Sometime back I was discussing recruitment processes with my friends/colleagues and some professors; the discussion started getting focused on the key skill sets/attributes/features playing critical role in selection. Though we are quite aware of most of the skill sets and attributes affecting selection decision, an interesting attribute was the network a candidate has access to. Yes, your network constitutes a significant part of your net worth.
A recruiters (especially those recruiting for managerial posts and not for skill specific jobs like programmers or firefighters) primarily assess the total value a candidate brings to the table and unlike one's individual skill sets, knowledge and training, whose effectiveness is tested only after certain amount of time, network's effectiveness is pre-established and known. It brings immediate value in term of providing an indirect connection for the recruiting organization to a network, which can be exploited in many ways. I know many people who rely hugely on their professional network / college network for effective execution of their professional assignments. Ask anyone working in development sector, they will vouch for it. And here by network I am not referring to only college/ alumni network, it can be your family network (being relative of a minister/cabinet secretary!!) or social network or professional network in terms of contacts and references you carry with yourself from your past organizations/assignments.
The other significant advantage of assessing this attribute is that one can predict future performance to some extent based upon the performance of network members. It gives a sense of your potential. It builds one's credibility.The differential pay packages offered to candidate with same qualification from different institutes is reflection of this value and risk assessment only.
And sometime the network becomes more important than the candidate. After all, the potential of a wire depends on the power source it is connected to. :)
( There are some 'head fakes' here.. You can surely gain some extra points if you know how to use your networks.. .. oh .. there are more than a couple of 'head fakes' here.. Sorry I just finished The Last Lecture by Randy Paush .. and I liked the use of 'head fakes' ...)