Reverse Headhunting with LinkedIn 4 Comments

Written by Rob Pitingolo for The Talent Buzz blog post contest.

In light of the increasingly tight job market, I have been hearing phrases like “it’s all about who you know” and “networking is the name of the game” a lot lately. There is certainly truth to the claim that knowing people who work for the companies that you are interested in joining is a huge leg-up over candidates who blindly blast resumes for every position advertised on an online job board. Nowadays the local news typically airs or prints at least one story per day about some poor soul who has sent out 150 resumes but has not been on a single interview. Although these stories are designed to evoke sympathy and fear, they should taken as lessons in poor job search strategy.

One major problem, of course, is that few job seekers have managed to build extensive high-quality professional networks. Sometimes there are companies a candidate may be genuinely interested in joining but he/she honestly might not know a single person who works for them. Candidates interested in relocating face similar challenges, since most connections tend to be local. Professional organizations can be great places to build new connections, though there is no guarantee that the right people will attend the group’s events. The good news is that online social networking has helped bridge the gap between otherwise disconnected individuals; the bad news is that it isn’t quite as simple as jumping on Facebook or LinkedIn and expecting anyone you “friend” or “add to your network” to help you land your dream career. Nevertheless, it is a good first step in a process that can certainly help.

When I worked as a researcher for a retained recruiting firm last summer, sourcing candidates on LinkedIn was (and presumably still is) one of the hottest trends in the recruiting industry. Every day I sat down at my PC and searched for potential candidates on LinkedIn, and I imagined that the same technique could be equally powerful for diligent candidates. LinkedIn now claims more than 35 million members who are building profiles designed to impress potential recruiters; with a little practice, it is not particularly difficult for candidates to identify some influential people at worthwhile companies.

As a candidate, try this approach and use LinkedIn as a tool for building connections at companies you find interesting:

Identify Employers
As a college senior I am at the point where most of my peers are in the process of transitioning into the career world; yet I’m still amazed and disappointed with the approach that many take. Instead of identifying companies first and then looking for careers at those places, many robotically email resumes as entry-level jobs appear on the university’s online job board. Not knowing where you would like to launch (or continue) a career makes building connections at good companies difficult; and even if some companies aren’t hiring at the moment, who knows what they might be doing in the future?

Discover Who Works There
Once you know where you might like to work, search LinkedIn profiles to identify people who are employed at the company and in what capacity. This is a skill that can require a little practice to perfect. LinkedIn’s search function is limited to people in your extended network, so candidates with few connections are at a bit of a disadvantage. Fortunately, because many individuals have created public profiles, Boolean searches with Google can help uncover additional people.

Interact and Build Relationships
To help gain exposure and promote their personal brands, quite a few of the profiles that LinkedIn searches turn up will provide links to personal blogs or Twitter pages; this is where the golden opportunity arises. If you aren’t already blogging or Twittering, now might be the time to think about jumping on the bandwagon. Building relationships in the blogosphere or with Twitter is a great way to go beyond the superficial nature of LinkedIn. Connecting over a common interests is a much more genuine way of building a relationship than to simply write “Hi, I found you on LinkedIn because I want to work for your company, can you help?” In my four years of blogging I’ve learned that good bloggers respect each other, have a lot in common and can be willing to offer help each other when they need it.

Give It a Try
The beauty of reverse headhunting with LinkedIn is that there isn’t really much to lose. Who knows how many people you could meet or where you might end up!

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Rob Pitingolo is a college senior and author of the blog Extraordinary Observations.

About Jason Buss

Talent HQ’s creator and editor is Recruiting & Diversity Leader, Jason Buss. Talent HQ is a premier online news and information channel for the Recruiting and Human Resources community.

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  • Posted on: Monday, March 2nd, 2009