Apply and Network in One Step

The next generation of job application software will let you see whom you already know at the company, so you can apply for a job and network at the same time.

resume_magnify_glassThat’s the latest feature from one of the leading automatic online job application software packages, SilkRoad Technology’s OpenHire. Thanks to a software update SilkRoad introduced last spring that is being adopted by many HR departments, once you’ve submitted your resume to a job site using OpenHire 5.0, you’ll be able to view potential connections between the organization and your existing professional network.

OpenHire5.0 connects to your LinkedIn account to show you who in your network may be connected to someone at the organization; that lets you follow up your job application with an e-mail to a colleague to request a referral or set up an introduction to someone who can.

Referrals matter, even in the world of automated Applicant Tracking Systems like SilkRoad. Studies have shown that more than 60 percent of jobs are filled through referrals. Employers fast-track job candidates who are recommended by current employees; statistically speaking, employee-referred hires prove to be better hires, have longer job tenures and therefore represent a far sounder investment on the part of employers, according to Thomas Boyle, SilkRoad director of product strategy.

ATS programs that connect to your social networks will be more common as businesses look for more efficient ways to pre-screen candidates, writes Jim Holincheck, managing vice president at Gartner Research and a human resources software analyst, in a blog post.

The employee referral and a direct connection are among the strongest screening tools available, said Lisa Rowan, program director of HR, Learning and Talent Strategies for Framingham, Mass.-based analyst firm IDC. “If I’m an employee, I’m not going to recommend poor candidates, generally,” she said.

Most ATSes are sophisticated enough to know this. If an ATS has ranked Candidate A as being 80 percent qualified for a given job requisition, a source note that flags that candidate as also being an employee referral will raise that candidate’s ranking.

Job seekers will find themselves applying via OpenHire if they look for jobs at companies including Urban Outfitters, food and agriculture giant The J.R. Simplot Co. or Hillel, the world’s largest organization of on-campus Jewish groups. A long list of companies with familiar names use SilkRoad’s other products, including Boston University, the Washington Post, United Way, Benjamin Moore Paints, Crate & Barrel and Sony Pictures. In a nutshell, there’s a good chance job seekers will cross paths with SilkRoad on the job search.

Share, ’cause that’s fair

Beyond easing the path for candidates to identify connections within an organization, OpenHire encourages job seekers to use the other end of networking to help others find jobs with a single click. The “Share” part of the new “Apply. Connect. Share.” feature helps candidates do what they’re already doing: Pass along job listings to friends.

“Ninety-nine percent of sites allow job seekers to e-mail a listing to a friend,” Boyle said. “But we also realize that social media is growing 10 percent faster than e-mail. If you think they’ll only share jobs through e-mail, you’re limiting how they’ll be shared and you’re limiting the likelihood they’ll be shared.”

If you land at an OpenHire site and cruise the job listings, you might see a position that wasn’t perfect for you but might be a perfect fit for a friend. With two clicks, you’ll now be able to post that opening directly on Facebook, for example, or any of some 320 social-media venues SilkRoad supports. Beyond the typical suspects such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, that list includes a mind-boggling array of bookmarking sites and blog sites.

And the practice will help you in the long run; after all, the most powerful way to acquire job leads and referrals is not to ask for them but to help others and wait for them to return the favor.

In other words, apply. To bolster your chances of getting an interview, connect. To make sure the right jobs get to the right people and they potentially return the favor, share, share, share away.

CORRECTION: Chipotle Mexican Grill is not a customer of SilkRoad technology’s OpenHire software. A previous version of this story incorrectly included Chipotle in a list of OpenHire customers.