What Does Kevin Bacon have to do with Recruiting?

By Mike Vilimek

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Most of you have probably heard of it. Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is a parlor game invented in 1994 where players challenge each other to find the shortest path of connections between a given actor and Kevin Bacon, where two actors are connected if they have appeared in a movie or commercial together. The game was based on the Six Degrees of Separation concept and because in an interview, Kevin Bacon claimed he had worked with everybody in Hollywood or someone who has worked with them. Apparently Bacon was horrified when the game first emerged according to his recent interview at this year's SXSW event.(Interesting fact: On September 13, 2012, Google made it possible to search for any given actor's 'Bacon Number' through their search engine).

The fact that any given actor can be linked to Kevin Bacon with just a few connections means either we are all more connect than we realize, or Kevin Bacon has been in far too many movies. I’m thinking both.

The concept of Six Degrees of Separation itself I find more intriguing. It states that any two people on Earth (not just famous people) are six or fewer acquaintances apart. Surprisingly, this concept is not new. It was actually first discussed after WWI and then expanded in 1929 by Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy. It came to fame in a 1993 play by John Guare

Enter Social Networks

So if the concepts of ‘six degrees of separation/Kevin Bacon’ were developed between the early 1900’s and 1994, well before the rise of social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., how connected are we today? 

You guessed it. Now it’s less than six. 


In fact, according to Facebook and the University of Milan, the average number of acquaintances separating any two people in the world is 4.74. Think about that. That’s not just connecting people in a certain region or with other like-minded people. That’s everyone on the planet! This means that there is some factory worker in rural China who I have not met, nor will I ever meet, but we are connect by less than 5 acquaintances. That’s amazing!

Now, do I really need to connect with that factory worker in rural China? Probably not. But if I’m a recruiter looking for that perfect candidate, knowing that I’m less than 5 acquaintances (probably less, due to geographic similarities) away from connecting with them is very powerful. And the best way to leverage these connections is through your employees and their connections. 

Employee Referral Programs

Employee referral programs have been around for years. The problem is, most of them languish in obscurity or have pitifully low usage rates. Why? Because they are often manual and time-consuming. It takes a long time to sift through job openings, think of who you know may be a good fit, reach out to them, get them to apply, and then of course, making sure you get credit for that referral is a whole other challenge. And let’s face it, employees are busy. They have their own jobs to do.

Automating Employee Referrals with Social Sourcing

Today, solutions have been created to take advantage of ‘4.74 degrees of separation’, social networks, employee referrals, and automation to truly help organizations find the best talent faster and for less cost. By making social referrals easy for both the recruiter and the employee, organizations are now able make use of their best source of new talent, their existing talent.

To learn more about social sourcing, take a look at what Hitachi has done with it or check it out for yourself.

Kevin Bacon may have been horrified when Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon was invented. But in addition to providing many with a fun way to waste time, the game illustrates the power of personal connections and just how connected we all are in this tiny little world.

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Mike Vilimek is an experienced technology professional and an active blogger, presenter, and thought leader on topics including recruiting and HR technology. As the Director, HCM Product Marketing at Oracle, Mike is responsible for defining global positioning and messaging for Oracle HCM solutions. Prior to joining Oracle, Mike led the product marketing teams at Talemetry, a recruiting technology provider and Oracle Platinum Partner, and data analytics provider ACL Services. Mike has been a frequent presenter at HR Technology events and webinars and has most recently presented at Oracle CloudWorld 2014, Oracle Open World 2013, the OHUG Annual Conference, and Collaborate.

Mike graduated from Simon Fraser University with a business degree in Marketing and International Business and was a member of the SFU Football team. Following graduation, Mike had a 7-year professional football career in the Canadian Football League (CFL). Follow him on Twitter: @MikeVilimek

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