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Using Networking Events to Build a Talent Pipeline

By Steve Singer

Using Networking Events to Build a Talent Pipeline

In an earlier blog post, we started to take a look at why creating a talent pipeline is important.  It essentially boils down to the old Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared.”

The market for creative talent, be they technically focused or design focused, poses a number of challenges. The sheer quantity of candidates can be overwhelming, which makes keeping track of all of them difficult and finding those that meet your needs and fit in your organization time-consuming. Top candidates tend to get snapped up quickly. And they can be notoriously fickle about where and whom they work with.

In other words, if you only begin your search when you have an immediate need, it’ll be an uphill battle. Using a talent pipeline to be ready before the need arises isn’t just a good idea, it’s the only way to ensure that the hiring process, which can be trying enough, gets off to a good start.

A Process, Not a Destination

Pipelines aren’t built so much as cultivated and nurtured. In order to be prepared, you need to treat pipelining talent as an ongoing process.

You also need to make sure that your pipelining efforts are closely aligned with your organization’s current and future hiring needs. If you have an internal recruiting function, this calls for close collaboration between recruiters, hiring managers, and senior management.

If pipelining falls to the hiring managers themselves, it means ensuring that these managers understand both the strategic direction of the company as well as its specific operational plans and critical business cycles.

Armed with an understanding of the specific skill sets needed to achieve your organizational goals, you can set to pipelining. But where do you begin?

Start Networking!

Effective pipelining begins with intensive, conscious networking. In fact, according to a recent LinkedIn survey, 44% of hiring managers look to their networks to make a hire before ever even advertising an opening.

Attending in-person networking events is a great way to find new talent for your pipeline. Here are some tips for making those events count:

  • Pick the right events. At the risk of being overly obvious, to find the right talent, you need to go where the talent are! Every day, in almost every city, there’s a meet-up, a group coffee, or some other low-key gathering focused on a specific discipline, industry, or technology. Search and social media can help you identify the most promising events, but you can also poll your growing network to find out which local events and—and even national conferences—they recommend.
  • Plan ahead and have a goal. Once you’ve settled on an event you want to attend, put some time into preparing for it.
    • Is there a published attendee list? Use it to make your own list of the people you absolutely want to meet.
    • Think about what you want to say to folks when you do meet them. How are you going to learn about their skills and experience? More importantly, how are you going to get them interested in your organization? You need an elevator pitch for prospective employees just as you do for prospective clients.
    • Finally, how do you want to connect with people after the event? Are you just going to add them on LinkedIn? Or do you hope to have a follow-up conversation? 
    • Think about these things in advance, not on the fly. The more you plan ahead and set specific goals for your networking (“I want to meet one, experienced JavaScript programmer”), the more successful your networking will be.
  • Sponsor and host. Many events allow for sponsorships. If you have budget, become a sponsor. Sponsoring will generally get you access to the full attendee list and can be seen as actively supporting the community you are seeking to engage. Of course, sponsorship can take different forms. For example, local groups are often looking for new places to hold their events. If you’ve got meeting space to spare, offer it up! In addition to being a gesture of goodwill, it can also serve to introduce people to your company’s culture and workspace.
  • Lend a helping hand. Professional organizations always need help. Sometimes they are looking for speakers; sometimes they are looking for contributors to their blog; and sometimes they just need someone to handle logistics for events or other functions. Volunteering gets your name out there while allowing you to meet people across the organization.
  • Start your own event. Do you have access to interesting speakers? Do you have money to rent a space and supply folks with food and drink? If so, you should consider creating you own events. People are always looking for networking opportunities, useful information, and free food. If you’re the one to provide all of the above, that speaks volumes.

What are your favorite in-person networking tactics? Let us know.

Image Source (Creative Commons): University of Salford Press.

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