The multiple roles of network ties in the employee job search process


Employee “water cooler conversations” with coworkers, as well as interpersonal interactions outside of one's employing organization, are key sources of information about the labor market. Although the value of network ties for job search is well recognized, research to date has tended to focus on how network ties relate to job search outcomes, providing little insight into what types of network ties offer information that shape job seeker perceptions and behaviors throughout the job search process. Drawing from Steel's (2002) evolutionary search model and social network research, we assert that different types of network ties—those that are weak versus strong and those internal versus external to the organization—offer different types of labor market information, which impacts employees' labor market perceptions, propensity to search for employment, and job search effectiveness. Using a time-separated research design in a sample of healthcare workers, we find weak external ties are associated with more optimistic perceptions of the labor market, increased marketability, and early-stage job search, and strong external ties are associated with greater marketability and propensity to engage in an early-stage job search. Strong internal ties (SITs) have dual, opposing influences on employee job search: SITs are associated with less early-stage job search, but they are also associated with increased concrete prospects when employees are more actively seeking alternative employment. Taken together, this study provides more nuanced insights into how network ties influence employee job search processes, clarifying ambiguities in this literature.

Publication Title

Human Resource Management