Networking as Art

Posted by Dave Dorman

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January 03, 2012 @ 07:08 AM

By Patricia R. Olsen

Recruiting is a business that thrives on networking: finding both candidates and clients relies on it. If you don’t particularly like traveling or schmoozing, it can be exhausting to attend more than a couple of events, but some recruiters thrive on it. Jim Delulio, president of staffing firm PRTalent in California, has raised networking to an art form.

Remember the Speakers

At times finding candidates is all about casting a wide enough net — looking in unexpected places and approaching people you normally might not. Like all recruiters, Delulio attends trade shows and conferences like those held by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) to talk to attendees. But he goes a step further: He also approaches the speakers at these industry functions. “They’re well respected, so they’re good targets as senior-level candidates. If they’re not interested in changing positions themselves, then they’re good people to network with.”

The easiest way to approach a speaker is to tell him you’re networking, Delulio said. “I usually say that his profile is an excellent match for a position I have and I was wondering if he has any personal interest or has any friends that might,” he explained. He finds senior-level executives are the easiest to access. “A junior person might reply, ‘I’m happy where I am,’ ” Delulio said. They don’t understand that recruiters can get them better positions and more money and put them on a career path or trajectory that they wouldn’t normally have access to or even be aware of.

More senior people understand the value of recruiters and attach themselves to a couple of recruiters in their industry early in their career to increase the number of opportunities they may hear about. “They’ve probably already been recruited a few times in their lives and they know what the impact was on their career and that we can generate opportunities they might not normally see. A lot of openings are not always publicized,” Delulio said.

Lay the Groundwork Early

When you’re looking for people with 10 years’ experience, you’re not interested in posting openings on the college-recruiting job sites or attending campus recruiting events. But Delulio seeks out college students and recent grads as part of his networking because he knows it may pay off down the line. He speaks at colleges and to groups like the PRSA, Young PR Professionals (YoPro) and the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) to try to guide young people about how to manage their careers, or how to transition into another industry if that’s what they’d like to do.

“I like talking to college students because it's a great way to build our brand among a new generation of talent,” he said. “We may not have many entry-level positions for them as they come out of college, but after about two to three years of experience they become very marketable candidates.”

If you want to take a page from Delulio’s book, here are some suggestions on expanding your networking activities to find candidates:

    • Think you’ve attended your quota of meetings for the year? Try one more.

    • Have you never approached a speaker at one of these events? There’s always a first time.

    • Don’t see yourself speaking to a class in public relations or in a subject related to your staffing specialty? Why not give it a try? You may just enjoy it.