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Feb 12, 2021

People who enjoy meeting others thrive in recruiting because networking is natural to them. Nonetheless, connecting with candidates can be overwhelming if you fear rejection (and really, don’t we all to some extent). There are ways, however, to capture the essence of natural networking by gaining more confidence.

I feel a little taken aback when candidates tell me how great I have been to work with. I feel joy because I care for people and I want them to know they are important. But I also am disappointed if they’ve not been treated as well by other recruiters. 

So how can you network better with candidates? For starters…

Pick Up Your Phone

Email is not a great medium for making a long-term connection. I know that it often seems like there’s no time for calls, but it is not a hardship to spend 15 minutes on the phone with someone to help them (and perhaps help you in the process).

I remember when my co-worker recommended that I get a free account with Calendly because it saves so much time and candidates love it. She was right. I now use it religiously every time I attend virtual career fairs or send an email to a potential candidate. 

It’s exciting when I see an email come through Calendly showing someone I called earlier has scheduled time to talk. No more back and forth through email. They can simply call my number at a scheduled time. Indeed, many candidates are surprised that I even give my phone number. 

Which raises a question: When and why did recruiters stop wanting candidates to call them? It’s unfortunate that so many in our field have become so averse to having live conversations. And then we wonder why others label the profession as being so transactional. 

Also, just because you’re connecting with people for professional reasons doesn’t mean you need to talk about only professional matters. You are more likely to form a more meaningful relationship by focusing on personal matters.

For instance, I recently bonded with someone over the number 406, Montana’s only zip code. We talked about places we know and about perch and halibut. That was more memorable than talking strictly about salary expectations (thought we did discuss that too). 

Review and Recommend

Recruiters review anywhere from 20 to 100 resumes a day depending, so we know which resumes are appealing and which fall flat. We also make connections with people who could inevitably become a great source of referrals later by giving them honest feedback on their resumes.

When people send me a referral, I call them and screen them even if I know I do not personally have an opening for them in our business area. When I talk to them, I give them feedback on their resume and make recommendations to help them gain more interest from other recruiters and hiring managers.

As recruiters, we should be honest when reviewing resumes and give candidates feedback before they apply — because then they will tell others about their positive experience with us. This not only leaves a good first impression but ensures my hiring manager sees the best possible resume.

The takeaway here is that there’s often no better way to network with candidates than to serve as a useful resource to them. Give them feedback, help them identify their goals, and then share them with co-workers. 

Go Beyond LinkedIn

Meanwhile, as recruiters, our go-to tool is LinkedIn. This past year, however, I discovered an alternative to LinkedIn for folks who do not want to create an online digital footprint — WhatsApp.

If you are not already using WhatsApp, it is a mobile communication app available for iOS and Android. It’s a far more anonymous social networking tool, as all you need is the app and a mobile phone number to use it. And sure enough, two of three cyber-test engineers I placed on the same team told me they do not have a social-media profile but they do use WhatsApp. No surprise, then, that a lot of defense-industry professionals use WhatsApp for networking instead of LinkedIn.

The best strategy for sourcing candidates via WhatsApp is to join groups and share job openings with your contact information. My posts detail the job type, clearance level, and location, along with how to contact me. It’s good form to keep the post about the length of a tweet. 

Finally, consider giving candidates your personal email address and mobile number to keep in touch. I have over 8,000 1st-degree connections through LinkedIn but more importantly over 100,000 contacts in my phone (backed up to my Google/Gmail account).

Overall, the best networking strategy is to become the recruiter more people want to meet. If you are the recruiter who goes above and beyond sending emails with job descriptions, the fear will dissipate as more referrals will come to you without even having to ask.

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