Over the last few weeks I’ve had the occasion to chat with peers about LinkedIn – informally at meet-ups, during a speaking gig’s Q&A portions, and then recently when meeting with one of my former employers to help them strategize their sourcing.
I may have even jested at one point that I could sit and talk about LinkedIn, for a full day, and still not hit all the potential it has as a tool. And what I’m finding as I do talk to people about the site is that even though it’s been around for years, they’re not getting it. You have to work it to produce candidates. So let’s take it down to brass tacks:
- It’s a networking site. You network. My former employer? He spewed “… but I thought I was only suppose to connect to people I know?!?” That is 110% wrong if you’re in the recruiting biz. Last I checked, no one knows everyone. You have to connect to people. And you have to cast a wide net. Remember this site is based on degrees of separation. And just because we’re networked doesn’t mean we’re BFF’s.
- Back up your network. It’s called “exporting connections.” You never know what can happen in the virtual world, and if you need to re-build, whatever the reason, you should have the information saved somewhere.
- Pay for TopLinked and grow your network. Not forever, just for a few months. It grows your network quickly. Since August I’ve doubled mine and I only subscribed to the site for 3 months. Well worth the investment.
- You do not need to write references for everyone. You don’t. I know I told you to connect to everyone, and you should. There’s a lesson in LinkedIn ala “keep your friends close and your competitors closer.” With references, it would be weird and disingenuous if you liked everyone. You want your word to carry some weight when you refer someone and you want your word to be respected. So be selective.
- Study your competition. I just had someone do this to me in the last couple of months, trailing behind and posting wherever I posted because they were seeking the same types of professionals. Bravo to them. You should do the same. Check out your competition, what groups they join and join them too or add those “group name” phrases to your search strings. Here’s a link to me on LinkedIn, as a freebie.
- Inmails kind of work. Yes they do. The margin is narrow, so craft a good message and send it. But don’t send it more than twice – you don’t want people to write you off as a spammer. Think about who you’re trying to find and where they’ll be the most accessible, LinkedIn or email or phone? LinkedIn is very passive and yet you can reach people, email has a spam filter and phone? Well how many of you pick it up when you don’t know the number?
- Your profile is a marketing tool. Sure it can get you noticed by a new employer, but I want you to think like the candidate. What do they see when they visit your profile? My candidates check me out. I’ve tweaked my profile over time to talk about my company and not so much me. Some of me, so they have a comfort level established. Jobseekers need to know who they’re dealing with; many have had a bad recruiting experience, so be authentic.
- Pay for some of it. I know some of you don’t wanna pay but please. Get off the soap box already. Get what you can afford. If you only use the ‘site: command’ on Google to dig for candidates on LinkedIn, you are doing a disservice to yourself. First of all, you shouldn’t just use Google for that purpose but Bing too. But you have to search the site internally as well. Which is why you have to grow your network – so you can see more if you don’t have an all access pass. And if you don’t know where to begin? LinkedIn has tips in their help section and the internal search feature responds to the traditional boolean. Glen Cathey of the Boolean Blackbelt blog has done some of the most extensive write-ups on strings to use with LinkedIn, and just caught another change in searching the site externally, so check out his blog too.
- Using site:? Consider using site:www.linkedin.com. This is something I have reluctantly come around to as far as search is concerned. And hat tip to Gary Cozin here. Gary frequents the group BooleanStrings on LinkedIn and I had seen him set up many a search string using site:www.linkedin.com instead of site:linkedin.com. Hugely helpful if you want to disregard the international results that can appear in a search.
- Use the tools the site provides. If you can put an “in” icon, open network icon or whatever on your profile, do it. If you can join industry groups relevant to your recruiting, do it. Use the “save this search feature” and check your results daily – new people join the site all the time and that hard to find candidate may inadvertently find you!
Working with LinkedIn is kind of like stepping through the Looking Glass. It never is completely what it appears to be. Whenever you think you’ve nailed how to use the site, a new feature will roll out or there will be a twist in what functionality you access for free.
Kelly is the Recruitment Manager for Westat, a leading social science research organization headquartered in Rockville, Maryland.