A new report, which surveyed 2000 adults, found the UK is rife with nepotism, 42% of workers having gained jobs after being referred by someone they know.
Amongst those respondents, Gen Z and men were the most likely to leverage personal connections to boost their careers. Almost half of men (48%) said they had gained a job through someone they know, compared to 36% of women.
Generationally, more than two thirds (68%) of Gen Z workers (18-24 years) and 60% of Millennials (25-34 years) said they had gained a job or job offer through a personal connection, compared to 25% of those over the age of 55.
The findings suggest that nepotism plays a significant role in helping young people with no experience get themselves on the employment ladder, but also highlights the disadvantage of those workers who lack a strong personal network.
“It’s unsurprising that younger workers are more likely to resort to nepotism,” says Khyati Sundaram, CEO of ethical hiring experts Applied. “‘Entry-level’ roles are increasingly requiring candidates – who are likely to be new to the workforce - to have a number of years of prior relevant work experience. Plus, since Gen Z are more likely to quit jobs they’re unhappy in and be open to switching careers, personal connections offer a route into new sectors in lieu of previous experience.”
Morally conscious nepo workers
Despite being the largest group utilising personal contacts, Gen Z were also the most likely to feel morally conflicted about it. Nepotism has the adverse effect of reinforcing inequality in society, as middle and upper class people are more likely to have a catalogue of wealthy contacts.
“But nepotism only offers a foot in the door for some,” Sundaram says. “For younger workers who lack previous experience and personal connections, nepotism is only widening the gap between those with ‘friends in high places’ and candidates who lack this privilege. For this reason, nepotism shouldn’t have any place in hiring processes.”
Dubbing them ‘nepo babies’, this generation have often taken to social media to lambast those accomplished individuals using the fame or success of a personal contact or family member to excel in their career. Despite this, 75% of Gen Z respondents who disagreed with nepotism on moral grounds said they would still use it to advance their careers anyway.
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For HR professionals, ensuring that recruitment of young people doesn’t only focus on their previous experience alone is important in guaranteeing nepotism doesn’t reinforce barriers to entry and increase inequality in the workplace.
“By making role-relevant skills rather than previous experience the focus of hiring processes, companies can ensure all candidates get a fair chance - regardless of who they know,” continued Sundaram.
“Teams must also advertise all roles externally (and to diverse talent pools), anonymise applications, score applications blind, and structure interviews to prevent personal connections from influencing hiring decisions. It’s up to companies to create a level playing field for all candidates and guard against the potential for nepotism to have a bigger bearing on who gets what job than demonstrable skills.”