I spend a lot of my recreational time in pubs and bars. This will probably come as no great surprise. Everyone has to have a hobby, they say. I suppose knocking back a pint qualifies as mine. No matter. The absolutely brilliant part about pubs is that if you ever wanted to really understand how networking and influence work in the real world, all you have to do is look around the bar.
It’s just a different place than we’re used to seeing this sort of thing. I have become something of an expert at the rules of pub networking over the years, and they absolutely always apply in every bar in every city in the world.
Anyone Without A Nickname is Not Worth Talking To.
If you ever found yourself in my pub, you’d find regulars like Cabbie (drives a cab), Chippie (because he’s a carpenter) and Bed-Wetter (because he’s an accountant). No matter when I go into the place, night or day, the damn bar is always a line up of these same people. I am, naturally, one of those people. I mean, it’s my neighborhood pub and all.
We talk about loads of different things. Just nothing to do with what we do. When I talk to Bed-Wetter, we don’t talk about general ledgers or auditing or accounting. That would be dreadfully boring for the both of us. No. We talk about football and the X-Factor, or politics, or who’s shagging whom. The standard stuff, really. The thing that never comes up is the work we do.
This makes sense, since this is where we go to escape it.
It’s Not Just Who You Know, It’s What They Know.
Once a year, though, I pretend I am actually a grown up adult man, I will contact Bed-Wetter (at this stage, I even revert to calling him Chris) and say, “Chris, can we go have a drink? Just the two of us?” And of course, because there are drinks involved, he says yes.
Later, when we both have pints in hand and the world is an infinitely better place, I’ll show Chris my hand. “Chris,” I ask him, “Tell me what you know about tax.”
And, he’ll tell me what he knows about taxation, which it turns out is really quite a lot, poor bastard. It’s all a bit dull, but after I let him go on for a bit, and at the end I will thank him and ask him to do it for me, since I trust him to do a good job.
Chris not only knows more about tax returns than anyone ever should, but if he screws up, I will shame him in public. He’s my go-to-guy, and he hasn’t let me down yet. I trust him with my taxes, and gladly pay him a good price in return for that peace of mind, and because we run in the same circles.
Every recruiter needs to build relationships like this throughout our network; just like I wouldn’t dream of trusting anyone but Chris with my taxes, your connections should see you as the go-to-guy (or girl) for recruiting.
How do you become that connector, the one who you can always trust to find the right candidate or the right job and your network will turn to before turning to anybody else? This is our mission as recruiters, you know.
When I want to know anything about taxes, I know all I have to do is ask Chris; similarly, our contacts should want to turn around at any time to tell them all about the market and anything about recruiting.
The Rules of the Pub Apply to Recruiting.
The reason why recruiters tend to be great at networking and making connections is that we tend to know a little about a lot, since we deal with multiple skills for multiple disciplines with multiple expectations.
We hold multiple conversations about these manifold multi-faceted, multi-skilled things, and can hold our own. This is because the rules of the pub always apply.
What do I mean when I talk about the rules of the pub? Well, let’s say you were a recruiter specializing in auditors or accountants, and I were to tell you that just around the corner, at the Red Lion, there was an Accountant’s Happy Hour every Wednesday night.
You would, presumably, show up the very next Wednesday ready to work the room. But while you’re there to talk about jobs and opportunities and all of those things recruiters talk about, they’re there to talk about accounting. If you walk straight in and announce, “I’m a recruiter, I have lots of jobs, who wants to come talk to me?” you are unlikely to have any takers. While they probably won’t throw you out, they are likely to direct you to old Charlie over in the corner, who’s been unemployed for three years and certainly would love to talk.
You look at Charlie, he looks at you, and you both know, at that very instant, that even if you’re the very best accounting or auditing recruiter there is, you’re not very likely to find him a job. No recruiter, of course, can ever simply say, “thanks, you seem like a lovely enough chap, but I don’t think I can place you,” wish him luck and move on. Instead, we have to be a little more subtle about who we meet and how we approach them.
How To Go To Becoming A Go-To for Recruiting and Hiring.
This is why recruiters do what I like to think of as “the networking dance.” You know, where we spend lots of time making small talk and trying to find some sort of common ground. We go on about our social lives, our personal interests, current affairs or, when all else fails, move onto complaining about the weather, the traffic, or both.
This talent tango can be time consuming and tiring. But it’s necessary, because this is where people become engaged.
Somewhere down the line, they will invariably ask what you do. This is the moment you, of course, have been waiting for, that perfect chance to finally reveal that you are, in fact, a recruiter. Then, after all that small talk, you can finally on the shop talk. Brilliant, really.
How does this work online? You engage in a conversation, share content and exchange comments with whomever is talking about what you’re targeting, even tangentially, on whatever channel you happen to be on.
If you’re interesting, add value, and come across as the kind of person worth knowing on these networks, even if the engagement has really nothing to do with jobs or recruiting directly, you can be sure that they’ll do a little digging, look at your profile and see that you are actually a recruiter. If you’ve built a relationship with someone that runs deeper than recruiting, than you can be sure that you’ll be the person who they ask about their next career move.
They’ve made a personal connection, and they trust you because you didn’t hard sell or go for the jugular. You weren’t the guy at the party who ended up in the corner with Old Charlie. You became a part of their circle, and in doing so, built up enough trust to become a personal advisor and a go-to for anything recruiting related.
In networking, whether online or on a pub, proximity is key to results. It’s all about making a personal connection first and finding topics of mutual interest; once you have that foundation, you can pretty much go from there. The only selling you will have to do is by being yourself – and if you can do that, people will want to know more about you.
Then, you can make sure they’re aware of what you do, and that when the time comes and they need a go-to-guy (or girl), you’re the recruiter that they’ll be going to first. That is really what all of recruiting is really all about.
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.
By Bill Boorman
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