SPOTLIGHT: Scott Allen, “Beyond Sourcing – 15 Creative Ways Recruiters Can Use Professional Networking Sites”
My friend Scott Allen, is today’s guest writer.
I gave a presentation for ERE Media Tuesday entitled "Professional Networking – Beyond Sourcing", which focused on the many ways that recruiters can use professional networking sites to support their business and their own career, not just for sourcing candidates. The way I see it, any hack can figure out how to type a few keywords and do a search — where it gets really interesting is in all the other things you can use the tools for to grow your business, attract more candidates and differentiate yourself from the thousands of other recruiters out there.
You can download the presentation at ERE, but I tend to go for a pretty minimalist presentation style, and there was a lot of information that I covered that’s not in the slides. The topic that seemed to get the most comments and questions, but I feel is kind of short-changed in the slides, was the specific ways recruiters can use networking sites for more than just sourcing. So here’s the full list:
- Attract more clients. Yes, people do hire recruiters, as well as many other service providers, through professional networking sites (particularly LinkedIn). In order to attract more clients, you need to do three main things:
– Build out your profile, making sure it has keywords describing your niche areas of expertise.
– Get recommendations from both clients and candidates that have actually worked with you.
– Participate in the public areas of the site, e.g., discussion forums, Q&A, etc.
For a case study of how one recruiter used LinkedIn to attract and land a big client, see Using LinkedIn to Make the Sale.
- Get referrals, not just introductions. Having an electronic chain from you to a candidate or a prospective client may help you reach the right person, but it’s essentially a cold call if there isn’t an actual relationship underlying the electronic links. But by building authentic relationships, virtually as well as face-to-face, people will actually make referrals — taking the time to think of possible candidates/prospects in response to your query, or even proactively referring people to you when they hear of a need. But they only do that if they have a strong enough relationship with you. Otherwise you’re undifferentiated from the dozens or hundreds of other recruiters they’re connected to. Strong relationships, not large contact databases, build this kind of business.
- Strategic alliances are one of the most effective ways that a small company can expand their market exposure and operational capabilities. Who is an ideal partner for you? An industry association? Another recruiter serving a different industry or geographical region? Define that profile and use professional networking sites to find and approach them.
- Media exposure and publicity – Many journalists are turning to blog search engines and networking sites like LinkedIn to identify subject matter experts. Why? Because the information is usually more current than in an expert database like ProfNet. Make sure your profile is always current, particularly around any hot topics or personal areas of expertise. You can even be proactive about it and seek out journalists who cover those topics. My recommendation, though, is to position it as "offering yourself as a resource on a topic" rather than "pitching a story".
- Become a media outlet by starting a blog, a podcast, an internet radio station or writing a book. Besides promoting your own business and personal brand, they also provide you with a way to create value for others in your network by promoting them.
- Prepping candidates – Don’t assume that candidates know how to prepare for an interview. Send them links to the profile of the hiring manager and/or the person they’re interviewing with. Show them how to use networking sites to get informational phone calls or email conversations with others in the company.
- Candidate checks – Reference checks just ain’t what they used to be, are they? Use networking sites and blog search engines to find out if a candidate’s public image matches their resume. They may have had professional help on their resume, but they probably didn’t on their MySpace page. And while the absence of connections and recommendations on LinkedIn may not be a negative in and of itself, their presence and quality can certainly be a differentiator.
- Industry intelligence – What are the current trends in the industries you serve? Who are the thought leaders? The key employers? The hot startups? Monitoring the industry news is useful, but it’s no substitute for an occasional conversation with an industry insider or direct participation in an industry virtual community.
- Competitive intelligence is one of the more intriguing uses of networking sites for recruiters, particularly internal recruiters. Here’s just one simple example — do a search on LinkedIn for people at one of your competitors (current company only). Save the results (not readily facilitated by LinkedIn, but you can save the individual search result pages or copy/paste or drag-and-drop the names into another document). A month later, do the same search. Any new names on the list, check to see if they’re new to LinkedIn or just a new position. Those that are new positions, well, those are people that have just been hired by your competitor. Cross-reference those against your candidate list. There’s way more to do here than I can cover in one paragraph, but you get the idea.
- Peer benchmarking – Ever wonder what other people "like you" are doing? How do they position themselves? What tools do they use? You can learn a lot about your competitors by looking at their own presence in the social networking sites. Or find a non-competitor — someone in a different industry or serving a different geographical area — and approach them and see if they’d like to share ideas.
- Personal branding is an essential business skill for the 21st century. Your business identity transcends your current company. Who are you? And how will you communicate that consistently in your virtual interactions? Keep your profiles in multiple networking sites consistent and up-to-date. Interact in a way that reinforces your personal brand, and do so publicly by answering questions and participating in discussions.
- Personal career development – If it works for candidates, why shouldn’t it work for you? The assumption that having your profile on LinkedIn means that you’re actively seeking to leave your current position is, for the most part, a thing of the past. Make sure your profile is built out to include the majority of your work history, and at least consider the option of setting your contact information to say that you are open to being approached about career opportunities.
- General information and research – Some things you just can’t Google. LinkedIn, Facebook and Yahoo! all have Q&A applications, not to mention the millions of Yahoo! Groups, discussion forums and groups within social networking sites. People are amazingly willing to answer questions for free.
- Find suppliers – How can you reasonably expect other people to hire you via business networking sites if you don’t hire people via business networking sites? A community of all sellers and no buyers is useless. Use networking sites to find possible suppliers, check their recommendations, read their published work and so on. I doubt anyone was ever hired on the basis of their networking presence alone, but it’s a great tool for determining your short list.
- Enhance your business trips by arranging to meet with people you so far only know virtually when you’re going to be in their town. For more on this, see Using LinkedIn to Fill Out Your Business Trip.
This is a pretty extensive list — you’ll be challenged to implement all 15 of these within the next year or so. And yet, this is just scratching the surface. To see what some of your fellow recruiters have had to say on the topic, or to contribute your own thoughts, check out the question I posted on LinkedIn Answers. And for even more ideas, see Smart Ways to Use LinkedIn, a compilation of over 100 ways to use LinkedIn in your business and personal life.
Scott Allen is renown for his Linked Intelligence blog on behalf of 5media. Simply put, I’He’s been a Web 2.0 guy since long before it was called Web 2.0. Scott co-authored a one of the authoritative books on the topic, The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online (American Management Association, 2005), which you can download for free.
Scott consults with companies and individuals on using Web 2.0 tools like LinkedIn, blogs and social networking sites to grow their business, as well as speaking at industry conferences, conventions and other events. He also blogs at TheVirtualHandshake.com, co-authors a monthly column for FastCompany.com about virtual business relationships and social software, and he is a contributing author to several books on social software and marketing.
Scott is also the Entrepreneurs Guide for About.com, one of the top ten websites in the world with over 40 million readers, and a subsidiary of The New York Times Company, where he offers current and future entrepreneurs guidance and resources to help them start and develop their new businesses.
You can check out his LinkedIn profile for more details. Please note, however, that while Scott is open to most contact requests, he only accepts connection requests from people he knows well professionally.
Scott loves to hear from people. Please contact him by:
Email: Scott (at) TheVirtualHandshake (dot) com