Open Door Policy or Hide and Seek?

Jul 1, 2008

No one doubts that LinkedIn has evolved into an integral tool for recruiters to tap into a vast realm of talent and passive candidates they otherwise would not be able to access. LinkedIn now has more than 20 million experienced professionals in its online business network.

It is not a matter of whether recruiters need to use LinkedIn — they obviously do — it’s a matter of how they do it. Consider the dilemma facing many recruiters when they are told to jump on the LinkedIn bandwagon:

“For the life of me I just don’t get it! I’ve built solid relationships from the ground up and now you want to see them all? And I don’t even KNOW YOU?” says one recruiter.

Another recruiter chimes in: “If I link with all my clients, then link with my recruiter associates, what have I done? Can you imagine stopping by another recruiter buddy’s office and grabbing his Rolodex? Really? No way!”

When you join LinkedIn, should you have an “open” policy regarding your network of contacts, or should you hoard them? If everyone refused to open up their contact list for fear of poaching, social networks would cease to exist.

As one recruiter put it, “It would be like only recruiting candidates that live in a 20-mile radius.”

The Smart Way to Build Your Network

Don’t worry about having a “contact inferiority complex” when it comes to building your network. While many people brag about the number of connections and their network, I prefer quality over quantity. Choose the LinkedIn privacy strategy that is right for you: referrals between friends, targeted, or invite only. I have decided to err on the side of caution and it hasn’t hurt my ability to build an expansive network of contacts — 8.2 million and growing (ok…so I’m bragging a little).

Have a definite goal in mind before you begin. At first glance, hiding one’s contacts might seem to squash the spirit of networking, but having a closed network has helped me to maintain a high caliber of quality connections for the following reasons:

  • C-Suite confidence. I have a network of high-level executives – especially in the C-level suite – and decision makers who don’t necessarily want to be shown or contacted. C-level executives rarely give out their information and are, by nature, cautious with their connections.
  • Time constraints. Networking demands not only time, but care. My objective is to have a valuable network, one that I know for certain my connections can rely on. When I was an open networker, I began getting inundated with connection requests from people I really had no solid ties to. Though networking is the beauty of LinkedIn, I found myself with a part-time job of trying to manage connections.
  • Competition. We all work hard to build a clientele and long-lasting, trustworthy relationships. As much care as I take in becoming a trusted partner with my clients, competition is always an aspect of business. With LinkedIn, there’s always a risk of contact information “falling into the wrong hands.” I’m protecting not only my business, but my connections’ livelihoods as well. I take pride in that.

Don’t Get Caught Up in the Numbers Game

I understand why recruiters keep their connections open. I’ve heard reasons like, “If you are good at what you do (building relationships) who cares if your competition sees your connections?” Same goes for clients, right? If you have a good relationship with your candidates, then it won’t matter who else contacts them, even a client. Ultimately the thought is, bigger is better.

But that’s not the case with business networking. Recruiters can build strong and useful networks without linking to everyone under the sun, and they can do so while judiciously sharing their connections. From LinkedIn itself to other online websites, the tools are out there.

For example, there are countless LinkedIn Groups recruiters can join, including alumni, corporate, conference, networking, non-profit and other professional groups. Be strategic and tactful when choosing which to join, but definitely do it. It’s a great way to build a valued network.

There are also several websites that exist specifically to help LinkedIn members build their networks, whether you are an open or closed networker. Check out or for lists of key LinkedIn networkers.

What is Your LinkedIn Type?

I’ve found there are three main types of LinkedIn members based on a spectrum of behaviors. First, there is the “Open Book Networker” who goes for quantity. These self-professed “power networkers” border on spamming — they are amassing thousands of links at a time with little regard to relevancy. Be wary of these contacts, because you just might end up getting a LinkedIn invite from a prince in Nigeria.

Next is the “Stingy Lurking Networker,” who lurks on the social media sidelines, always requesting introductions but never sharing their contacts. Social networks would die if there were too many of these guys.

Somewhere in the middle is the “Smart Focused Networker” who intelligently uses social media tools liked LinkedIn for what they are — extensions of their passive candidate sourcing strategy. These members selectively target new contacts and judiciously reveal their own contacts, creating relevancy and trust in the system.

Everyone has different objectives when it comes to using social and business networks. It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and forget the main goal. Make sure you are using LinkedIn for the right reasons. Keep your objectives in mind and be purposeful about who you connect to.

In doing so, you will not only be building a valuable network of contacts for yourself, but you will be contributing to the trust and value of the network as a whole.

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