Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Outlook Chronicles: Connecting With Recruiters on LinkedIn

So here's the set-up: without fail, I meet with students who, upon leaving my office, have a million more questions. Some of these questions they figure out on their own, some they e-mail to me for my two cents. Not surprisingly, I tend to see a lot of the same questions. So for those of you are asking yourselves those ground-breaking questions, like "should I text the hiring manager?," here are my answers to some frequently asked questions.  

Sometimes, my smart and talented friends e-mail me their job search questions, too.  This e-mail is adapted is from a question I received from one of those friends.

A student writes:

Hi Shimrit,

I have a question about contacting recruiters on LinkedIn. Sometimes, through connections, I see recruiters at places I want to work, or a specific recruiter’s name next to a job posted on LinkedIn. What's the best policy on contacting these folks? A lot of times you can only contact them by clicking the “Connect” button and sending a brief message. Is it cool to do that and say something to the effect of, "Hey, I applied for job X, I am very interested, and just wanted to see if the position was still available?" Also, there will sometimes be over 10 different recruiters (say at a place like Google) and it's hard to tell which one would be the best to contact. Is it worth just shooting a line to a random recruiter to ask which person would be the best to email about job X I found on the company website?


And I answer:

Hi Corey,

LinkedIn is certainly an amazing tool (as my blog indicates, I’ve drank the LinkedIn kool-aid), but proper etiquette and best practices for using this behemoth of an online tool are at best confusing. Hopefully my attempt to answer your question will not be similarly confusing – though you can expect it to be long-winded. And, in the spirit of long-windedness (is that a word?), I’m going to preface my answer with a disclaimer: while I consider myself something of a LinkedIn aficionado, my expertise largely relates to using LinkedIn as a networking tool. I very infrequently deal with the "recruiter question” as I mostly counsel undergraduate students – whose best bet is to connect and network with employees at their target companies, rather than directly with human resources.

Of course, the same does not necessarily apply to you given your previous work experience and graduate degree in statistics. You, as opposed to recent college grad, have a much better likelihood of being courted by recruiters. So back to your question . . . almost. You keep referring to recruiters in your e-mail, but I actually think you may be talking about human resources professionals, or even hiring managers. These are not recruiters per se. Recruiters are generally third-party professionals, who are seeking to find excellent candidates for open positions at their client sites. They receive a commission based on whether they are able to fill a given role with their candidate, but are not internal to the firm. Human resources folks are in fact internal to the company (and are often viewed as the gatekeepers to getting past the resume screen). A company like Google might employ hundreds of human resources professionals (this is totally a guess), so your chances of connecting with the appropriate contact is pretty slim. To make matters even more confusing, these internal human resources people may in fact be called recruiters. The people internal to a company who may be doing the hiring might have titles ranging from recruiter, to talent acquisition manager, to human resources coordinator.

That being said, a polite e-mail, or connection request, shouldn’t hurt your chances of getting the job. But there’s a better approach! If you actually know someone at Google (check the alumni network), I’d start by connecting with that person first. Before just shooting off a random e-mail, I would in fact check with your company contact to see if they can make an introduction, or even better, direct you towards the hiring manager.

Now, for the part about seeing a “specific recruiter’s name next to a job posted on LinkedIn.” If that person is in fact in human resources, then they likely are responsible for the job. In this case, yes, you should contact them! If the job is still posted you can assume it is not filled (it costs money to post jobs on LinkedIn) and use this brief message to say something along the lines of “Dear ____, I have applied for this job of XXX through the online system, however if you have any additional questions about my candidacy feel free to review my LinkedIn profile or contact me at xxx-xxx-xxxx. Thanks for your consideration, Corey.”

Similarly, if the position is posted by an external recruiter, you should also definitely connect. In fact, you want to connect with them even if you’re not exactly a match for the posted role as many recruiters are continuously looking for candidates with a similar set of skills. I would write, “Dear ___, I am interested in learning more about this position, as well as other opportunities in the field of XXX, and would like to add you to my LinkedIn network. Best, Corey.” And if you’d like recruiters to contact you - and many recruiters use LinkedIn for this exact purpose – make sure your profile is entirely complete with strong keywords.

Lastly, you’re right in recognizing that it’s nearly impossible to message someone you aren’t connected with without asking them to connect. NEARLY! If you have a group in common with someone, you can message them without connecting first by following these (admittedly convoluted) steps. First, find out what group you have in common with them (or join a group they are in). Then go to that group’s page. Click the “member” tab at the top and earch for the person’s name. Hover over their name when it appears in the returned results, which will cause a button to appear to the right of the name that says “send message.” Click “send message” to e-mail the contact without ever actually connecting with them.

Good luck and happy job-hunting!

Best, Shimrit

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