In our role as career coaches, we emphasize that our clients need to spend time networking and, more specifically, getting out and talking to people to market their skills while learning about hidden opportunities. Companies need to do the same thing with an eye to finding prospective employees.
You may be aware that various outplacement studies and experts indicate that 80 to 90 percent of new jobs are found through networking. Its far more productive than open positions posted on job boards, relying on recruiters or crossing your fingers and hoping that opportunities will simply appear. In a more casual atmosphere than an actual job interview, prospects explore companies and opportunities ideally with hiring managers over lunch, coffee or after hours. And usually such meetings are preceded by a ‘soft’ introduction by a person familiar with both parties.
On the surface, these meetings might seem beneficial primarily to the job seeker as he/she identifies potential opportunities. But think about it… the hiring manager in these conversations benefits too by investing a little time scouting or prospecting for talent. Baseball analogies often refer to action on the field but what really good professional team thrives without scouts and a farm system? Last season when the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros made the playoffs, their farm systems and scouts earned a lot of credit.
Let’s take a page from their playbooks. While we may not have to invest in an entire scouting or recruitment infrastructure, we should at least know what talent is out there, what makes available talent tick, and how this talent could play a role in our company or organization’s future success. And as an employer, you have the easy part: instead of the pavement (or keyboard) pounding of a job seeker, you just need to open your mind, calendar and door to the possibilities.
So how and where do I find these people?
Simply let your staff and colleagues know that you value networking, that you’re open to meeting people they might know and even talking to them about potential opportunities. If you’re open, they’ll come to you. Word will spread fast especially to talent that’s available right now.
I don’t have time to prospect.
This is probably your first thought… “right, with my full schedule when am I supposed to meet these prospects?” Consider setting a couple of hours each month to prospecting. Then when you hear from people out networking, respond that you have some time two weeks from tomorrow (or whenever). It’s not urgent so plan ahead… just don’t cancel when the day arrives.
How do I get the most out of these meetings?
Review prospects’ resumes (sometimes referred to as Profiles by networkers shying away from being perceived as job hunters). Look for their accomplishments and contributions to their current or previous employers. Ask for details about these. Then be thinking of how this person and his/her skills could work best to achieve your organization’s growth goals. “If he/she did that for ABC company, could he/she do something like that for us?”
Steer away from traditional HR questions like “Why did you leave xyz job? Why do you want to work here? Tell me about a situation where you…”. Keep thinking of this as a conversation about business goals and opportunities rather than a job interview.
Then be a little vague, honestly. “I’d like to keep in touch because we never know what opportunities may unfold.” Or if this is the case: “we are anticipating growth in the coming year, we just don’t have a specific plan yet.” A serious networker will then ask if it’s OK to be in touch periodically. That follow-up proves this person’s value and interest. (Unfortunately, many networkers don’t master this.)
When hiring season comes, you may still face recruitment expenses and time commitments. They just shouldn’t be as deep because of the investments you’ve made in learning, meeting and understanding the talent that may already be knocking at your door.