To find the best talent, build the widest network

A recruiter's job is to acquire the best possible talent for an organization. To do it well, you can't stick to a single source of prospects—online applications, for example, or referrals, or people you meet at conferences. Finding the best possible talent period means looking anywhere and everywhere.

That’s why networking is your single most important responsibility as a recruiter. Anyone can use major job boards to find applicants. Today’s most successful recruiters build and nurture professional relationships. If you put effort into honing the golden skill of networking, you’ll have greater access to high-caliber candidates.

In the last 10 years, I’ve used these five strategies to build and nurture a large network that I can tap into to find top talent—whether that’s receiving a candidate recommendation from one of my contacts or recognizing a potential applicant who I’m already connected to.

Reach far and wide

You’ll have more potential candidates at your fingertips if you connect with people from all areas of life—your past employers, your alma mater, your hobbies—you name it.

Why? Because you don’t know who everyone else knows.

We assume people are connected to others with similar backgrounds, but that often isn’t the case. Your friend who works in sales may know the perfect candidate for your next engineering role. A marketer you formerly worked with may have graduated from the university where you’re trying to recruit new grads.

Personal and professional connections aren’t obvious or linear. In order to take advantage of them all and to maximize your chances of discovering great candidates, broaden your network:

  • Start by taking baby steps. It can be hard to know where to start with networking. Begin by organizing your networking efforts with one group of people at a time. For example, you might start by reaching out to contacts from your alma mater, and then connect with former co-workers.

  • Build off your closest ties to expand your network. Connecting through mutual friends is more reliable than old-fashioned cold-calling. People trust their friends, so they’re likely to connect with you if their friend makes an introduction. The more tier-two relationships you make, the wider your network will become. To build these connections, ask your closest contacts to introduce you to others they think might be helpful.

Initially, it might seem strange to have a wide network of people who don’t work in recruiting or your company’s industry. Have faith and trust that the relationships will pay off. It doesn’t matter how far someone is from your background—they could still be a valuable connection that will bring you talented candidates down the road.

Focus on giving, not taking

A wide network is only valuable if you approach it with the goal of helping others, not only to receive help.

Altruism doesn’t typically drive networking. When someone asks to grab coffee, they’re often looking for something in return — such as a candidate recommendation. Here’s the problem—asking without giving bothers people. It makes your contacts feel like they’re being used, so they’re unmotivated to help you or take you up on your offer to meet for coffee.

You’ll get more value out of your network if you focus on ways you can give back to your contacts. Approach every relationship with the intention of helping that person build their career or their own connections. If your mindset is authentic, your contacts will appreciate you and be more likely to help the next time you’re filling a role.

There are endless ways you can be of service to the contacts in your network:

  • Extend a helping hand to rejected candidates. When I reject candidates, I welcome them to contact me if they want help with negotiations if and when they receive an offer from a different company. It’s a valuable skill to share— we regularly negotiate as recruiters, whereas most people only try negotiating sporadically. Offering to help someone negotiate who is not even being hired at my company may seem like a waste of time, but it’s helping me develop a new contact who will remember my assistance and be happy to return the favor in the future.

  • Share industry advice with students at your alma mater. Contact your college’s career center to let them know you’re available to chat with students who are interested in HR and recruiting.

  • Use your recruiter’s eye to help contacts job search. With your firsthand knowledge of job postings and screening applications, you, more than anyone else, can help contacts find their dream role. You might, for example, help people in your network by editing their resumes and LinkedIn profiles or running practice interviews with them.

Keep in mind, helping others doesn’t always pay off with a talent recommendation. Giving back is a long game. If you consistently help people in their career journey, you’ll eventually build a rich network of people who want to help you in return.

Build your schedule around networking

The key to consistently helping contacts is booking networking into your calendar. Otherwise, you probably won’t prioritize it. Your schedule is already packed as a recruiter, and let’s face it—networking isn’t a natural muscle. In the beginning, it feels awkward to put yourself out there.

Commit to networking regularly, and you’ll gradually become better at nurturing your professional relationships. I know this from experience—I was terrible at networking when I was younger. I was happy to meet people in my industry, but I didn’t actively connect with professional contacts and maintain these relationships over time.

My skills dramatically improved when I set a networking goal for myself. About 10 years ago, I committed to meeting someone for coffee at least once a week for one year. Today, my network is at least 5 times bigger thanks to that effort.

Grow your professional relationships by carving out time for networking in your calendar:

  • Network at least once a week. Set up a phone call (or video chat) or grab coffee with someone you know. After a few months, you’ll be more comfortable connecting with contacts.

  • Schedule a recurring weekly event in your calendar. Regularity is key to building any habit, and networking is no exception. Over time, your brain will anticipate your weekly meeting, and networking will feel less like a chore.

Setting a clear goal doesn’t just increase the likelihood of you networking—it will also make the task more rewarding. After a few months, you’ll be able to reflect on how many more relationships you’ve built thanks to the objective you set.

Target local speaking opportunities

Giving back to your network doesn’t always have to be on an individual level. Help multiple people at once by speaking at an event and sharing your recruiting insights.

You don’t have to be the next headliner at ERE to grow your network. I prefer local events for making multiple connections at one time. These events are small and intimate, so you have an opportunity to build meaningful professional relationships—not just LinkedIn friend requests.

The local connections I make at these events are incredibly valuable for candidate sourcing. Employers want applicants who are grounded in their region and more likely to stay at the company. The people you meet at local events are most likely based in that area, and they could very well be your next talented applicant. Or, they may know someone in the region who would be a great fit for your next role.

Start building your presence in your community as an events speaker with these strategies:

  • Use social media to find events. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Meetup are all useful resources for finding local job fairs, university events, and small conferences that are looking for recruiters to participate as speakers.

  • Attend these events. You have to be engaged in these events as a participant before you can expect an invitation to speak.

  • Be in it for the long game. If you’re only speaking to boost your personal brand, your head isn’t in the right place. The primary goal is to help people in your community strengthen their careers. Every year, for example, I host a career event at Google for students from my alma mater. I’m not there for the free swag—I‘m there to help students define their career path and meet their professional goals.

Appreciate the small size of local events. It gives you the opportunity to connect with more attendees and help them by sharing your knowledge. In return, you’re more likely to be introduced to potential applicants who would love to join a local company.

Master the art of the follow-up

Meeting people is only the first half of networking. The second—and arguably more important—half is nurturing those relationships.

A simple, yet powerful, way to keep connections alive is sending a follow-up email. It’s a chance to show the person that you’re grateful for the connection and it’s an opportunity to keep the conversation moving forward.

The message varies slightly between new and existing contacts. For someone I just met, I’ll mention a topic we discussed when we met to jog their memory. If I’m trying to reconnect with an existing contact, I’ll send a message to check in about their work and ask how they’re doing.

Regardless of the recipient, a follow-up email should include the following pieces to reignite the relationship:

  • A thank you: Acknowledge and appreciate the connection to show the contact you value their relationship.

  • Specific, personal details to show your contact that you’re paying attention to their career and invested in helping them. When I follow up with existing contacts, for example, I’ll mention a problem they were trying to solve when we last spoke and ask how that is going.

  • Next steps: Keep the relationship moving forward by including a call to action. With a new contact you met at a local event, for example, end the email with an invitation to grab coffee.

Following up takes practically no effort, but the payoff is massive. The message makes contacts feel appreciated, so they’re more likely to reconnect and do what they can to help you build your career.

By consistently building and nurturing professional relationships, you’re more likely to receive support from your network when you’re in need of help—whether it’s sourcing a candidate for an open role, or when you’re looking for a new role yourself.

Learn to love networking

For most professionals, networking is a way to open up doors to future job opportunities. Networking as a recruiter is even more consequential—in addition to meeting people who may help you find a new job, you’re also building relationships to be successful in your current job. The skill brings recruiters a constant stream of strong candidate recommendations, allowing them to fill their pipeline with top talent.

Recognize that networking is a critical part of your job and embrace it. With this attitude, you’ll be on the lookout for opportunities to support your contacts’ careers. The more people you help, the more your network will be willing to help you find top talent for your pipeline.

About Hire by Google

Hire is a recruiting app by Google that uses AI to make the hiring process faster and simpler. Because it is designed specifically for G Suite users, with Gmail, Google Calendar and other G Suite integrations, Hire streamlines administrative tasks so that your team can hire the best people, faster.