LinkedIn doesn’t have the buzz or the customer base of Facebook or a Twitter, but it has quietly changed the way many jobs get filled. While you are unlikely to land your next job as a car mechanic using the professional social network, LinkedIn has become ubiquitous in the business world.
Big corporations and professional recruiters pay through the nose for premium LinkedIn features, but even the basic service can be a powerful recruiting tool if you know how to use it. Here’s how to get the most out of LinkedIn without breaking the bank.
LinkedIn is a terrific resource for actively recruiting talent, but it isn't a particularly good way to fill a high volume of lower-level jobs.
If that's the sort of hiring you're responsible for, don't get too excited by the enthusiasm of professional recruiters who fill upper-management positions; you won't find the same success with LinkedIn. There's no harm in treating it as one more place to post job listings -- as long as you're willing to pay -- but it's unlikely to be your best resource, let alone a revolutionary one.
Professional recruiters are always trying to add to their massive LinkedIn networks, but entrepreneurs and other professionals who only occasionally have to worry about major hires often don't worry about such things until a pressing need arises.
If you only think about LinkedIn from time to time when you need to recruit, you won't get much value out of it. The value of LinkedIn depends on the number and quality of your connections, and the way to build up a great network is to work on it all the time. You don't want to spend all your time worrying about this, obviously, but making a LinkedIn connection part of your routine when meeting new people professionally goes a long way. Little things like putting a link to your profile in your email signature can also pay big dividends.
Assuming you have more than a handful of connections, your network of second- and third-degree contacts is probably massive. LinkedIn's built-in advanced search is a powerful tool, allowing you to set a wide range of parameters. It's well worth your time to take full advantage of it. Refining your search, finding the right degree of specificity to whittle down your results to a small group of quality leads is a much better use of your time than working your way through the long list returned by a basic keyword search.
When you do come up with a great set of search parameters for your needs, hold on to it. As shown here, there is an option in the top right corner of your search results page that allows you to save any search as a Search Alert. LinkedIn will automatically run this search once a day and email you the results, allowing you to pounce when as soon as the perfect candidate changes status or joins the network.
Here's the bad news: LinkedIn is not an excuse to stop making recruiting calls. Using InMail and email to communicate with your contacts efficiently and generate leads is terrific, but when it comes to making new contacts, nothing beats the phone call.
LinkedIn has done wonders to make your search easier, but don't kid yourself into thinking the new media revolution has made reaching out to someone electronically any less lame. Contacting people with InMail has its place, but if you're using it to reach out to new prospects, you might as well be offering them Viagra or an online diploma. Pick up the phone.
As many LinkedIn recruiting guides point out, you can export data from your connections to create a mailing list. Alternatively, you can download third party software like LinkedIn Contacts Management which will handle this for you.
This is a great resource for getting the word out far and wide when you have a major opening, but use it sparingly. Though many recruiting experts are very enthusiastic about this technique, it's important to bear in mind that as exciting as your employment opportunities may be to you, many of the people receiving your email will regard it as spam. That's not to say you shouldn't use this technique, but rather that it is most effective when used rarely. Think about how you work through your own email; how likely are you to take a close look at a message from a casual aquaintance with a history of sending you mass emails?
The ability to seach for second- and third-degree connections is what makes LinkedIn such a great tool, but that doesn't mean you should be rushing to contact these people. However closely connected you are to them, strangers are strangers, and social networks can't make cold calls any better than they are.
Instead, use the hits you get in your extended network to identify the people in your immediate network that know the most promising prospects and reach out to them. Ask them about the names you came up with, and whether they know anyone else who might be a good fit. If you can get them to make introductions, terrific; at the very least, you can tell prospects that they were recommended by a mutual assosciation. That is infinitely better than saying you got their information on the Internet.
As we covered before, you should always be building your network; this is never more true than when you are in the midst of recruiting.
As soon as you make contact with a promising candidate, connect with them on LinkedIn. No one is more likely to know people with the right qualifications than someone who has them himself. If things don't work out with that prospect, your time will still have been well spent if he leads you to the person who does take the job.
This article is obviously focused on active recruiting, but we would be remiss not to discuss making your company and your job offerings visible on LinkedIn. If the perfect candidate finds you, wonderful; at the very least, you want your company to appear prominent and impressive to the people you contact once they start looking in to you.
Create a profile for your company and encourage all of your employees to create LinkedIn profiles that link to it. Encouraging your employees to put effort in to creating strong profiles will pay off in at least two ways; you will look more attractive to prospective employees, and your current employees will become another source for leads.
The best way to judge the visibility of both your company's page and any job offerings you post is to run a search in your category and see if you show up.
Searching yourself may give you false confidence, however. You will have already done your best to include the terms you think a good job candidate might search for; you'll probably come at the search with exactly the same terms. Instead, ask someone who knows your industry but wasn't involved in your LinkedIn work to search for a job or company like yours. If they don't find you quickly, ask how they went about their search, tweak your profiles accordingly, and repeat the exercise with someone else.
Don't look at LinkedIn as a radical new way to go about recruiting; rather, look at it as a way to do what you're already doing better.
At its core, your recruiting will still be about good old-fashioned telephone conversations. What LinkedIn provides you with is a massive amount of information about who to call and whom to ask about, making the process much more efficient. maximise this advantage by building your network every day.
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