The importance of developing professional relationships throughout your career. No, your LinkedIn network of 5,000 does not count.
By: Mike Tomasello, Partner, The DeWinter Group
When I started recruiting 20 years ago, I had just left Bank of America's finance group with illusions of making a bunch of money matching candidates with companies. It was easy math. Meet a bunch of great people and with my glowing personality, place them in the "best" accounting and finance jobs imaginable. They would be happy and I would feel altruistic because I helped someone find their dream job.
Within two weeks, reality sunk in.... this is not cake work. Did I add something up incorrectly? I quickly learned that finding qualified candidates that meet the expectations of client companies, is a skill (and some would say an art) that takes years to master. Even then, I'm not sure if anyone really masters it. It became evident that I would need to meet a lot of people to hone my interview skills and learn the qualities that make a candidate exceptional.
Networking in the Good Old Days (otherwise known as the 90’s)
In the late 90's, LinkedIn didn't exist and you needed to post jobs in the newspaper (check Google for "newspaper" if I've lost you here) to build a flow of resumes that were faxed (google it) to the office. The holy grail were alumni directories from the Big 4. Being a KPMG alumni I got mine legitimately, but the market for those things was amazing. Back then, every contact was made by a phone call as email was not the office commodity it is today...let alone texting and mobile communication. Tools which forced us to actually hold conversations with another human being whereby we were presented with the opportunity to monitor the nuances of verbal communication such as tone and sincerity.
Fast Forward to 2017
In today’s world, the existence and subsequent growth of LinkedIn has made it easy to find almost anyone. We used to be called "headhunters" because we "hunted" to find the best accounting, finance, and IT professionals in the San Francisco and Silicon Valley markets. A time-old ‘hunt’ that isn't required anymore because of modern technologies such as LinkedIn. Some said the advent of LinkedIn would be the end of recruiting. I must admit, when LinkedIn started gaining traction, I was concerned. It is invaluable for professionals to stay connected to each other and the market. It allows people to build a social network that can lead to amazing opportunities.
Remember: Technology is Simply a Tool
That being said as with most modern technologies, LinkedIn lacks the ability to develop one basic, fundamental human need: a relationship (or affection if you have read up on Max-Neef’s classification of human needs, but we don’t want you to get the wrong idea). I mean sure, you can perceive your daily conversations with Siri to be a relationship of sorts but it does not compare to having a conversation with another human being. It does not commit to providing you with sound advice or reliable, first-hand market information. It surely does not tell you that your professional skill set perfectly aligns with the job description, but your Type B personality will not fit in with the Type A, I don’t ever sleep or eat culture it’s in. Other humans do!
Candidates still want a relationship with a recruiter who can help them navigate the job market, find them a good culture fit, and assist with the negotiation of an offer. The personal touch is still important and always will be. We are less “headhunters” now and more “advisors” or “consultants”. Most of my conversations with candidates focus on market research and career development. A lot of these calls are for candidates I’ve known who have found roles through their network or through other recruiters. I am more than happy to offer my advice or guidance because that is simply how I’d want to be treated if the roles were reversed.
It takes several years to build a network of people who you respect and who value your opinion. Once that is accomplished, those relationships last throughout your career and LinkedIn can’t overcome that. So to my colleagues in the market, both internal at companies and external in agencies, take the time to build and maintain your professional relationships. Our goal at it’s core hasn’t changed that much over the past 20 years. Take the time to really listen and treat others with respect and compassion. If you strive to successfully connect and accomplish these tasks, you will always be successful.