I spent more than a decade as a very successful executive recruiter in my own practice. I worked with an array of global financial clients and tech startups in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Tokyo. After recruiting for others, I recruited for my own purposes, building a range of companies in e-commerce, mobile, online gaming and, more recently, in health care and artificial intelligence. My success isn’t because I am so talented, it’s because I learned how to persuade people to help me to get more things done than I could do on my own. Along the way, I learned that I could recruit pretty much anyone I wanted, in fields I knew little about. I would like to share some of this knowledge with you now.
Three Vital Concepts
Think of recruiting as a process. It begins with conversations that are intended to align interests with people who are in a position to help you do whatever it is you need to get done.
1. Don’t wait for the right people to find you. Don’t wait for permission to contact people you want to talk to. Just reach out and contact the people you want.
2. Don’t limit yourself to thinking about recruiting as an activity that only applies to filling full-time, senior jobs with full-time salaries. Instead, think of it as bringing a good opportunity to others. Who doesn’t want to hear about an opportunity to improve their career?
3. Everyone in your field, no matter how senior they are or what position they now hold, should be considered a candidate or a source for leads. Don’t limit your range of possibilities to resume banks or those actively looking for a job.
Where Do I Find People?
LinkedIn is a great place to start your search, but other social networks, like Facebook, can also be prime sources. You can also consider meetups, accelerators, trade groups and collaborative workspaces. And don’t forget industry referrals (otherwise known as friends). Consider where you would go for news and industry information, training and continuing education. Whatever these outlets are, chances are others in your industry can be found there, too.
How Do I Start?
Reach out and don’t be afraid to start the conversation. Sometimes it can feel awkward, but be friendly and be the one to take the leap. Most people will be receptive to a sincere outreach, especially if you’re not coming across like you’re selling something. Introduce yourself and find an area of common interest. Remember, no one is going to bite you. People love to talk about themselves, so ask them about them and really listen to what they say — you will learn something. And when it’s your turn to talk, describe what you’re looking for.
What Do I Say?
Start with something like: “I’m interested in getting to know a great marketing person to help me with an important project in the XYZ area. Do you know of anyone good that I might talk to?” If they themselves may be possible candidates, don’t talk about money yet, and don’t talk about a “job.” Everything is always negotiable. Instead, speak in the language of the opportunity: What’s special about your opportunity or your company? What’s the upside for the lucky person who joins you? Where does it lead? Many people, even if they’re not officially looking for a job, will want to hear about a good opportunity. We’re all looking to better ourselves.
Be Prepared To Share Contact Information
If you’re having conversations with interested parties in person, be prepared to exchange contact info. Carry a pen and paper or a smartphone. Cards are optional for some types of work, but for some positions they’re required. Only you will know your industry. The point is, be prepared for followup.
Treat Everyone With Respect And Complete The Circle
As you reach out and engage with others, make sure to complete the circle by responding to everyone promptly. Not everyone is going to be the right fit, but if they’ve taken the time to talk with you, you can take moment to reply promptly and courteously. If you talk with someone and they’re not a good fit, thank them and let them down nicely. If they are the right person, then try to figure out what motivates them and what they would be looking for in a change of job. It’s very common for people to want more authority, to be closer to work and to feel respected and valued. Try to isolate the important factors for your person and see if you can give them what they want. Leave money out of early conversations. Remember, everything is always negotiable.
Ultimately, the model I propose for recruiting is really one of “alignment of interests.” To the extent that can align your interests with your teams’ interests, you’re going to be that much more effective recruiting people to help you meet your needs. With this guide, you’ll start many conversations with many interesting people, as well as those who can lead you to other candidates. Remember, you are your company’s best advertisement. I believe these suggestions will help you build a habit of outreach and listening to others, regardless of whether you’re recruiting or not. And in doing so, you’ll build a better, stronger network so that the next time you’re recruiting, you won’t have to start from scratch.