Bad recruiter networking

I belong to a few staffing professional organizations. These groups share best practices and staffing philosophies from industry leaders. They also create a platform for recruiters to network. And frankly, I've noticed some bad networking. I'll talk about my experiences with these networking recruiters because I've seen it first-hand. But I can't believe this is specific to the staffing space. I'm sure bad networking happens all over the place. What I am talking about here is networking inside your industry/function (for me that's recruiting pro-to-recruiting pro). My comments here don't apply to people who are considering making a job move and are reaching out to me as a recruiter. Those folks should feel totally free and comfortable to shoot me an e-mail, especially if it includes a bio, resume or something similar. Anyway, as far as in-industry networking, here's what I've noticed:

The contact collectors

I've talked about these people before in posts about social networking. They use their so-called "network" to establish their credibility in the industry and people actually congratulate them for it. These are the people that try to connect with you via some networking tool, but there's never any exchange of info. You are a number to them ("Let's all congratulate so-and-so on their one-thousandth person in their network"). I don't connect with these people. Really, how valuable can their "network" of 1500 people be, given that they asked me to join and I don't know them? One thing I have noticed about the people that do this is that they try to establish their industry cred in other ways too (creating cool sounding titles that don't exist, working feverishly to book speaking engagements). There's a credibility issue there, in my opinion. I'm not saying that these people don't know how to recruit...just that I think they are going about establishing their industry expertise in the wrong way. I'll just leave it at that.

The "do-my-job-for-me" networking contact

I get these all the time. In fact, just got one today. I get an e-mail from someone I don't know asking for help with a position they are trying to fill (not a recruiter of their open requisitions). Without much lead-in, they dump the job descriptions on you and let you know that "any help would be greatly appreciated". Why would I want to help this person that 1) I don't know and 2) thought this was an OK way to network? Sheesh!

The "I'm not sure what I want from you, but I sure do want to know ya" contact

These are the folks that know that they should be in contact with you but they don't know why. The mails are awkward and sometimes overly complimentary. They want to keep in touch with you but they don't know how. They are probably more selective than the contact collectors, but they don't know what they are driving for.

The "I'm afraid of Google" contact

This one absolutely drives me nuts and I know one of you is going to be funny and send me a mail just like this. This is the person that knows something about you; something that they are interested in. And instead of doing some research on their own, they ask you to explain it to them. For example, shortly after I presented at the ERE conference last October, a woman left me a voicemail asking me to explain the blogging methodology to her. From what I could understand from the voicemail, she thought that "blog" was some sort of tool that she could buy to source candidates. A simple "what is blogging" search would have saved her some embarrassment (either after her first or second voicemail to me). I can't tell you how many times I've gotten something similar. It's a little discouraging and I've gotten to the point where I've recommended people do a quick internet search to find the answer and then let me know if they have any further questions.

So anyhoo, here's my philosophy on networking and then I'll gives some tips for effective networking just from my own all may have more to add and feel free.  

Effective networking is a relationship. A network of any value is a connected group of trusted individuals. That trust comes from knowing them. In the internet age, you can find just about anyone online. So unless your own network is trusted, there's little value. The way I think about these relationships is like this:

(what's in it for me + what's in it for you) X (trust through knowing you) = relationship

No, I am not talking about dating but it works there too...I'm no expert, though ; ) Anyway, the what's in it for me/you piece gets established straight away. This is how you share. You obviously want to get something out of the relationship, but you need to offer something too. That gives you a platform to build from. It makes you a "contact". The exchange of valuable information between the 2 people is what makes it a "relationship". That is a building process.

So here are some of my tips on reaching out to people you want to network with:

-Have a point. Even if you are just contacting the person to ask a question. I get mails all the time from folks who want to "synch up". My question: "about what?" Points are good. Everyone should have one. I certainly don't mind answering questions from anyone if I have the info (in fact, keep the blog questions coming).

-Know what's in it for them, but don't force it on them. If someone contacts me because they want information on how I do something, they should be able to articulate what I can learn from them as well. Frame it as sharing: "I'd love to get your thoughts on XYZ. We are doing some exciting things with regard to ABC if you are at all interested in hearing about that". I do a lot of this kind of sharing with people and I find it really valuable. It justifies the time investment.

-If your first contact isn't quid pro quo, be a can be a taker later. I get mails from people saying "Hey are fabulous...and by the way, I thought you would be interested in this article". I love that! The ones who I've never heard of before that want me to help them fill their open position...well, those mails get deleted (and I make a mental note).

Like I said, none of this really applies to the blogging I do here or my interaction with don't need to explain what's in it for me. This is different. And the fact that you even show up here and read my stuff is enough for me.

Comments (28)

  1. Maurits says:

    Hmm, looks like the new MSN search hasn’t made much headway in the Microsoft HR dept… Gretchen had a pro-Google post as well recently…

  2. Heather says:

    I don’t think my post is pro-Google. I’m also not going to bury my head in the sand and pretend that people aren’t using Google. Do you want a bunch of PR fluff here or do you want a real blog from a real person ; )

  3. Howard Hoy says:

    You sure have an opinion on this subject. Kinda like the one I have when clients call up and complain that their car started to run slow after they installed our software and wants to know what we are going to do about it. Oh well what can you do :-).

    I read a great book yesterday at lunch. It was funny, you might enjoy it. Stupid Stories from a Moron by Ed Broth.

    Cover of book .

    Keep up the great blog. (hmm is that a tool or something)

  4. Heather says:

    Um, Howard, if your customers are calling and complaining, I think that is a different kind of problem! ; )

  5. Howard Hoy says:

    Yeah, I guess it would be if we made car software :-).

  6. Wallym says:

    Hahahaha, I think every industry has these type of people. Though, I do think it is good to keep in contact with people, so I don’t really know about the "The "I’m not sure what I want from you, but I sure do want to know ya" contact"

  7. Heather, very interesting and well organized post. Can definately say I learned something today. The "contact collectors" are the ones I can’t seem to avoid with Friendster and LinkedIn spreading a wide net.

  8. Heather’s "Marketing at Microsoft" Blog posted a really nice piece today on the true nature of networking…profiling the bad networking types, and what true networking really is. (In case you don’t read it, the punchline is RELATIONSHIPS folks). I spoke…

  9. Anil says:

    Yeah, I have been contacted by recruiters who simply dump several job descriptions in their e-mails and think I will respond. It is very annoying. Some of them don’t even address you at the top of their e-mails. It is as if a machine is sending automated e-mails.

    There are very few professional recruiters who understand what a candidate offers after reading the resume. Others simply call me up and say, "Well, I just wanna network with you and find out if you know anyone with so-and-so skills". Junk! What has the recruiting profession come to! Too much commoditization, I believe. Initially, I used to tolerate such behavior because times were bad. But that was more than two years ago. My resume has changed and my goals have changed. Why don’t these recruiters do more research before pulling up my name from their database, which has eons-old data? I am just glad my cell phone does not work inside the office building.

  10. Gautam says:

    Gaah !

    Now you got me thinking !

    Where do you slot me….???

    By the way, I guess you knew it, Rajiv Kaul has moved from India back to Redmond as head of emerging markets at MS



  11. Henry Boehlert says:

    I love that formula. You can even use it to calculate bets on ebay.

  12. Heather says:

    Gautam—don’t worry…you aren’t slotted…you are a blog contact. I have a special folder for all of you guys (and a special place in my heart….awwww).

    Henry-I made that formula up but wouldn’t be surprised if someone else has said it better elsewhere (or said something similar). eBay is a pure form of networking because the "what’s in it for me" is very clear on both sides. Great point!

  13. Gautam says:


    That sounds so sweet ! :-))


  14. Nancy says:

    Hi Heather! I found your blog after a google search…LOL

    Anyways, I have been out of the recruitment game for a while (5 years) and am trying to get my network built up again. My main challenge has been building some type of meaningful contact versus just being a superficial "collector". Your formula was really great in helping me understand that dynamic in networking. However, how do I build those meaningful contacts without taking up most of my time? I really don’t see how you can build and maintain a usefull network without investing a great deal of time. I am jumping into a new job and need some resources ASAP. My former contacts are either no longer in recruitment or I’m unable to contact them.

  15. Heather says:

    Great question Nancy! I think the key thing is to find ways to be visible (broadly). Blogging works for me, but also being invovled in professional organizations, etc. You are right…it can be your whole job (well, it is my whole job…almost). The best way to keep it from eating your life it to clearly set expectations with people on how and when they hear from you. I encourage people to stay in touch with me…to let me know if they need anything. I really don’t do the touch base calls when there’s nothing to toch base about. If you really think about what your network wants from you, you can make your contacts with them about delivering that info. Could be links to articles, etc. You just need to keep records on your network, their interests and contact preferences. The fact that you are asking the question in the first place makes me think you are going to be successful ; )

  16. Andrew Poe says:

    Good post…what’s funny is what you describe can definitely fit someone who’s looking for a job (especially the formula and especially the advice at the end). (Oh, BTW, I found this site through Google). If they’re just going around getting business cards and they aren’t doing anything with them or making an actual ‘relationship,’ they’re wasting their time. And if they don’t know what they want and bugging a recruiter to allevate their ills for a lack of a job, then it makes the person look desparate.

  17. ptt says:

    i guess you need a blog spammer blocking mechanism… massaged into your blog. 🙂

  18. ptt says:

    the googlebar feedbak page had a simple javascript-popup-msg mechanism, but that page is inactivated because the gb team has switched to a php bb. however, you might be able to wayback or google cache the old state of the page, and adapt the spammer-hindering javascript to your page.

  19. Via Seth Godin, and if you know my musical taste you understand:

    "You have to bring some funk to get…

  20. Dana vanden Heuvel posted today about The Virtual Handshake and altruism. He makes some great points….

  21. Paul says:


    Not so long ago, I had a conversation with colleague of mine and we have gone over some of the issues that you are mentioning in this article above.

    I must say that your formula “(what’s in it for me + what’s in it for you) X (trust through knowing you) = relationship” hits the nail right on the head!

    In my view any network or networking tool should set a clear cut agenda or make a simple formula like the one you have mentioned, in order to provide user community with guidelines on how to create value. The fact is that people take the route of lesser resistance, and if you fail to make it simple enough for them to understand majority will easily miss the point.

    My team developed a “networking platform” that we think could have something to show for at the end of the day. We call it This platform makes it simple to get concrete results. Our formula is “(what’s in it for me (outstanding candidate 4 hard 2 fill job) + what’s in it for you (placement fee)) X (trust through knowing you) = relationship+ win-win situation”.

    Please share some thoughts with me. Thx. My mail is

  22. jcampbell0449 says:

    Love this – I recruit in the banking industry and unfortunately – we are not any different.

    I am giving a presentation to our local (Austin, TX) recruiters association next week and I am going to use some of these "do’s and don’ts" for my presentation.

    Of course – I will give the proper credit to Heather.

  23. HeatherLeigh says:

    Awww, thanks!

  24. Claudine Henrie says:

    I just came across this blog after doing some research on networking.  I am currently a Recruiter for one of the Blue Cross Blue Shield plans.  I have been assigned a project to come up with a contact sheet of HR Managers and/or Directors for all the Blues plans across the country as well as competitors to the Blues.  Do you have any ideas on how I can go about this?  Any pointers would be appreciated.  I am new to this.

  25. HeatherLeigh says:

    I would think that someone at your company would have this information.

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