidates increasingly have to ‘get-with’ an organisation first – that is, form some prior relationship with the employer they want to work for.
According to research from High Fliers, record numbers (more than a third) of all graduate jobs in Britain now go to people that have already worked for them in some capacity before – be it doing a holiday job, or temping, or work experience. For some firms, this percentage can rise as high as 75% of all jobs. The research concludes that students with no work experience at all with their desired employer stand little chance of getting their ‘foot in’ – no matter what academic achievements they have.
If this doesn’t sound depressing enough, this propensity for firms to hire from those already known to them has actually doubled in recent years: from 18% of graduate jobs in 2007, to 36% today.
So, are employers taking the easy option? Certainly, candidates that hirers are already aware of can be seen as ‘lower risk’; people that have already worked for them have already demonstrated interest in the organisation, while they will also have shown that they have the competencies needed for the job.
The downside to this, of course, is that it feels like employment is still down to 'who you know', not 'what you know', with only those who can afford to work as unpaid interns (perhaps by having rich parents who can support them) being able to get that all important first chance.
So, do you really stand no chance of making it in organisations if you’ve not worked there before? The answer is not necessarily. Reports state that 63% of jobs still go to people not seen by that employer before.
But, clearly, if you haven’t been there, but your rival candidate has, you’ll need to work harder to prove you (not they), have what it takes – and this means making sure you're able to draw on what you have done (for other companies or individuals) that might be more important.
And remember, there is one factor that could possibly work in your favour: familiarity can also breed complacency. Candidates, who think they’ve got it sewn, just because they once worked at the organisation during the holidays, could have a rude surprise when better prepared people beat them to the job. It's time to make sure that person is YOU.