How Social Selling Made Me a Better (and Happier) Recruiter

December 3, 2014

I came across a recent New York Times op-ed piece called “Liking Work Really Matters” and I chuckled. What a firm grasp of the obvious, I thought. Still, reading on, I was taken aback by this sobering finding: work that you don’t like is actually mentally fatiguing.

This struck a chord. I never liked cold calling candidates. I can remember feeling exhausted at the end of most days during the beginning of my recruiting career.

Now I know why.

Then there was true bliss when LinkedIn was first introduced. All of a sudden, you could approach candidates with trusted InMails, not intrusive phone calls, and you had a treasure trove of profile data to leverage.

The one tricky part is that in order for InMails to be most effective, you have to spend time personalizing and crafting a catchy message.  Then, when the people you are most excited about don’t respond, you can still feel somewhat drained.

Fortunately, I grabbed an opportunity to recruit for a team that is transforming sales through social selling here at LinkedIn. This experience has fundamentally changed the way I do my job, as the tenants of social selling work just was well for recruiting.

How the principles of social selling changed me as a recruiter

Social selling, as defined by LinkedIn, has four pillars: 1) Create a professional brand 2) Find the right people 3) Engage them with insights 4) Build strong relationships (read more in this blog post).

Apply these principles to recruiting, and our jobs take on a whole new purpose and meaning.

Recruiting through social selling is about helping candidates and hiring managers get the right information, at the right time, in the right channel in order to make the right decisions. In doing so, everyone is happier. In my experience, it is hands down the best playbook for recruiting success and bliss.

About a year ago, my use of recruiting through social selling was tested when I made the transition from sales to engineering recruiting. The challenges on the engineering side seemed bigger and more formidable due to the huge demand and immense competition. I thought that if I can prove that social recruiting can work in hiring engineers, it can work anywhere.

It wasn’t easy and there were lots of doubters. To ensure the least damage, I was assigned to the most challenging recruiting area: internet systems & infrastructure software engineers. Eventually, the results ended up speaking for themselves: 3X normal InMail response rates, 40% improvement in offer acceptance rates, a new record for candidates approved for hires in just my 2nd quarter on the job, and a 25% increase in the total candidate pipeline.

Best of all, I was selected last month by my peers and management for our Ownership Award for best example of an “employee who takes the initiative, owns a problem, and finds a solution.” Results aside, I couldn’t be happier and the feeling seems mutual among the hiring managers and candidates.

So here is how I achieved these results by following the 4 steps of recruiting through social selling. hopefully, you can apply these to your day-to-day as well:

1. Creating a professional brand:

The first step to creating a solid professional brand was polishing my online presence. On that front, I got a lot of help though a Profile Optimization Program, which our leadership team here ran. The program helped me refocus my LinkedIn profile to create more compelling conversations with engineers.

Then, I created a blog called #newhire@linkedin which showcases our talented engineers that I helped hire, inspiring others to make the same journey. Helping prospects get to know you better through your profile saves them time and builds trust. Sharing knowledge, giving to give, creates more value than just placing them in a job. You help create an atmosphere of trust by being open and honest about why you do what you do.

engineerMe with Felix GV, one of our most recent engineering hires

2. Finding the right people: 

Show me the data. Show.Me.The.Data.

Recruiters are moving from identifying people by “gut feel,” based on a profile read, to richer, data-driven identification.

You can gather insights from connections who can help you identify the right people. Look again not just at what candidates say about themselves, but what they are actually doing online to demonstrate affinity for your talent brand. Are they following your company on social media? Are they connecting with your employees on LinkedIn? And are they sharing content and voicing opinions that are relevant to your company’s mission and values?

Gone are the days of finding people simply by key word searches, out-of-date resumes, and incomplete profiles. Your analytics team will unearth the best people in your market via skills match and affinity data. This allows you to spend your time discovering the most appropriate talent by asking people about people, which is the original definition of sourcing.

3. Engaging with insights:  

Many recruiters message valuable prospects completely cold with nothing in common but simply the promise of information about an opportunity.

This is no longer an effective way to engage top talent.

Most prospects can find what they need through friends or social media. You need to establish trust first. Never cold message or call again.

To do this, wherever possible, take the time to get a warm introduction from a trusted colleague or friend or from someone they might know. Alternatively, engage your prospects with insights from events or people in the same field that can be valuable. Share the profile with your hiring manager first, and use the hiring manager’s review to help them prioritize the opportunity. Leading with great insights helps you become a trusted ally in their career journey rather than a transactional agent.

4. Building strong relationships:   

The first step to building a strong relationship is compassion.

Put yourselves in your prospects’ shoes. Vulnerability is the best method. To this end, I created an entirely different outreach approach. Instead of a transactional recruiting pitch, I’m getting intros to prospects and asking them if they would be willing to be paired with a relevant hiring manager or peer for an ongoing career exchange which over time will be mutually beneficial. The goal is to building hyper-personalized relationships with the top talent in our market that over time become employees.

As a result, I’ve received the best InMail responses I had ever hoped for, ranging from “This is the best recruiting pitch of all time.” to “Ooh, this is new and sounds intriguing. Tell me more? :-).” As a recruiter, you build the strongest relationships the more you are willing to give up control and ensure that the control lies with the person whose career is on the line.

These 4 steps have been transformational in my career and I believe that any recruiter can successfully apply them to their job. In my opinion, this is the right recipe for happy hiring managers and happy candidates who end up being the best advertisements for your company. With that, you know you should feel joy.

6 steps to a better personal recruiter brand