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A recruiters role is busy, they are sourcing and matching and "selling opportunities" constantly, yet often they neglect one of the key activities that will ensure their future success ... building a network. Yes, it is partly a by-product of talking with people for your jobs but it also needs to be an activity that has its own dedicated time built into a great recruiter's schedule.
Yes you want to talk to people who are an exact match for today's opportunity but you also need to talk to the other great candidates even if (especially if ) you don't have a job for them today. If you build relationships ahead of time you can be more confident in presenting these people, because you had time to interview them and get reference checks and get a feel for "who" they are. Over the years (no matter what company you work for) these are the people who will be in YOUR network!
Recruiters spend their working lives trying to find the best candidate to meet the needs of their clients. In the contract staffing world it is most often a reactive search in response to a client defined need, but there is also always the opportunity to present a GREAT candidate that would bring real value.
A recruiter's BEST chance of success is to build a network of contacts that match the kind of skills that their clients will need. In this way they can be very responsive to orders, have a higher probability of success and build their reputation with the client too!
As recruiters work with their clients patterns emerge of the types of people these clients look for. It is these patterns that can assist a great recruiter in defining the type of people they want to have in their network.
What Does The Network Look Like
Any network comprises of people with whom the owner has various levels of relationship, from close friends to casual acquaintances. Most people in the network will never be close friends, but your goal as a recruiter is to develop enough of a relationship that there is some comfort there. You build relationships by investing some time, by bringing some value and by always being credible (living up to promises etc). So, the great recruiter will build a large network of people that they have some level of relationship with ... most of whom they may have only met once, for an interview!
How Do You Build That Network
Set aside time out of your week for this activity ... that is critical. If you are not prepared to take a proactive, professional approach to building a network then you will forever be scouring job boards in the hope of finding someone. The golden rule is to meet as many good people as possible to add to your network. Here are some ideas ...
i. Identify what you would like people in your network to look like. This will be determined by your clients ... what industry are they in? What are the high demand skills? What level of people are you likely to be asked for?
ii. Set a goal to "meet" as many of these kinds of people as possible, for an interview. It would be very realistic to have two interviews a day, particularly if phone interviews are an acceptable practice in your company. Face to face is always preferable, but a decent, structured conversation can give you a 90% comfort level when accompanied by reference checks. (Note you will probably need a face to face before actually placing someone at a client). So one face to face interview each day and one phone interview ... doesn't seem too much when this is the lifeblood of your network!!! Starting from scratch you can build a high quality network from zero to 240 in 6 months (probably 500 in a year)!
The Care and Feeding of a Network
Creating the network is just a start to building a relationship, BUT any relationship needs to be nurtured. All of these people need some kind of regular contact (remember ... build time into your week for this), and preferably something of value. One very easy way to do this is to send relevant articles and newsletters at least monthly. If a subset of your network are in the banking industry then send them banking related articles. If you work in the IT field then send them articles that may interest them. If you deal with independent contractors then send them information related to regulatory matters.
Now comes the harder part ... you need to talk to these people! When they call you cannot ignore them! It is also important that you are not just calling when you want something either! Call ALL of your current candidates at least monthly ... how are they doing? Is your company processing their pay well? Do they think the role will last? etc. Divide the rest of your network into 12 groups (one per month) and each month call everyone in one of those groups. If you are calling 500 people in a year, that is a little more than 40 a month or 2 a day ... so set aside a couple of hours a week for talking to your network! All of this is easy to do and track with an automated Applicant Tracking System ... we use Bullhorn at Eagle. You can build distribution lists, schedule calls and meetings plus set up reminders and even track everything with notes ... all helping you in the network building process.
Benefits of the Network
i. You have a ready source of people who will talk to you about opportunities.
ii. When your client does need someone you have a high probability of being able to respond with a good fit.
iii. If there is no-one in your network to fit a specific role, then chances are someone in your network will know someone!
iv. Relationships are wonderful things ... out of business relationships come great friends, buddies for life and even potential future partners!
v. The mere act of building a network is a proactive activity which you can feel good about ... when you reap benefits from your network it just feels great!
Are YOU a Great Recruiter?
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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