It is well established that the best way to create a great match for a candidate and for the employer is networking. LinkedIn is one of the best tools to connect people with companies, from either perspective.
But what is the best way to use this powerful tool without being a pest? There must be more to it than just accumulating contacts.
There is!! The trick to making a great connection is building strong relationships.
I had the opportunity to hear some thoughts about LinkedIn networking from Doug Crose, Senior Enterprise Relationship Manager at LinkedIn at a staffing conference recently. I took away two important ideas:
- Do not propose marriage on the first date. It just scares people away. Jumping into a serious discussion about job opportunities when you first connect with someone is the equivalent of proposing marriage on the first date! Don’t do it! Just like a marriage proposal, you have to build up a relationship before you can talk about the really serious stuff.
- Make your LinkedIn correspondence targeted, relevant, and engaging. Many clients struggle with how to network. What do you say? I struggle with this too sometimes. The solution is to consider how the other person will read your note. Make it targeted to something important to that person. Make it relevant to them, not just to you. Find something you have in common or some question you want to ask that you think the other person has an interest in. Think of something creative or engaging to catch the other person’s attention.
Interesting, huh? It makes perfect sense. If we met someone at the coffee shop or at a cocktail party you would not blurt out important information or your life goals. You would proceed slowly. You would ask questions to get the other person talking. You would look for something you have in common.
Same is true when candidates network for a job or companies network to find candidates. The process is the same.
Here are a few steps to using LinkedIn to build relationships.
- Find people who can lead you to companies or people you are interested in meeting.
- Check out their profile on LinkedIn.
- Can you get at them through a group? If not, then join one of their groups so you have something in common to make a LinkedIn connection.
- Send a request to connect with a personal note about how you know them or something you have in common. Do not just use the standard LinkedIn invitation text.
- When they accept your invitation to connect, send them a note about something targeted that is relevant to that person. Your goal is to begin a conversation that extends at least three or four email exchanges.
- If the conversation continues in a positive fashion, suggest meeting for coffee.
- At coffee, continue the discussion and expand to include other work related topics. Do not ask if they know about jobs. The answer is usually “no”. Be prepared to talk about what you are currently doing and what you want. Let the conversation gently move towards your elevator pitch and your ultimate networking goal. But if it does not, then just consider the coffee one more step towards building relationships.
Relationships are two way streets. Building strong relationships does not always end up in a job offer but without strong relationships it is not possible (or much less likely) to get what you want.