By Tom Sarach | Monday May 1, 2012
After 10 years and 150 members, LinkedIn has become to business networking sites what Kleenex is to tissues. It’s also becoming a threat to recruiters, or at least so we’ve been told by some recent articles. This perception isn’t helped by the new LinkedIn Recruiter, a premium subsite including options such as company career pages and Talent Pipeline, a tool that integrates contact management with LinkedIn.
These tools are probably extremely powerful and helpful. What they aren’t is inexpensive. Surely there must be a way to leverage the huge network of professionals on LinkedIn without spending up to $60,000 a year for the privilege. In fact, there are several ways, and they all involve the things that no piece of software could ever match: your expertise and skills as a recruiter.
These tactics involve indirect approaches that highlight your unique knowledge and abilities. While the algorithms for LinkedIn’s search software might get increasingly complex, nothing can quite match the intuitive and creative connections that a human being can make, especially a human being whose business is connections.
Work your knowledge: Before searching for any individual candidates, lay the groundwork on LinkedIn demonstrating your excellence as a recruiter. Have a fully complete profile, for starters, and ask for recommendations from clients and candidates that you’ve connected. If you have a company blog or Twitter account, connect those to your page so your content is easily viewable from LinkedIn.
Seek out and join Groups on LinkedIn that seem likely to appeal to the types of candidates you seek most often. While Groups are listed in order of membership numbers, don’t mistake a big Group for a strategic Group. It could be that joining a small niche Group can put you in touch with more of the specific types of people you look for than joining a big, anonymous Group ever would. Groups are great places for posting links to your content and discussing issues with other Group members; you can also post jobs in some Groups, and if you’ve been a member that adds value to the Group, your job postings won’t be perceived as spammy.
Answers are another way to establish yourself as a leader in recruiting. In LinkedIn Answers, questions are posed by members and answered by other members. Giving thoughtful, helpful Answers to relevant questions not only shows that you know your stuff when it comes to recruiting, it shows that you care enough to help out a stranger, which enhances your image as a trustworthy professional.
Work the search: The specialized recruiter tools have extensive search capabilities, including ways to contact the people who turn up as search results easily. But there are tactics that can boost your power in using LinkedIn’s regular (free) search options.
First, make a list of all the organizations, schools, former or current employers, certifications, etc. that your ideal candidates would have. If you’re feeling ambitions, create this list in Excel then search online for “Excel Boolean OR string” and follow the directions. Regardless of how long or complex your search terms are, save them in a document so you can review or tweak them as need be.
Once you’ve entered your search terms into LinkedIn, click Save Search in the upper right-hand corner of the results listing and you can receive automatic email notifications of people matching your search results. Another great thing to click on the results page is one little word at the end of each listing: Similar. Clicking Similar will show you other possibilities that might be even better matches (plus they can help you tweak your search terms).
Work your magic: Sometimes the best way to find someone is to find another person who knows that someone (which is basically the premise of networking). If you’re looking for a particular type of candidate, think of the people who might be connected to them. Make a list of instructors, employers, vendors/purchasers or other organizations whose judgment you trust, and search for their contact information on LinkedIn.
Once you’ve found these potential candidate sources, do what you do best and talk to them. Call them up and ask who they’d recommend: the students who were a joy, the former employees they’d love to hire back, the company reps who made the supply chain run a lot smoother. Not only does this help you find candidates, if you can use the instructor/employer/colleague’s name when contacting the candidate, it adds a dimension of trust and integrity right away.
Perhaps it’s true that LinkedIn is poised to make a dent in recruiting. But good recruiters have an advantage over any piece of software: the ability to make genuine connections with people and a talent for reaching out to them. No integrated online options can ever top that.