How to avoid “networking-phobia.” By Rikka Brandon, Building Gurus
When you hear the word “networking,” what do you envision? A room full of people awkwardly making small-talk and that same sales rep pestering you about your phone system — again?
It’s a genuine fear. In fact, it’s safe to assume that many people dread the idea of networking.
Everyone in business, however, can benefit from networking, especiallyif you are trying to hire in this tight labor market. One of the least expensive and most effective ways to grow your team is by learning how to network like a recruiter. Successful recruiters make a living by knowing who can do what and how to approach them about a new opportunity. It is much easier than most people think — and I truly believe that this is a skill anyone can master.
Here are a few tips to get you more comfortable with, and skilled at, networking to find great talent:
- Set your intention. As with most things in life, your attitude determines your results. If you approach networking as a “necessary evil,” it is unlikely you will ever be very successful at it. When you head out to a networking event, go with the intention to connect people. Connecting people is the No. 1 way to build your social capital.
- Set out to create connections with people. Don’t try to talk to everyone. If you have identified key people you want to talk with, seek them out. Otherwise, mingle intentionally, seeking people with whom you can create a genuine connection.
- Be curious. Curiosity is the key. By simply asking questions and listening to the answers, you will learn everything you need to know.
- Use strategic small talk. Strategic small talk is the key to undercover recruiting. By asking simple and common questions, you can learn everything you need to know about a potential hire. You will find better hires, make better connections, and learn more (and likely have more fun) if you spend networking events asking questions and listening to the answers.
For example, try these questions:
- What brought you to this city? Have you always lived here?
This way you learn if they’re local, went to school here, etc.
- How did you get into [insert profession]?
Most people will be happy to tell you how they landed in their current role, and chances are good you will be able to tell if they are happy in it or not by their answer! This leads to easy, natural conversation about their career history and doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) feel like an interrogation or an interview.
- How did you land with XYZ company? OR What brought you to XYZ company?
Again, this is curiosity-based. Use ye olde “Tell me a little bit about yourself!” opener, and people will share all sorts of information. They’re more forthcoming since it’s just talking, not an “interview.”
- (Conversationally) Why did you leave XYZ company?
Ask this as a follow-up question to how they landed with XYZ.
- What’s your favorite part about being a [name of their job]?
- Is it awesome to work for XYZ company? I hear they have an amazing benefits package!
Through these types of questions, conversation will flow naturally and you’ll quickly get to know the person, their demeanor, their attitude and their skill set — and whether they are someone your company should approach when job opportunities arise.
Rikka Brandon is the founder and Chief Executive Recruiter ofBuilding Gurus, a boutique executive search and consulting firm that works exclusively with kitchen and bath and building product companies across the U.S. Rikka is a member of NKBA’s Leadership Recruitment Committee. She is also the author of the Amazon bestseller“Hire Power.”