Sociology of Publishing: The Role of Social Ties in External Recruitment

By Pui-yan (Flora) Lau.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This presentation is based on an in-depth study of the job market in the UK publishing sector. Conventional sociological studies on social ties and labour market outcomes either neglect the perspective of the recruiter and the referrer or fail to explore the mechanisms by which social ties bring about job market outcomes. This research fills these gaps.
Based on semi-structured interviews with 40 interviewees who were working in different roles (e.g. editorial, design and production) and levels (e.g. senior and junior) in Oxford- and London-based publishing houses, I examine different aspects of the job market process. Regarding recruitment methods, I found that whether recruiters use formal or informal (word of mouth) methods depended on the level of uncertainty of recruiting a wrong person and the cost of making such mistakes. The greater the uncertainty and the cost, the more likely recruiters are to use social ties. Social ties serve to provide information about the availability of suitable employees. I also found that professional skills are a must but not enough in themselves. Recruiters use informal method at the final stage of selection to ensure the recruits possess the relevant qualities. Reputation of the recruit is emphasized, which is another distinctive nature of the information that flows through social ties.
Regarding job-hunting, I found that while most newcomers use formal methods to get into publishing, people at managerial level almost entirely got their job through informal channels. Social ties have different functions as people rise through the different levels: whereas newcomers use social ties to obtain information about job opportunities, senior level staff carry with them reputation of their fitness to fill a particular position.

Keywords: UK Publishing, External Recruitment, Social Ties, Reputation

International Journal of the Book, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp.105-112. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 531.668KB).

Pui-yan (Flora) Lau

D.Phil Candidate, Department of Sociology, Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK


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