Networking and getting referrals are two of the most important skill sets for a successful recruiter to have. Gaining referrals is the lifeblood of recruiting and requires the right mindset. Early in my career I realized I needed to alter my attitude and habits to be more successful at obtaining referrals. Here are a some changes I made that may help you network and find that elusive candidate for that critical opening.
Adopt a new “networking” attitude
Networking and getting more referrals requires a certain mindset and must be a priority with every interaction. Many who recruit are solely focused on learning if the person they are speaking with is qualified or interested in the position they are trying to fill. If you want to avoid “dead ends” you need to hold yourself accountable to ask for referrals on every phone call, meeting, discussion, interview, etc. As an example, when was the last time you interviewed an Engineer and still networked to fill your open Quality Manager position? Every person you meet professionally likely knows either someone who is qualified or someone else who does. Before meeting any new contact, try to review their background and identify how they may help you. Your willingness to commit to a networking attitude will bring significantly more referrals.
Find creative ways to ask for referrals
Asking the same questions will usually net the same results. Sure, you can hold yourself accountable to ask for referrals during every conversation. If you ask the wrong question, you’ll get the wrong answer. Don’t ask someone if they know someone who would be interested in a Director of Manufacturing position. You can ask if they know someone qualified… but if they say, “no”, what do you do? A seasoned networker might ask for help, instead of a name. Try asking, “If you had to find a Director of Manufacturing, who would you call?” Here are some other ways to ask questions that can lead to more referrals:
- Who was the best VP of Operations you ever worked for/with?
- Who do you know that interacts with Engineering Directors?
- Which Production Managers from your previous employer get your highest recommendation?
- How many Salespeople have you interacted with this year that impressed you?
- Who was the best candidate for your Controller position that got away?
Brazen offers some other ideas on ways to ask for referrals here.
Reciprocate and be willing to network back
It’s hard to ask for and expect help if you never offer to network and help others. If you aren’t willing to engage when people ask you for referrals, it stands to reason that you would expect people to be the same way with you. This expectation is likely to fuel the belief that you won’t be successful in gaining referrals, ultimately impacting your networking effort and attitude negatively. That’s not productive thinking or behavior. Here are some good reasons you should be open and willing to network. Doing so will make it easier for you to ask for referrals and lead to greater success. Putting yourself in position to share referrals can also provide you with insight as to why some people hesitate to share names. Understanding those feelings may help you overcome other peoples’ hesitation to give referrals. When you are more willing to share names with others, you’ll often find you get what you give. In reality, finding enjoyment in building relationships and rapport will help you in the long run and referrals will come much easier.
Accept any help or advice someone is willing to give
Often, networking efforts fail because the person being asked for a referral assumes that you are asking for an introduction. Or doesn’t want to share a colleague’s name without receiving permission. If you understand this, you can take a few steps that might increase your success. I always offer confidentiality, if it makes my new contact more comfortable. Make it “okay” if someone provides a name but doesn’t want to provide contact info or make an introduction. I also try to remain open minded, even if they provide a name for someone I know or don’t think is qualified.
At the end of the day, networking requires tenacity without being intrusive. That can be a fine line to walk. I always remind myself that not asking is guaranteed to net no referrals. Also don’t hesitate to show your gratitude. Whether or not I get the referral needed, I’m appreciative of anyone who is willing to take the time from their busy day to help me network. Adopt any of these philosophies that will help you with your networking deficiencies. You are likely to find your network will grow exponentially.
Brad Stemmler is a Managing Partner with Executek, an executive search and recruiting firm for manufacturing and industrial companies. If you need help filling a critical position, want to learn more about our recruiting services or simply want to network, contact us at 724.550.1111