In the June 3, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a manager tells how she finds great hires.

Last week we heard from Annie, a manager whose approach to interviewing and hiring reflects how she likes to be treated as a job applicant. She doesn’t rely on job boards. She treats applicants respectfully and always gets back to them. She explains interviewing procedures clearly in advance. She doesn’t waste applicants’ time. And she doesn’t demand their salary history.

find-hiresSo far, so good — but does this work? Does it help her hire great people?

Annie and I have kept up an e-mail conversation, and she has generously shared the process and outcome of her hiring efforts. You can review the story to date — and we’ll pick up where we left off last week.

From Annie

I don’t ask for salary history

Hi, Nick! It’s exciting to see the story up and people engaging with it. Our top candidate just accepted our offer today, so I’m able (and delighted) to say that our search process has been a success.

We suspected (but didn’t confirm) that the candidate was probably under-paid at his current position. I had to campaign pretty vigorously to pay him what he’s worth instead of some calculation based on his current number. He was such a promising candidate that he likely wouldn’t take less, and I wouldn’t feel right offering it to him. After we had finished our internal budget negotiations and arrived at a range, I simply asked him what he was hoping to make. Luckily, the numbers worked out!

Nick Replies

Annie, good for you for making the case to pay the candidate what you think he’s worth. Asking what he wanted to make is the honest way to come to terms on salary. A good alternative would have been to quote your budget range for the job. Kudos to you for not falling back on a request for his salary history. Job applicants should keep their salary under wraps.

Someone on the blog (Eddie) asked this question:

It is good to hear that hiring managers are attending networking events. But how do I find these?

Can you share with us how you network to recruit?

From Annie

Where I network to find great job candidates

Your commenter Dave is spot-on: Meetup groups are the way to go. The position I was hiring for is a technical one (and I’m in a technical role myself), so most of my networking was at groups focused on programming languages, technology stacks, etc. These aren’t (on the surface) career/hiring events. These are places where people in the industry get together and discuss their craft. So, if you are deliberate about hiring, it’s the sweet spot: places to form relationships with people who already have good jobs in the area, who know their stuff, and who might want a job someday. [Don’t say, “I don’t know anybody!” -Nick]

Making friends at meetups

The tricky thing about relying on a network is, you have to start building it before you need it. I’ve been going to most of these groups for years. They give me the opportunity to make friends, pair-code with people, toss around project ideas, and share answers to problems. In other words, to demonstrate my interest and involvement in our field, and get enough face time that people can safely conclude I’m probably not a terrible, awful person to work with.

Really, I can’t stress enough how important this kind of interaction (again, on your advice) has been in my career. I’ve gotten jobs based on the recommendation of people I’ve pair-coded with at meetups. I’ve got job leads in my pocket because of it. And I found the young man that we eventually hired the same way: a personal recommendation from someone I trust, who knows both of us through meetup groups.

Diversity in recruiting

Following on the recent news of Google releasing their demographics data, I think this is also the perfect (and possibly only?) way to go about recruiting a diverse staff. I make sure to contribute in groups targeting women and other minorities in engineering, in part so that I can be sure to know diverse candidates in order to include them in my hiring process. You know, everybody says, “We need more women / African Americans / Latinos / etc. in computers,” but it seems like companies make next to no effort to go out and recruit them. Unfortunately, they won’t just fall into your lap. As with everything, it takes work.

Nick Replies

Annie: You’ve made an eloquent case for real networking. Your method of making friends to find great hires is the flip-side of making friends to get referred to great jobs. (I cover this in detail in How Can I Change Careers?, in the section titled “A Good Network Is a Circle of Friends.”)

Thanks for acknowledging that “networking” — as some people practice it — can be “icky.” By investing the time to demonstrate your genuine interest in talking shop, you help people judge that you’re a good person to talk with and get to know. This is the essence of making friends and getting introduced to jobs.

Thanks again for showing us how you actually recruit and hire using the ideas we discuss here every day. Some managers respect job applicants and go out of their way to make good hires intelligently and with care. My advice to job seekers: A manager like Annie doesn’t need many great applicants, and you don’t need more than just one good manager to hire you. Don’t lower your standards. Go where managers like Annie will find you.

Where do you find great managers? How do you network effectively to find great jobs? There is nothing easy or quick about investing time in your professional community to get ahead. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Since they’re not, it means you have less competition. Does this shake up your world?

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  1. Nick,

    Talking shop is good, and essential to effective business. I’m a researcher so I try to hit think tank events, follow industry publications, and share things through twitter.

    The other thing that I’ve found that works pretty well is trying to connect with people on a personal level. I’m not saying that I’m the life of every party or inviting my contacts to my poker games,, but trying to find people who aren’t ‘walled up’ and uptight and be able to talk more than shop–sports, life, family, travel, etc.

    I’m certainly not perfect, and not rich (grew up dirt poor) and an not ‘buddy buddy’ with everyone, but I do have a set of contacts who are way beyond my pay scale who are kind, treat me like a human simply because I’ve tried to do that with them.

    For example, I was in an elevator with an old supervisor who had recently won a big, global industry award for his lifetime of achievements, and when I simply asked him how he felt the day he received the award, this normally terse, grumpy man beamed.

    Just the other day I sent out an email to one of these ‘beyond my pay scale’ contacts, and had a great 3-4 email back and forth about his stuff, my stuff, etc. He even hinted at a new position up my alley, and I responded openly and warmly, and we’ll keep in touch.

    There may or may not be a job out of this, but it doesn’t matter. Someone way higher up in my field respects me, and that makes me feel good.

    These are the people who stop to say hello, respond to friendly emails asking about their challenges, news, and successes (or, in some cases, giving my condolences for their sports team’s recent defeat) when they could just stick to those at their level.

    I’m not saying to not be professional and knowledgeable, but … People are people, and they respond to interest and respect.

    God knows, there’s no shortage of awful, back-stabbing, toxic employees and employers, or people who hate, discriminate, etc.

    ..but there are good eggs out there. Go out and find them.

  2. I think tremendous pressure can be taken off this networking thing if one stops thinking that the only persons worth pursuing are hiring managers.

    I remember a time when the cool phrase was “Movers and Shakers.” It was as if to become somebody you had to know these people. You had to be well connected. Sometimes in interviews you’d be asked who was in your Rolodex, thinking those were prospects to sell your next employer’s wares to. (It never dawned on these employers that you could always make new contacts.)

    Nevertheless, there’s still the common refrain of “I don’t know anybody!” I find the observation puzzling that as easy as it is to research people today, some feel more disconnected than ever. You have 5,000 friends on Facebook yet no one to help you change a tire. You have 500 connections on LinkedIn, yet none you really know intimately because the focus was on amassing points (quantity vs. quality.)

    Meanwhile, in some interview situations one is evaluated to see how one interacts with people at all levels. Some candidates have blown it when they’re overly nice to superiors yet treat poorly those who aren’t in positions of power.

    I’ve found it gets easier if you just take genuine interest in people as people. It can be a fun game, i.e., “What one thing can I find fascinating about this person?” then note it on the back of a business card or your other personal note-taking device.

  3. This is such a needed piece. It gives hope to many that there are managers out there who are willing to hire the right people AND give you the keys to the kingdom of where to go to get yours.

    All advice given was golden. Meet ups are absolutely the bees knees when it comes to building up your networking/social circle.

    If I may, I would like to add some of my own that have given me success.

    1. If you ever had to leave a company you liked because of extenuating circumstances beyond your control ( i.e. caring for a sick relative, moving to relocate with a spouse) see if they offer an alumni networking site. Many high standard and reputable companies have their own intra-networking private online groups privy only to past employees and current ones.

    2. Be extremely specific in your search. Contact local town governments or search their websites to see if companies have posted job listings. Companies don’t have to pay high advertising fees and they usually have posted the direct contact names and email and phone numbers for the person hiring. Usually this is no gimmick job postings.

    3. Get on specific targeted list serves with groups of interest to whom you share ideas about life, interests, career, etc. These groups ALWAYS advertise jobs or opportunities within their own circle.

    4. Want to break into a new career? Volunteer at that dream job 2-3 hours a week so they get to know you, feel your passion, see your integrity and will to learn. There is nothing like seeing a person operate within their true authenticity and not just doing a job because they ” have to”. So when they have a position open they more than likely will give you a chance. You get to feel out the industry without bring trapped and under stress for obligation.

    All of these have helped me personally. If it wasn’t a job I was told about or acquired through these methods, I came out no less than making connections and friends that have pointed me to the meat of finding or getting work and making real friends.

  4. @Glenn – your observance of “social life”today and comment is spot on! It’s about being genuine in your approach!

  5. To expand on Annie’s point: “a personal recommendation from someone I trust”
    The networking door swings two ways, you give…and you get, or what goes round comes round.
    Help people. Hiring managers who aren’t under a rock know of other opportunities, have peers, and have a network.
    You often meet people, some who are applicants to your organization..who you sense are value-adders, people who shouldn’t be walking around unemployed…take some extra time, walk their paper, refer them to your network (I mean YOU call someone and refer them, not be a passive reference).
    What goes round….comes round. People you helped will be very likely to help you. If they interviewed with you they walked away with a good understanding of who will be good people for you to know and refer people to you.
    And seldom mentioned….the day someone who’s very good at what they do, and are highly valued, working for or with you, leaves is the day you start working on recruiting them back.

  6. @Don Harkness – couldn’t have said it better myself!

  7. @Don Harkness: There’s an important insight hidden in a comment you made:

    “Hiring managers who aren’t under a rock know of other opportunities, have peers, and have a network.”

    People like that (whether they’re managers or not) who have great networks are ALSO the people you want to hire. Maybe it’s because I think like a headhunter, and sources of great candidates are far more important to me than any single candidate — but I’d want to hire such “sources” because they ARE so well connected to their professional communities. I have not met many employers who use this as a hiring criterion — what kinds of friends, contacts, network, community is the person a solid part of? That’s worth lots!

    (You usually give me good ideas, Don! Thanks!)