Retro businessman reading newspaperIt’s the final season for AMC’s “Mad Men,” which means Don Draper is going to be out of work (at least the actor Jon Hamm who portrays him). Being on the hit show may pay off for him, though, as there are job hunting tips from 1964 that still apply 50 years later.

That advice comes from an unlikely source: Clark Howard, a nationally syndicated talk show host who specializes in consumer advice. He says in a post on his website, “Nowadays people are trying all kind of outlandish things to attract employers. The Wall Street Journal reports one applicant delivered a resume by carrier pigeon to try to get attention. Another did a YouTube video about 5 reasons why a company should hire him! But in general, the outlandish approach isn’t your best bet, unless maybe you’re talking about getting hired with an out-of-the-box kind of technology company.”

Howard uses his own daughter as the springboard for this advice. He counseled her when she graduated from college: “Back in 1964, people found jobs through word of mouth, relying on friends, relatives, and work colleagues to help them network. We need to get back to that kind of thing, the same kind of approach people took 50 years ago.”

He cites a Bloomberg Business Week article. In that piece, James Manyika, a director of the McKinsey Global Institute, says, “We find that in the U.S., information about work and jobs is relatively hard to come by for someone seeking employment.” It’s a sentiment seconded by Adam Cobb, assistant professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, who says, “The best way to get a job now is the same as in the ’70s and the ’80s—word of mouth.”

The Business Week article, penned by Chris Farrell, observes, “A large body of research shows that half or more of all jobs come through informal channels—connections to friends, families, and colleagues, according to Limited Network Connections and the Distribution of Wages, a study by economists Kenneth J. Arrow of Stanford and Ron Borzekowski of the Federal Reserve. What matters is a recommendation and personal assessment.”

The article mentions the value of “weak ties,” a phrase from Stanford University sociologist Mark Granovetter, as a valuable tool. “Acquaintances (weak ties) have networks that go beyond a job seeker’s immediate circle (strong ties). Yet the acquaintances know the applicant well enough to vouch for their character,” the article says.

Howard offers this advice to his listeners, “The beauty of networking is that most jobs are filled by hirers who are likely to bring in someone they know or know of for an interview. A friend of friend, a colleague of colleague. People think that networking is passé. No way. Today … the reality is that getting in the door is what counts.”

He does seem to contradict himself somewhat when he advocates using any method to get in front of the people doing the hiring. But he does temper that sentiment somewhat with good advice. “In short, any method that gets you in front of people will work. Not trying to apply electronically to somebody who doesn’t know you. Networking is core and key, every way you can think of it. That’s how it gets done,” he says.

What it ultimately comes down to, according to Wharton’s Cobb, the Business Week article observes, is all the technology in the world can’t answer the most basic question: will the person get the job done? That’s still something that needs to be mined through a personal interview – an interview achieved the old fashion way in most instances like it was 50 years ago.



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