Employee Referral Dynamics in Social Hiring: Evidence from LinkedIn
39 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2018 Last revised: 17 Mar 2021
Date Written: October 5, 2018
Social hiring describes a job hiring process wherein employers and job seekers rely on social network sites to engage and inform each other. According to LinkedIn, its network comprises over 700 million professionals, and many recruiters utilize LinkedIn to identify qualified job candidates. Despite the growth of social hiring, we do not clearly understand referral dynamics in social hiring. This study empirically investigates how employees make referrals based on their LinkedIn networks. In particular, given that a common tactic of job seekers is to network with those in similar industries and functions, we aim to offer insight into how job similarity between an employee and a job seeker affects an employee’s referral decision. While employees in similar fields are valuable information sources to job seekers, it is unclear whether they are a promising source of referrals. Because qualified job candidates in similar fields may become future competitors, employees may decline to refer qualified job candidates to protect their workplace status. Our findings show that the likelihood of referral decreases as job similarity between an employee and a job candidate increases. We further find that the adverse effect of job similarity on referrals weakens as the hierarchical difference between an employee and a candidate increases. This result supports the proposed competition mechanism because the adverse job similarity effect diminishes as an employee is less likely to compete directly with a job candidate. Although one might expect that gender homophily dilutes this competitive force, we found no evidence that it does.
Keywords: Social hiring, professional online network, employee referral, job similarity, gender homophily
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation