“The key to recruiting is relationships.” You’ve heard that so many times that it’s verging on redundant. While everyone has relationships, it’s different when you have to amass and maintain those relationships as a core part of your business. Relationships are not formed instantly. They all take time to initiate and build. Even though it’s understood that relationships take time, there are ways to streamline the process and be more effective with your relationship building. Given Dice’s focus, we’re most interested in seeking out specific ways to build relationships with those in the tech industry. To learn more, we reached out to experts at ERE's Recruiting Innovation Summit (#RIS12) for their insight on how to initiate and foster those relationships that will build your business.
Tip 1: Respect their expert knowledge “When building relationships with the technologically-savvy, the best thing you can do is bow to their superior knowledge,” said Lauren Miller (@lg4w), VP of Public Relations for Leadership Gold 4 Women (LG4W). “Developers are very proud of their work,” echoed Justin Sherratt (@justinsherratt), CEO of Gawoop, makers of SORTBOX. “If a developer worked on a team and their project was a success, letting them know it is respected is important.” By offering a compliment to something they really care about, you will get a warm response when you ask to be introduced to other members of their team, Sheratt said.
Tip 2: Use the relationship to build your knowledge If you’re trying to learn about a new technology, go to the people who know it the best. Make it clear the reason you want to connect is to learn more about the subject for which they’re an expert. “Candidates are usually flattered and their passion around the subject will show,” said Jennifer Hasche (@jenniferINTUIT), Sourcing Manager at Intuit. Tiffany Jennings (@writingthesurf), Digital Zookeeper at Vitamin T, has a crew of go-to talent she always reaches out to regarding new technologies and languages. “I've earned their respect by proving I want to understand what they do, not just because I placed them in a job,” said Jennings.
Tip 3: Don’t fake it “Learn enough to at least know the difference between Ruby and PHP, but also learn enough to just shut up if you don't know,” said Gawoop’s Sherratt. While it can be important to be somewhat tech savvy, don’t try to pull a fast one over tech stars. They can sniff out fakes a mile away. Don’t try to pretend you’re tech savvy when you’re not, said LG4W’s Miller who is admittedly “a complete boob about technology.” “Tech people make fun of non-tech posers,” Miller said. “Get in on the joke, and make fun of yourself. You will find that candor goes much further than grandstanding.”
Tip 4: Give them a problem to solve “I try very hard to recruit motivated problem solvers,” said RJ Owen (@rjowen), Experience Planner: Business and Technology at EffectiveUI. To identify those people, Owen will ask questions over email or ask a candidate to complete a survey online. “I want to see if my candidate has the motivation to look something up online or run some code through their compiler, and if they're good enough at solving a problem to know where to look,” said Owen. “You'd be amazed how many people just respond with ‘I don't know’ and don't even bother to try and find the answer.”
Tip 5: Be a resource by sharing via social media 15 minutes a day “Many recruiters are using social media to share job postings, but that doesn't help build or maintain relationships. Providing valuable and relevant information does,” said Becky Carroll (@bcarroll7), author of “Hidden Power of Your Customers.” Carroll advises you take 15 minutes a day social sites such as Twitter and Facebook and provide some industry value with information such as industry trends in jobs, salary research, and tips on what’s hot in the field. If you’re not a tech expert, simply follow the experts on social networks and retweet their advice with attribution. “The goal is to be a trusted resource and stay top of mind,” said Carroll.
Tip 6: Connect on a mutual passion even if it’s not tech Just because you’re not a techie doesn’t mean you can’t have a relationship based on a mutual passion. “I was not a technical person so I never tried to fake it,” said Matt Hixson (@matthixson), CEO of Tellagence, who did connect with geeks on their mutual obsession with social media. Connecting there allowed him to form many long lasting relationships based on that interest.
Tip 7: Get offline and go where they are If you’re trying to fill an impossible role, then you need to put yourself in the center of the community. Casey Kugler (@CaseyRecruitsDC), Account Manager for AETEA Information Technology was faced with filling a Python developer position. As part of his strategy, he made an effort to get out into the Python community and attended meetups and networking events that focused on development, even though he was completely lost on the events’ technical aspects. “I could tell that it made a difference to the developers that I was making an effort to get out there and learn how they lived their lives,” said Kugler who ended up placing a person in the Python role through a referral of another referral.
Tip 8: Host virtual happy hours/Twitter chats Host regular virtual Twitter events and create a Twitter handle and hashtag that serves as the connecting resource for your niche market, advised Joey V. Price (@JVPsaid), CEO of Jumpstart:HR. Price has found that if you “help candidates first they will remember the tips you give and attach your name to the great advice.”
Tip 9: Take an interest in their personal life In an effort to make everyone feel special, Shari Burnard Ostrom (@TheEdCafe), Instructor at Queen’s University and University of Toronto, takes notes on meetings beyond just the technical specifics. She’ll note boyfriend and girlfriend names, kids, hobbies, events, etc. It gives her something to review before their next meeting. “When I reconnect I can make reference to something from the past encounter which helps build rapport,” said Ostrom. Even before you have that first meeting you can delve into their social profiles for something personal. “Don't immediately start discussing the technology and that you've got a nice job in that area, but search for something human in their profile and start discussing that more human topic,” said Gordon Lokenberg (@gordonlokenberg), Recruiter for Lokenberg Recruitment Services. “The more practice you develop in using this method, the easier it becomes to establish common ground and your business relationship shifts over to camaraderie,” said Mike Barefoot (@redzonejobs), Senior Account Executive at Red Zone Resources. “Managers and candidates always tend to gravitate toward and want to do business with someone they like.” Tip 10: Use a CRM tool to manage conversations “Layering a customer relationship management (CRM) application in front of your applicant tracking system (ATS) allows you to have a two-way relationship where you are messaging specific communities of talent,” said Justin Clem (@Justin_Clem), Global Director of Recruiting for Solarwinds. Instead of just pushing job regs through the ATS, you can maintain true conversation around your employment brand. Clem, who used to work at Raytheon, offers this possible dialogue as an example:
- Did you hear that Raytheon just acquired company "X?" Click here to read the full article.
- Raytheon is going to be at the Dice Career Fair in Dallas, TX, please stop by the booth and say, ”Hi.”
“Taking an approach to have meaningful relationships in your talent community rather than managing data in your ATS allows you to have a ready now pipeline of talent that is fully invested into your company's employment brand,” said Clem.
Tip 11: Understand your open roles from the best people who hold those positions In an effort to better understand how to hire Flex developers, Vitamin T’s Jennings reached out to several rock star Flex developers to set up times to talk. She wasn’t interviewing them for positions. She was just trying to understand her open roles. “These developers weren't looking for work but they were excited to talk about their expertise. And when they were looking for jobs or looking to hire people, I was their first stop because they knew I truly understood the technology,” said Jennings.
Tip 12: Reach for the rock stars “People get very starstruck and as a result they tend to slowly, steadily climb the ladder of contacts until they hope they have the right contact who can introduce them to the right contact,” said Erica Friedman (@Yuricon), President of Yuricon. “At some point, you just gotta let go of the rungs and jump up and shoot for the top.” She reached out to her industry’s mavens, received a response, and others thought it was some miraculous event saying things to her such as “You are so lucky” or "I wish I could do this..." “But they all could if they simply tried,” said Friedman who advises you to just go ahead and email the CEO of Apple or write to that angel investor you’re hoping to impress. “Jump up. It won't kill you and you may end up several rungs up,” Friedman said.
Tip 13: Host meetups As the Director of Recruiting, Lorne Epstein (@InSide_Job), used the credibility of her firm Gibbs & Cox to hold monthly meetings for the Society for Women Engineers in their office. This brought a dozen of so women to their headquarters on a regular basis allowing Epstein to make relationships with the women and that led to G&C making a few hires over a period of time. “Consistency and reliability are keys to building a solid relationship. Nothing does this better than a regularly scheduled meeting,” said Esptein.
Tip 14: Be a connector Hosting meetups is the act of being a connector on a large scale. You can be a connector on a smaller scale by just introducing people. “Help others build their network by connecting people who might find a relationship mutually beneficial,” said Caroline McClure (@ScoutRockLines), Principal of ScoutRock, LLC. Everyone knows the connectors in their industry. You tend to be extremely responsive to any request from them because they’re providing so much value to you and your community.
Tip 15: Cultivate an accelerated networking environment Linda Pond (@lindapond), author of “Top Secrets of a Girl Entrepreneur” hosts “forced networking” events she calls “Ice Augers” which are “like an ice breaker, but we drill down.” At one networking event she randomly split groups into five, and had each group create an imaginary company in only ten minutes. This required a lot of fast-paced discussion and negotiations to come up with a company, product, roles, and company name in that short a time frame. When the time was up, presentations began. Each group introduced their imaginary company, and individuals introduced their real companies as well.
Tip 16: Be willing to take on the burden of communication within the relationship “Be willing to keep in touch,” said Edward L. Haletky (@texiwill), President of AstroArch Consulting. “There is no such thing as ‘it’s someone else's turn.’ If the relationship is to be maintained, you need to maintain it by being willing to accept and adopt the burden of communication, no matter the form.” Burden of communications usually translates into repetition, and that’s key for building a relationship.
Tip 17: Talk frequently before making your move “We talk to candidates three or four times before we present them to our clients,” said Andrew Scarano, VP at TCI-Search. “We have found that on the first one or two interviews a candidate still has his interview face on but by the third or fourth, we are talking about their kids and they are more relaxed and more themselves. Ultimately, it helps us determine if this person will fit into the culture of the client company.”
- Forward an interesting article
- Send a thank you note if you used their time or information (even if it was long ago)
- Send a birthday card or a holiday card
- Invite them to coffee if you’re going to be in their area
Tip 19: Reach out with a video message When I asked my colleagues, “How do you build relationships?” Gary Anderson (@proclaim_me), President of NetBriefings, sent me a video message using his own tool. Undoubtedly, face-to-face meetings are the best ways to form relationships, but we don’t have all the time in the world and if you want the best possible relationship experience without being there, video messages and video conferencing is the next best thing. I can say from personal experience video messages can have a huge impact. It takes work, but the impact can be huge. In fact, back in 2008 I sent out 555 personalized video holiday greeting cards and the results were outstanding.
Tip 20: Comment on their work “If you know of a paper, blog, or talk they've given. Sincerely compliment them on their piece of work and an immediate connection is made,” advised Travis Lindemoen (@nexusITgroup), Customer Experience Executive for nexus IT group. A compliment is always good, but it’s also ok to engage in debate. It shows that you’ve read the information and you’re intellectually interested in the same topic and are eager to learn more. The problem with just offering a compliment is it usually ends the conversation immediately. While it is nice to be praised for your work, if the goal is to build a relationship, then engage in a conversation around the content. Conclusion: Follow up and stay committed One piece of advice I heard from many experts is the need to follow up and do what you say you’re going to do. “It's one thing to say that you want to build a relationship with someone and another thing to follow through and do it,” said Casey Kott, recruiter for Signature Consultants who has won over clients with his two-year relationship building efforts. While candidates appreciate and recognize persistence, they also notice the complete opposite. Paul McDonald (@BuildASignHires), Talent Acquisition Manager for BuildASign.com would attend industry specific group meetings in order to build relationships. “The number one thing that group members would tell me is that people in my field would come once, and they never see them again,” said McDonald. “I wanted to focus on not being that type of a connection.” [gigya src="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649" width="560" flashvars="offsite=true&lang=en-us&page_show_url=/photos/68783104@N05/sets/72157629963919001/show/&page_show_back_url=/photos/68783104@N05/sets/72157629963919001/&set_id=72157629963919001&jump_to=" allowFullScreen="true" ] See all 99 tip photos on Flickr. Research for this article conducted by Joy Powers.