Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Real relationships, not online connections, build true professional networks

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

Some of the top recruiters start 10-20
quality relationships per week.
I am in the IT and Healthcare IT recruiting and staffing business. I am also a self-admitted technology maven and admirer. So when I ran across a blog regarding LinkedIn's affect on the recruiting industry, I felt compelled to expand on the subject further. While Navid Sabetian says that LinkedIn's bubble will burst and briefly, in closing, that one needs to cultivate relationships with top line candidates and build them over the years; with all respect to Mr. Sabetian, I think both points are obvious.

Here is the bigger picture:

Yes, Facebook will have a billion users soon enough, which equates to a ridiculous amount of influence.  LinkedIn is probably the largest network of potential candidates and recruiters on the planet right now.  There are the 'old' job board standards (Monster, Careerbuilder, Dice, etc…), Google+, and 'who knows what else' emerging that I haven’t yet fully experienced.
There is no silver bullet: Meaning, there is no next or current 'big thing' that is the source to go to find the best candidates for all the open jobs out there.  This new market for talent is not about finding a single, or even two or three sources to find people.  It is about creating a network of real people, across all the relevant channels available to you.  It’s not about how many connections you have on LinkedIn or Facebook, but about how many people in your specialty areas with whom you are able to create some form of human interaction.

In fact, some of the best sourcing around is still done the old fashioned way; through direct, in-person communication. The internet has a host of tools for finding qualified candidates on paper (or on your monitor if you've gone paperless); however, it doesn't replace the legwork of striking up a conversation and getting to know them.

Sabetian claims to have a professional network with 16,000 direct connections with another 12,000 waiting in the wings, with whom he cannot interact due to a glitch on LinkedIn. It raises the question of how one would interact with the first 16,000. In one work year, assuming no vacation or holidays, you would have to interact with 61 people per day. Is it doable? Yes. Is it realistic each contact will be a good connection and suitable for an ongoing relationship? No. Some of the best recruiters make 50 to 100 contacts and start building 10-20 solid relationships a week with candidates.    

To me, as a few of the blog comments also eluded to, it seems that LinkedIn will likely become less effective as recruiters start to use connections as a database. The relevance you can have to one another on a human level in a sea of 28,000 connections seems to be very low for both sides; rendering the service less valuable to both parties. It brought to mind Malcom Gladwell's idea in The Tipping Point that we, as humans, cannot maintain more than 150 real social relationships with others at one time.

In fact, I think it is why I am of the opinion that LinkedInitself is having trouble remaining relevant to users today.

Is the idea of having a professional network with thousands of connections compelling? Certainly it is. But only if you maintain contact with your network, remain relevant its members, and interact with them on a regular basis. Otherwise it's just an overinflated database; not a true network.

Even with all the technologies and social 'networks' available, the basics of recruiting haven’t changed; or maybe they did for a while and now they have come full circle. The only difference is that now, we have more sophisticated tools to make the job of finding real people to develop real relationships with easier. 

I haven’t been in the industry long enough to know how things were done pre-Internet circa 1995, but I do know there couldn’t have been any option other than building a real contact network.  It must be much easier now to find the people to build that same network today; but people are still people and they want good jobs, with good companies where they feel valued; and they want the same when being wooed for a position.

All of the perks that many companies are starting to offer (benefits, higher than average pay, flex-time, daycare, healthcare, free lunches, etc.) to make happy workers cannot replace investment in relationships with those employees. We'll explore this idea further next week.

Good recruitment firms and recruiters become an extension of their clients' business and are often the first point of contact a candidate has with an employer; making relationship building with both even more critical.

Josh Kaplan writes on various subjects including management, information technology breakthroughs, healthcare IT recruitment and innovations, big data, IT staffing and recruitment, and technical news and trends.