How Recruiters Can Stay Resilient in a Crisis, According to LinkedIn’s Head of TA

April 30, 2020

Over the course of his career, Brendan Browne, LinkedIn’s head of recruiting, has faced multiple economic downturns, from the dot-com bust of the late 1990s to the aftermath of 9/11 and the financial crash of 2008. And the one thing that has helped him get through each of those periods as a recruiter is relationships — both with candidates and what he calls his “loose connections.”

“Relationships matter more than anything,” Brendan says. “It's always been the case. But now more than ever… this is an opportunity for you to differentiate yourself as a recruiting professional by doubling down and focusing on relationships.”

In the first at-home edition of Talent on Tap, Brendan took a deep-dive into the power of relationships and what they mean for recruiters right now:

Here are a few strategies Brendan recommends for nurturing relationships that will support your own recruiting career and keep candidates engaged.

1. Lean into your broader network and reach out to “loose connections”

Back in 2001, Brendan found himself between jobs. To see if his network could help him out, he sent emails to all of his “loose connections” — people that he didn’t talk to often but who he had respect and an affinity for — explaining his situation and asking to stay in touch. 

Brendan later saw that the company where one of those connections worked was hiring recruiters, so he reached back out to say that he’d love to be considered. That person put him in touch with the right people, and before long, Brendan had landed a role there.

“He wasn’t someone who was my friend or my close confidant or anything like that,” Brendan explains, “but someone who was willing to lend a hand.”

If you’re not sure what to say to your loose connections or how often you need to reach out, Brendan has some pointers based on what’s worked in his own experience. 

“Don’t worry about getting in touch all the time,” Brendan says. “Let people know what’s on your mind, what you need from them, or what you’re hoping to accomplish. I think it’s very important to be specific. You’ll be surprised that maybe the people you haven’t talked to in months or quarters or over a year will be there to help you out.”

2. Nurture your relationships with candidates 

For recruiters at companies where hiring has slowed down or paused, Brendan says that staying in touch with potential candidates is one of the best things you can do right now. He likens this to putting fuel in your tank so that if you need to quickly get moving with hiring again, you’ll be ready.  

“Be in touch with the tip-top candidates that you've been pursuing,” Brendan says. “Tell them in no uncertain terms that they are someone that you want to see having a relationship with the company and stay in touch in some kind of recurring basis.”

For Brendan, the benefits of this approach are threefold: Not only will it keep your company top of mind for candidates that you may want to hire in the future, but they may have valuable connections that they can introduce you to. Staying in touch will also differentiate you as a recruiter because others may not be doing this. 

Of course, if you were recruiting for higher-volume roles and have a large number of candidates in your pipeline, keeping in touch on a one-on-one basis might not be feasible. In these cases, Brendan has found that scalable content is invaluable. This is content that is relevant for multiple candidates based on their role or interests which you can send to all of them via mail merge or adding them to BBC on your email. 

Another way to build relationships with candidates at scale is through virtual events — what Brendan calls “one-to-many conversations.” This could include things like a virtual fireside chat with an executive at your company or an online learning session. 

“[One-to-many conversations] let people know that even during a challenging time or slower hiring, we believe we need to stay in contact and build relationships with talent,” Brendan says. 

Whatever strategies you develop, he recommends getting your hiring managers involved. Let them know why you’re taking these steps and consider giving them an assignment you’d like their help with, like setting up monthly phone calls with five great candidates that the company would benefit from developing stronger relationships with. 

“Bringing the leaders, the managers that you support into the solution,” Brendan says, “will make sure that your credibility increases as a partner to the business — and surely will position you better as a company.” 

You have an entire community behind you

As you think about which relationships to build and nurture right now, Brendan points to one more group of people that you might want to lean on — the wider talent acquisition community. 

“It's a vibrant community where I know I want to help others and others have surely helped me,” he says. “So don't forget — you've got an entire community behind you.”

Talent on Tap is a video series in which Brendan Browne breaks down the hottest topics and biggest challenges in the talent industry. Talent on Tap will also give you an opportunity to hear from other organizational leaders, subject matter experts, and thought leaders in the space.

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