These days, when you need to recruit new employees, you’re likely to turn to technology – social media, email campaigns or websites – to make initial contact with potential talent. After all, it’s less time consuming, relatively inexpensive and a lot less nerve racking than striking up a conversation with someone face-to-face.
It doesn’t really matter how you make connections, right?
That depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Do you want a quick fix to fill a position or are you looking for people with certain skills and qualities that would make them the right fit for your company?
Meeting people in person is a powerful way to see talents, strengths and potential that you can’t see just by reading a resume or looking at social media accounts. By taking the time to network, you put yourself in the best position to find the people who can take your business to the next level.
Here are 6 tips to getting the most out of your networking efforts.
1. How can I help you?
The very best networking happens when you approach it from the right angle – it’s not what you can get, but what you have to give.
What do you have to offer people? Do you have connections that might help them in their professional development? Can you make introductions for them? Or, perhaps you can just ask, “How can I help you?”
Don’t approach a networking event determined to meet three people that you might want to hire.
Instead, make it your goal to connect with three people who you can help.
By dropping the “what’s in it for me” agenda, you will build lasting relationships with a sincerity that goes a long way toward building your network and your company brand. By doing this, you become a useful resource and increase the value you bring to the business community. In turn, other business leaders will reciprocate.
2. Be prepared
Networking begins long before you walk in the door of an event. Set yourself up for success by spending some time and effort preparing for the event. Remember that in addition to developing new contacts and attracting new talent, you’re actively marketing your business. And it is well worth your investment.
Do your homework. Pick events that will yield the type of people you’re interested in meeting and bringing into your organization. Next, research who you would like to meet. Most networking events share attendee lists prior to the event. Reach out to the members of the group prior to the event, through social media or email, to introduce yourself. This will make it easier for you to strike up conversations when you meet them face-to-face.
Map out your strategy. Think about what types of things you want to talk about, particularly how you might be able to help other people.
Dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Make sure your business cards are easily accessible and ready to exchange. Also, make sure your company’s website is up to date. You don’t want to lead new prospects to an outdated webpage.
3. Go it alone
Networking can feel like going to a party at a stranger’s house and hoping to see just one friendly face in the room. It’s understandable that you might be tempted to take friends or colleagues along for moral support, but it’s better to go it alone – you’re much more approachable and it’s much easier to have meaningful conversations when they are one-on-one.
Remember it’s all about making long-lasting connections.
4. Everyone matters
We’ve all been there – you’re talking to Stan, telling him all about your new business idea. All the while, he’s peering over your shoulder at everyone else in the room.
How does that feel? Not so good.
Be present. Never dismiss someone as not being important enough to spend time getting to know. Until you really engage in a conversation with someone, you have no idea what value they may bring to you or vice versa. There’s value in every conversation.
5. Beyond the resume
More and more business owners are looking to hire people who fit their culture as much as those who have the required skill set. Observing potential job candidates at networking events can give you a “total package” view that you wouldn’t get from a resume or social media profile.
If you’re looking to hire several new employees, it can be to your advantage to send your c-level executive or business leadership team to the event. This can make a great first impression on potential job candidates.
Also, if you’re speaking with someone who you think might be a good fit for your company, pay attention to the details – their business acumen, knowledge of the industry, communication skills, etc.
Granted, you’re probably not going to have a three hour conversation at an event, but it’s one way to ascertain, in a less formal and more realistic way, if certain people are worth considering for future employment.
Successful networkers are those who are there to genuinely build relationships – they’re not just there for the quick hit, or to find out “what’s in it for me.” They know the long-term benefits of nurturing connections with people who have the right expertise and experience.
6. Building bridges
There is a chance that you might cross paths with someone at an event who applied for a position with your company, but wasn’t contacted for an opportunity. Or someone who turned down your job offer in the past.
This can be awkward, but it doesn’t have to be.
If you remember that most no’s are not forever, but no for right now, and you act accordingly toward these individuals, you can continue to nurture those relationships.
Remember that all individuals have their own pipeline of connections and can act on your behalf by spreading the good news about you and your business. Make the effort to stay in contact with people you enjoyed meeting via social media and/or email – doing so can pay off in ways that you might not have considered.
Networking can feel overwhelming for many reasons, but if it is done right, it can be a very fruitful marketing tool. Just remember to keep focused on what you have to give and the magic will come.
For more insight on how to create the workforce of your dreams, download our free magazine, Building a Better Team: How to Attract, Recruit and Hire Top Talent.