There is an obvious need for agency recruiters to build a network of clients and candidates. For corporate recruiters, the benefits might not be as obvious. From a process perspective, in-house recruiters must approach networking the exact same as an agency, because it’s our jobs to connect with current applicants, potential candidates and everyone else who might help us make hires.
The problem at many companies is that recruiters think sourcing stops at finding a name and some contact information. This, of course, is absolute bollocks – this is, in fact, where sourcing more or less starts. Or at least the hard part, anyway.
Connect with People, Not Brands.
Let’s take a step back, shall we, and take a minute to look at something that we rarely think about. As recruiters, there is a process – whether by design or force of habit – we go through for choosing which candidates we reach out to when we come across them.
We want to know two things about candidates: would they be a good fit for the job, and what, would convince them to take it? The first we can figure out at first glance, but the second is much more difficult.
Finding candidate you want to engage with is one thing. Getting them to get back to you is another thing entirely. The last part of sourcing, and the most important, is actually influencing the decisions the candidate will make.
There is a large and growing gap between identifying candidates and developing them among in-house recruiting. In an in-house role, the reason we focus so much on building what has become known collectively as an “employer brand” is that the benefits of being a candidate’s first point of call when looking for a job. Being top of mind and top of the list as the employer of choice your audience actually chooses is everything.
So as recruiters, how do we make them more likely to choose us? The answer is that candidates start by connecting with people, not brands. These connections often happen well before that candidate ever comes across most recruiters’ radars.
A recent study suggests that on average, new hires in an organization had been connected to that employer for seven months before actually applying. Think about that. 7 months is ages in recruiting, and even longer if you’re the one looking to get recruited.
The truth is candidates are no longer applying to companies as complete strangers. Technology has made connecting with potential employers far easier. Candidates begin through various social and digital channels, running the gamut from following your company on LinkedIn or Twitter to joining your “Talent Community” or checking out your company’s Glassdoor reviews.
It’s this information a candidate uses to decide whether or not to consider careers at your company, and whether or not a recruiter is worth connecting with. This process of preconception is almost identical to the one recruiters go through for choosing which candidates to call. If your message misses the mark, than you’ll never know what candidates you’re missing. You cannot measure an opportunity cost, but you can be damn sure the price of turning off top talent can cost recruiters everything.
Look. You can’t control that dull employer blanding on your career site, the stock images, the cheezy copy or any of the other things corporate recruiters tend to blame for their relative neglect of their online presence and proactive networking initiatives. What you can control is what else people find when they find this stuff.
Since candidates want to find a person, not a company, when considering career opportunities, as a recruiter it’s imperative you do what it takes to be in the line of vision – and make yourself available – for the people who need to talk to you. Recruiters, always remember: It’s not who you know, it’s who knows about you.
Turning Connections Into Candidates.
I mean, this all sounds well and good, but how in the actual hell do you, as the recruiter, actually become the face people find when they’re looking for jobs?
How do you insert yourself in the conversation instead of waiting for a candidate to call you back, and, even better, position yourself as the person people want to work with when they’re ready for a career change?
The goal of becoming that first point of call for candidates is easier said than done, but the difference between a good recruiter and a great recruiter can be as simple as overcoming this critical challenge. But it takes some time, some planning and some patience, which might explain why so few recruiters ever succeed at this strategy.
Most recruiters put at least a little thought into who they should be connecting with, and put a concerted effort (however misinformed) into parlaying those connections into candidates. We know a fit when we see one. The question is do candidates feel the same way when they find us? That point of reference is the point you need to keep coming back to if you’re trying to build a network.
How do people know what you do, and why should they care enough to connect with you? What makes you stand out as someone worth talking to and not just another recruiter? Many recruiters think the answer is broadcasting jobs and opportunities; if you are a recruiter, what better way to demonstrate what you do than by sharing the jobs you hire for, right? Wrong.
You are, in fact, demonstrating you are just another idiotic mouth breather in recruitment who should be avoided at all costs. And trust me, this is precisely what candidates will do if the person you put out there is a complete and utter jackass. It is not sufficient just to make yourself accessible; you need people to actually want to take advantage of the access you’re offering.
I know what you’re thinking. If you don’t tweet about jobs or share a bunch of employer branding or career collateral, how will people know that you’re a recruiter, and what sorts of positions you’re recruiting for? If you think that people won’t figure out what you do if you don’t talk about doing it, think again.
The one place people always come back to in every place you’ve built a digital presence is that “About Me” section or bio. The key is making them care enough about the rest of your content to want to know more – the best recruiting connections almost always connect over everything but recruiting, at least at first.
The best way to sell anything is simply by being smart and telling the story of who you are, not just what you do. In recruiting, the most effective way to build connections is by adding value before asking for anything in exchange. Do not wait for candidates to come to you, or you might be waiting a long time.
Instead of always promoting your own content, connect first around the content candidates care enough about to share. Whether you like an update, comment on a post, respond in forums and discussion groups, retweet or reshare, the point is to share something – anything – to get that candidate to notice you.
If I’m engaging with someone I don’t recognize on social media or anywhere online, the first thing I do is go to their profile and quickly see who you are and what you’re about. For candidates, it’s very much the same thing. This is where you start the soft selling rather than the hard close that comes with blasting opportunities and automating job alerts.
I will admit that this is subjective, and there’s no hard or fast rule for guaranteeing everyone who comes across that profile information will choose to connect with or engage with you. While I could bloody well make up some “best practices”around improving those odds, if you want those, ask any one of the cottage industry of consultants who claim to have the answer.
I don’t, and do not claim to have any real insights into why candidates opt to connect or reject with recruiters online.
Network Evolution & Natural Selection.
The first thing I have to see when making this decision is what, exactly, they do. I expect that if someone explicitly mentions their employer or an organization they work with, there is a direct link back to that company’s social profile or official website, so I can don’t have to go digging if I care to go any deeper. I also want to be able to see what your job is, and what that job specifically entails.
For instance, I want to see that you’re Helen, you’re a tech recruiter for Organization X (with the requisite links to company or career sites or social profiles), and you specialize in recruiting C++ programmers. Now, there’s enough insight in just that minimal information to determine whether or not you’re worth connecting with, but I want more than that. There are a lot of C++ recruiters out there, or nursing recruiters, or finance recruiters – name a specialty, and you’ll see that this alone is nothing special.
What makes a recruiter (or anyone, really) special, in fact, is simple. It’s the story of you. It is this story that we should be telling in our social profiles and when presenting our online personas. I want to know more than what someone does now, but how they ended up here and where they’re going. We all have stories worth sharing, and when I meet any person or talk to any group, it’s those stories that create affinity, interest and interpersonal connections.
If I can see “the story of you,” then I might very well be interested in the story of your business, and whether or not there’s a possibility at some point those narratives might overlap. I try to do the same thing for everyone I come into contact with – I share my own story as consistently and as clearly as possible, whenever possible. This is pretty easy for me.
As you might well imagine, I get asked for my story quite a lot, since no one seems to be able to quite figure me out at first. This is not as straightforward as it might be for most – I don’t have a corporate job where I’ve got an office and come to work every day wearing a suit and tie.
This is why my bio says, straight away, I’m “The One in the Hat.” Whenever I get the chance to share my story, I always open with, “I never wear a suit, but I always wear a hat.” It’s true, and it’s memorable, and it’s 100% me. This is the kind of detail, in my opinion, that make someone’s story compelling enough to want to connect with them. I realize that not everyone is in a situation where they can tell their own story in their own voice their own way. But there is no reason you can’t tell someone a story where they at least know who you are and what you do – it might not be a lot, but it’s something.
Any time I have to write a bio, I always include little things in there like, “I’m a Dad to two fantastic kids,” which everyone can relate to, or that I used to be an endurance racer, believe it or not, so I’ll throw in that “I’m a very slow marathon runner” or something to this effect. Just some little thing about me that makes me come across as a real person and not just some cipher soon forgotten.
Storytelling and Networking: Recruiting Happily Ever After.
We want to work with people like us, and it’s finding out the small things about someone – their love for a football team, perhaps, or a passion for an unusual hobby (my mate, for example, has over 10,000 Pez dispensers in his collection), a love of music (whether that’s tango or trance) or what you do for fun when you’re not at work.
It can be esoteric, it can be mundane, it can be anything, as long as it’s you – and has played a role in helping shape the story of you.
If I see something personal that says, “there’s a person on the other end of this,” then the end result of my being able to learn something about you from your profile and background is that I’m more likely to want to connect with you.
Bonus points, of course, if you actually seem interesting, but this is by no means mandatory. Many of us are boring, and that’s alright, too, as long as you own it – or anything, really, that makes you, well, you. And there’s often at least a little overlap, and if there’s some sort of commonality between your story and mine, there’s a pretty damn good chance that both of us will want to connect, since there’s something tangible for us to actually connect over.
A good recruiter finds as many of those hooks as possible, and uses these as bait when trying to lure in a new contact, connection or candidate. Maybe we went to University together or grew up in the same town. Maybe we support the same football team, or watch the same shows, or prefer the same sort of food (or beer, more likely).
No matter how esoteric, no matter how mundane, if we share something in common, then there’s a good chance that we’ll better understand each other’s point of reference. Whatever it is, you’ll give me a thing that helps me see the story of you – and that story decides if, and how, I choose to connect.
Candidates do the exact same thing with recruiters, to; your personal story is every bit as important, often, as that of the brand you represent or the employer you’re recruiting for. People don’t work for companies, they work with people.
Convincing them you’re a person they might want to connect with (or ultimately work with) is the entire point of networking; whether or not you happen to work at an agency, this remains a core competency (and core responsibility) for pretty much every recruiter out there.
If you don’t know where to begin, start with your story, first, and know for recruiters, it’s “Once Upon A Time,” all the time.
About the Author: Bill Boorman is the Managing Director of Technology & Innovation for Recruiting Daily, where he focuses on leading the global expansion of Recruiting Daily, helping drive strategy, operations and recruiting industry reach in Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific.
Boorman used to have a real job, and wear a suit, and everything; now he does what he describes as “stuff he gets paid for.” He has worked in and around the recruiting space for the past 30 something years.
As the founder of #tru (the recruiting unconference), Boorman hosts 100 recruiting related events in 65 countries around the world every year, speaking and listening to over 2,000 recruiters about how to collectively make the world of work work better for everyone, everywhere.
Boorman is the lead advisor to talent technology companies such as RolePoint, Take the Interview, Work4Labs, Job & Talent, Universum and Clinch, among others. He also advises companies like KPMG, Oracle, BBC and Hard Rock Cafe on adopting new technologies and working practice, and is a judge for the UK edition of the Candidate Experience Awards.