5 Lessons Recruiters Can Learn From an Insanely Well-Connected Venture Capitalist

June 19, 2017

Recruiting and networking are different animals, but they’re more closely related than you might realize—like red pandas and raccoons.

Both recruiting and networking involve approaching new people, identifying potential, and professional (yes, sometimes painful) small talk. And for recruiters, it’s not just about making that connection - the way you make people feel will directly impact how many hires you make, how many referrals you get, and your company’s employer brand.

Luckily, Chris Fralic, a famous venture capitalist and master networker, has some advice when it comes to connecting with people and leaving a good impression. His philosophy of networking can be summed up in six words: “be human to everyone you meet.”

Fortunately, we have a lot more than six words—in fact, we’ve got 4,000, since Chris was recently featured in a viral article on how to become insanely well-connected.

It’s a great piece, but if you don’t have time and just want to focus on the tips that apply to recruiters, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve distilled Chris’s best advice and translated it into recruiter-ese: read on.

1. Show genuine interests in candidates—they’ll like you better for it

In a perfect world, every candidate walks away with a positive impression, even if they ultimately get rejected. (Before they fixed it, Virgin Media’s bad candidate experience was costing the company around $5 million every year.)

To instill a positive experience, Chris recommends conveying genuine appreciation:

“Actively project warmth and high energy. It’s been observed people like you when they feel liked by you. ”

For recruiters, that means showing real interest in candidates on a human level. Everyone has a story, and if you look hard enough, you’ll find that even people you don’t like possess something redeeming.

Notice those traits and don’t be afraid to compliment candidates. Obviously, you’ll ask about their professional history and skills—but also show curiosity and appreciation about their hobbies, pets, favorite books, and guilty pleasures. (Just be careful not to ask any personal questions that could get you in trouble.)

2. Really listen—even little “mm-hmm”s make a big difference and make candidates feel heard

According to Chris, good listening can be boiled down to two things: showing that you understand exactly what’s being said, and encouraging the person to continue talking.

“This breaks down into what’s called ‘backchanneling’ — offering short, enthusiastic responses as the other person talks (i.e. ‘yeah’ ‘mm-hmm’ ‘totally’ ‘I can see that’), and asking follow up questions that reference the information you were just given. ”

These little encouragements are a low-effort, high-reward habit for recruiters. Asking specific, on-point, relevant questions takes a little more effort, but it’s well worth it.

For example, if a candidate mentions that they led a team located in a different city, ask if there were any difficulties with managing people remotely. Beyond a better candidate experience, asking referential questions like that can also reveal valuable information—like nuanced skills or flashes of personality you might otherwise miss.

3. Be humble in order to put the candidate at ease—especially when you’re in a position of power or rejecting someone

In networking, there’s usually “an unspoken distinction…between the Hunters and the Hunted”—an uneven power dynamic in which one person has more to offer, but probably less time and interest.

In recruiting, that distinction is typically crystal clear: in an interview, you’re in the position of power, so it’s incumbent on you to be humble. If you’re chasing an all-star candidate, they’ve got the upper hand, but being humble can still help you make a good impression.

“Acknowledging your own fallibility and human imperfection can go a long way toward making yourself relatable. Especially if there’s a power dynamic where someone is asking for your advice, attention or help, you want to put the other person at ease.”

Lots of candidates will enter an interview as a bundle of nerves. That doesn’t mean they’ll be a bad employee, but it does make evaluating them harder. Using “humility markers”—like a quick aside about a mistake you made or an acknowledgement that you’re sometimes wrong—can settle their nerves and allow their true self to show.

Humility also comes into play when you inevitably have to reject the majority of candidates. Chris recommends taking the time to call or meet in person when rejecting: meetings might not be feasible for a recruiter who needs to reject a few dozen applicants, but a phone call certainly is. “A rejection stands out among people’s interactions,” said Chris. “When you take the time to be conscientious and human, people are often appreciative and will respect you more.”

4. Be completely honest—but only if it’s actually useful for candidates to hear

Honesty really is the best policy: whether you’re sugarcoating how stressful a position might be or glossing over the real reason why you’re rejecting someone, the truth will come out eventually.

Being totally honest isn’t easy—and it’s not really recommended. You should be honest inasmuch as it’s helpful to candidates, like setting realistic expectations or telling applicants how to improve for next time.

“You can differentiate yourself by being as honest as you can. Just remember to root your honesty in what will actually have utility for the other party. ”

From opening up about an unappealing part of the job to telling an applicant that they misspelled the word “dinamic” a dozen times in their resume, being brutally-yet-constructively honest will set you apart and help the candidate in the long run.

5. Use reverse psychology —telling candidates “no need to respond” to your message will often make them want to

When you reach out to a candidate via InMail, the last thing you’d do is tell them not to respond. You’re hoping and praying for a response, even if it’s a no. But, although it goes against your every instincts, you might want to try telling candidates to not respond. Here’s why.

Deep into the interview, when talking about making low-lift requests, Chris buries this awesome piece of advice—half reverse psychology, half Jedi mind trick:

“If your outreach is just, ‘Can I take you to lunch?’ that's a big ask for a lot of people versus, ‘Hey, just thought I'd share with you this quick update about what I'm doing. No need to respond.’ The ‘no need to respond’ is a powerful tool. It sounds counterintuitive, but if you give people an out, it makes them more likely to act. ”

Telling a candidate that there’s no need to respond separates you from every other recruiter out there—it’s a breath of fresh air, demonstrating that you value their time and that you’re a pleasant, thoughtful person.

In a weird way, the candidate may be more likely to hear you out or at least respond with a quick “thanks, but no thanks.” And that’s good, too: if you’re reaching out via InMail, you’ll get that credit back, and a clear “no” means you can move on to the next person. “It’s always better to get a quick ‘no.’,” Chris says. “It’s better to get that ‘no’ upfront than to get strung along waiting for a yes that never comes.”

There’s a lot more that goes into recruiting that doesn’t overlap with networking: sourcing talent, salary negotiations, formal interviews, and yes-or-no, clear-cut decision making. That said, there is plenty of wisdom that applies to both worlds. At the end of the day, Chris’s tips are really about being more human in a professional context, and that’s something that everyone can learn from.

*Image from clement127

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