(A follow up to: 4 Things You Can Do on LinkedIn to Attract Recruiters)
If you follow my advice from the last post, it won’t be long before you see people you don’t know, including recruiters, sending you invitations to connect.
So, should you accept them?
Here is LinkedIn’s recommendation: “We strongly recommend that you only accept invitations to connect from people you know. You can control who can send you invitations from the Communications section of your Settings & Privacy page.”
LinkedIn Open Networkers (LIONs) subscribe to the school of thought that more connections are better. LinkedIn will cap you at 30,000 first-degree connections.
The choices you have for who can send you invitations include:
- Everyone on LinkedIn (recommended).
- Only people who know your email address or appear in your “Imported Contacts” list.
- Only people who appear in your “Imported Contacts” list.
First, let me explain why LinkedIn recommends that you stay open to receive invitations from anyone, but only accept those from people you know.
The original intention of LinkedIn is to keep track of who you know, and who they know, and who they know. The idea we are all separated by no more than six degrees of separation began in 1929 by a Hungarian author who wrote a short story about network theory. That later compelled social psychologist Stanley Milgram to conduct experiments in the 1960’s. And Columbia University experiments in 2003 confirmed the theory. So, anyone you might want to meet in this whole wide world is no more than 6 introductions away.
Furthermore, researchers from Tufts and Stony Brook University concluded that while stronger connections are more likely to offer help, your weaker connections are more likely to actually help you land a job.
So, it’s not just who you know. It’s who they know, and who they know.
Notice the “know” part of that. What does it take to really “know” someone? Ask 10 different people, and you will probably get 10 different answers.
It’s up to you to determine what you would need to know or how long you would need to know a person before you really KNOW them. I recommend thinking of it this way: figure out what you need to know about a new connection in order to feel confident introducing them to VIPs in your own network. This means asking new connections very meaningful questions.
Yes, that is my recommendation – get strangers on the phone and get to know each other before you connect.
When it comes to recruiters, some are transactional and some are relational. A transactional recruiter wants you in their talent community either for a job requirement they are currently trying to fill or because they expect they will someday have a job requirement for which you might be a candidate. A relational recruiter may ask you to connect for the same reasons, but they get that you are a person, not just a candidate, and that building rapport and potentially a relationship will serve the highest good of everyone: themselves, you, your network, their clients, and their network. They see networking as an investment that enriches their professional experience and produces opportunities that can positively impact multiple lives.
Do either or both sound like people you might want to have in your network? A transactional recruiter may not produce as much value for you as a relational recruiter, but you still may land a job through one.
How a recruiter is compensated and how their performance is measured may influence whether a recruiter works as transactional or relational. If job metrics dictate that they have to make 100 calls per day and interview 10 candidates in person per week, a metric I had previously as a recruiter, taking time to get to know candidates, especially those I can’t place NOW, seems like an unwise investment of time, even if that’s what I really want to do. Recruiters may flip from being transactional to being relational, and vice versa, when changing from one firm to another. Some relational recruiters will only work where the model supports investing time in building long-term relationships because they find transactional networking to be empty and unfulfilling.
So, once you decide what your standards are for people from whom you accept their invitation, the next step is to speak offline. LinkedIn removed the feature that allowed you to reply to all invitations, now you can only reply to those who have sent you a customized note (and if you read this at any point in the future, that may or may not be the case.)
Once you have decided you want to know a person inviting you to connect, click on their name to visit their profile and message them, by clicking the “Message” icon just right of the “Accept” button. Send a message something along these lines:
“Hi. Thank you for the invitation to connect. Are you open to getting better acquainted offline? I’d like to understand what your mission is and what kind of invitations would be most impactful to you right now in fulfilling it.”
I include my number to put the ball in their court, but you may not be comfortable with that. Instead you can offer them 3 days/times you have 20-30 minutes free, ask them for their number and to confirm a time.
Not everyone who calls me is going to become a connection. If someone starts to sell me on something right away, I think twice. I consider myself fairly intuitive, and I can feel a person out. My most important qualification for someone joining my network is if their values are aligned with mine. Meaning, will they be ethical, considerate and respectful?
Of course, when I receive an invitation that I’m going to consider, I check out their recent activity and see what they have been commenting on, liking, and sharing. I read their recommendations and see if they have given any. If they are generally adding value, I’ll be inclined to accept the invitation after speaking.
Notice, I still want to speak with them, mostly because I want to know they are willing to speak to and invest the time with me. If they’re not, there’s a high probability this person will not prove valuable to my network.
When I speak with them I rely on my intuition and make the conversation organic, but to give you ideas of my thought process:
- I might ask them about something specific in their profile.
- I’ll get their thoughts on a prevalent challenge in their industry or a current event.
- I’ll ask them what they want most to happen in the next 12 months.
- I’ll share something personal about myself and see if they reciprocate.
The questions you ask are best if they help you determine if the person meets the criteria you have established for making connections. I don’t necessarily need someone to think like me, agree with me, or share my worldview, though that’s great when that happens. Again, for me it’s really about feeling out how they would treat someone I care about if I were to make an introduction.
I set the intention for these calls that, if it seems like someone I’m going to add to my network, we determine right off the bat something we can do for each other – either an introduction, sharing an article or resource, or giving advice. Ask recruiters what is hot on their plate right now; what candidates do they need to present right now. Then, take at least one proactive measure to try to source that candidate in your network, if you don’t have a referral off the top of your head.
Creating this value right off the bat turns an acquaintance into a partner in success. When you have many partners in success, you don’t have to work as hard to achieve goals, so while the investment of time may seem heavy on the front end, it’s really a time and productivity hack.