Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I was able to participate in a great training today as part of my company’s weekly recruiter huddle/training session. The training subject matter today dealt with “Referrals” – specifically, how to obtain more referrals and make our jobs as recruiters easier. The training – though a few years old – was by a wonderful trainer in the recruiting industry named Danny Cahill ( On a side note, I find his trainings not only useful, but also entertaining. Of few of the concepts and examples of the Cahill training were definitely worth discussion, along with a few points I’ve considered important as well.

How many of you know what the Erdos number is? Ok…then how about the Bacon number? Yes…yes…as in the popular 90’s game “Degrees of Separation from Kevin Bacon”. Well, the Bacon number is actually a play on the original “Erdos number”. Paul Erdos (1913-1996) was a Hungarian mathematician who spent many of his later years living in a suitcase and writing/co-authoring mathematical papers with any colleague that would provide him room and board….at least 1525 of them. As a tongue-in-cheek tribute by fellow mathematicians, the Erdos number was a measure of the “collaborative distance” between any mathematician and their link to Erdos via other writers, and a humorous measure of their “mathematical prowess” based on how close the association was. In modern terms…how close you are to Kevin Bacon determines your “prowess” as an actor/actress.

Most mathematicians are connected to Erdos with a number of 8 or less…the average number being 4. Now, there is a point to referencing the Erdos number and the Bacon number or degrees of separation. My point…the world is a small place….and getting smaller every day. As either people looking for a new job or companies/hiring managers looking for the right person, we are not far from the perfect person!!! Our separation from what we are looking for is only a matter of finding the right person to help us out. And here is the best part….you never fully exhaust a network…people meet new people and open new gates every single day!

As a recruiter for the past few years, I’ve found that sometimes the best candidates are referrals from other candidates. Not only do Java developers hang out with other Java developers, but they also know database administrators, and QA Engineers, and sales people, and accountants, and managers, and receptionists, and buyers, and etc. etc. etc. Think about your own job and circle of friends…do you only talk to the people that do the exact same thing as you do? Of course you don’t…in fact, if you are anything like me, you probably spend more time talking to people that don’t do what you do for a living – because you are interested in learning more about the world around you.

So here are a few things that I think prevent us (whether as job seekers, hiring managers, or recruiters) from maximizing our ability to obtain referrals.

1. Ask. That’s right…just ask. Sometimes the simplest solution solves our most difficult problem. I am a believer that people for the most part WANT to help others. Especially if you have some type of a connection to them. I don’t have any empirical evidence, but as a recruiter for over 10 years, I’ve seen plenty of people willing to help others get a job – for no other reason than they “just wanted to help”.

2. Be honest when you ask. Nobody wants to fill tricked or mislead. Be very upfront when you ask someone for help finding a job, finding a person, or whatever. Again, people want to help…they don’t want to be tricked into helping! I have made many calls or sent many emails over the years to people that didn’t fit any job I was currently trying to fill, but simply to ask them who they know that might be a good fit. I believe people respect you for being direct, and it has kept me in the industry for many years.

3. Give referrals. Maybe another way to look at this is to “add value”. It’s much easier to ask for something important if you are also willing and able to give something important back. I’ve often been given the “what are you doing?” look by managers when telling candidates about jobs that I’m not recruiting on or won’t make any money on….only to receive the benefits down the road when they refer me great candidates.

4. Join groups. There are networking groups out there for just about every profession, all you have to do is look, ask, join, and then contribute. There are networking groups for people looking for work – through government, professional organizations, and non-profit groups like churches. Join, go to the meetings, exchange ideas, learn something new…and most importantly – go back to suggestions #1, 2, and 3….ask, be honest, add value.

5. Technology is your friend. Some of the best ways to build your network include Social Media tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc. LinkedIn has groups with job postings, discussions, people looking for work, idea exchanges, professional seminars, everything you can think of to help build your network. Facebook is a great place to exchange ideas and ask for help from friends and family. You’d be surprised about how many people will go out of their way to help you.

Looking for connections? Check my network and link to me at or

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