Do you know how to make meaningful connections via LinkedIn to HR professionals and/or company executives? I certainly don't, and so if you can inform me, I would be happy to learn. I have heard from no small number of people that are disappointed with their LinkedIn results, and in many cases, when you delve into the problem, the cause is a mistaken focus or understanding of what is appropriate to expect from this medium.
However, and I don't want to brag, when I send out short introduction messages to people on LinkedIn that I have never met, I get more than a one-third response rate. That is phenomenal as any sales person who has ever made cold calls knows. This is just one of the many reasons that I love LinkedIn; you can easily identify and reach a wide variety of professionals that can serve as excellent resources for you whatever your objectives are. For more information about LinkedIn and networking, click on this article.
However, LinkedIn is not able to change certain laws of nature. One of these is that it is extremely difficult to start conversations with HR people and/or company executives, especially when you are unknown to them. These are by definition very busy individuals, with a large number of people asking for their time daily. Do not think that simply because you are approaching by LinkedIn, they will magically become more accessible. It doesn't happen this way.
So, if your target is HR recruiters / executives, does this mean that LinkedIn will not be useful for you? Certainly not! However, you do need to consider your options:
Is it really the recruiters/executives that are the best target for you? This of course depends upon your objective. If your employment goal is found in the HR or executive realm, then clearly the people suited to network with are those in similar roles. LinkedIn can be used to identify the relevant players, as well as their current employers, and sometimes other people that are connected to them that you also know. At this point, your HR/executive cleverness needs to be used to its fullest, finding a way to get to them by telephone via the company switchboard, or by gaining access through a mutual acquaintance. It is very rare that sending a message, via LinkedIn or otherwise, will get you a response.
Many people automatically begin their networking by targeting HR people, since they should know which jobs are available and will be a part of any recruitment process. However, getting direct access to them in quantity is virtually impossible. Still, using LinkedIn can help you get access to them indirectly through your new found networking contacts. The easiest people on LinkedIn to begin conversations with are those that work in the same type of job/sector as you. For a computer analyst, scientist, accountant…, reaching out to those that have similar background, as one professional to another, is what I have found works well on LinkedIn. Once you are able to begin such a discussion and start to develop the relationship, only good things can happen. Sometimes a networking contact may tell you to send them your resume/CV and they will get it to the appropriate HR person. Or, that they know colleagues in the company that they can speak with about you.
Networking is not only about speaking to a person about the jobs they know about at their current employer. The advantage of targeting people that work at roles similar to yours, rather than H/R and executives, is that you will have a much more likely chance to actually develop meaningful conversations with them. Oftentimes it will during these discussions that you will learn what is going on at other companies and in the sector in general which can lead to uncover new roles.
Networking is a numbers game; the more people you speak with, the better chance you have to make a meaningful connection. LinkedIn is the job networking site par excellence, and as long as you have the correct targets and put in a strong effort, you will generally find it a wonderful resource to meet professionals and learn more about job opportunities.
Ron Machol - November 2010