Josh Daniel

The ‘Friend-Brings-Friend’ Syndrome

Skills are nice, but what really counts in Israel's high-tech job market are connections -- and that's for the worse
Start-ups at a high-tech show in Jerusalem (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Start-ups at a high-tech show in Jerusalem (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Research indicates that most job seekers find employment through their network of family and social connections. This seems to be especially true in the hi-tech sector in Israel. While the approach may be deemed universal, it is felt more strongly here than in other parts of the world due to the relatively small size of the country and the job market. But how much of a good thing is it really? Apart from the fact that it shows us Israelis to be highly social creatures, which is great, does it really contribute to the natural development of the start-up nation in the long run?

Certainly there is no attempt at generalization, and for sure friends have brought in friends who made a significant difference and proven invaluable to the company. But from personal experience there is excessive focus placed on hiring workers through this approach as compared to traditional ways of recruitment. Indeed, companies are known to offer monetary compensation to those referring people they know in the event of that person being accepted for employment.

This may undoubtedly be the shortest way of fulfilling a vacant position, but it might not necessarily be the best one. Hiring managers and human resources personnel have the daunting task of browsing through hundreds of applications for every single job which is no small challenge. But that would surely be no reason to take the easy way out and rely on the friend-brings-friend approach only to reduce personal workload, and make the hiring process completely trivial.

As one who has seen both sides of the hiring table, I would be inundated with co-workers referring their friends for a specific job opening. However, nine times out of ten it would be possible to identify someone from the outside without the social connections but who was more appropriate for the job. Empowered managers with effective support from the HR team can undoubtedly find their dream workers given the right approach, and not necessarily have to feed of the friend-brings-friend framework. Unwillingness to invest precious time in this critical exercise to find the best suited employees for your organization can only be defined as an excuse in indolence and ignorance.

At a higher level, this approach also has its social consequences. Most who have worked in the hi-tech sector especially in start-ups may have noticed the presence of employees with absolutely no connection to technology, even in technical positions. In my opinion it’s perfectly fine for those without pure technology backgrounds to seek work in the sector as long as they’re suited and trained for the role. But in most cases it is only the salary benefits along with the young, social atmosphere that drives many to work in the hi-tech sector – an overwhelming majority via the friend-brings-friend scheme.

The downside of this phenomenon is that the young generation simply does not find it necessary to invest in education, science-technology related or otherwise. This is evident going by the poor performance of Israeli pupils, which has become an alarming trend over the years. Armed with the attitude that ‘whom you know’ is the sine qua non to success, education has simply become irrelevant.

The friend-brings-friend approach has serious limitations and needs to be balanced carefully with current trends in recruitment methodology. Even more so, we risk alienating talented people by focusing on hiring workers primarily with strong social connections and to a lesser extent on their educational and professional backgrounds. An unbiased recruitment process based first and foremost on qualifications will stem the flow of disillusioned Israelis to places like Berlin, increase the Aliyah rate of an educated workforce from the diaspora, as well as drive the focus back on education.

About the Author
Josh is a growth marketing & international sales executive. He has held senior positions in technology companies in Israel and has a passion for writing on topics close to heart.
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