Human Resources Networking: How to do it right

Recently, a friend emailed and asked if I knew anything about “courting” human resources folks during the initial job hiring process.

Great topic and, of course, a splendid blog post idea.

Too many times, external candidates look at human resources as the ENEMY who is tasked to whuman resourceseed the pile down.

The truth, actually, is that human resources can be a great advocate, if you play your cards right.

It’s all in your methodology in approaching the human resources person.

Here are some tips that will help you with networking and cultivating the human resource contacts at target companies to build meaningful relationships that hopefully will bear fruit:

Common connections.

Identify a company, then use Google and LinkedIn to slowly start moving in an ever-closing circle around the human resources contact. Who do you know within your circles that intersect with the circle of the person you are trying to reach? It’s ok to ask your network for introductions or to pass one along to the right contact.

Contact them before the opportunity opens.

Smart career managers know that becoming a known quantity before the need arises is one of the fastest ways to track into a company.  People like to hire people that they already know and like.  So before a target job opens, if you are already known as a quality candidate to the human resources person, you can rest assured that you’ll have a better chance of making it to an interview.

Internal introductions.

Did you know that many companies offer incentives to employees who refer candidates to the company? The mindset is that like attracts like, so if the current employee is a top producer, then generally, they are more likely to associate with other top producers.

That alone carries a great deal of weight and gravitas with human resources departments, especially when an employee forwards your information to them with an implicit endorsement.  With that kind of introduction, human resources managers are much more inclined to lean favorably in your direction.

Hang out where they hang out. 

Many human resources folks are members of professional human resources organizations (Society for Human Resource Management – SHRM) and local chapters. So if the local chapter is hosting a social event, why not sign up to attend as a non-member just to mingle in a low-pressure situation? It’s a great way to connect, and chances are, someone at that event can introduce you socially to the key human resources person at your target company.

Be respectful.

Schmoozing requires deft skill in shaping a conversation, offering information, yet being cognizant that you aren’t the only one demanding the time of the human resources contact. So if that little voice in your head starts telling you that you are monopolizing the time of the human resources person, then it’s time to break off the conversation and offer to follow up at different time.

Be thankful.

Putting the shoe on the other foot is a great way to gain perspective of what human resources goes through day in and day out. Human resources is a tough job; it involves handling internal conflict, negotiating salaries, administering benefits, dealing with injuries / hazards, risk mitigation, potential reduction in workforce, and trying to retain and recruit top talent.

So really, in a lot of ways, human resources is a thankless job. Most of the time, human resources managers don’t get a lot of recognition or gratitude. Anything you can do to sincerely express the efforts that they have made on your behalf can go a long way to winning them over.

Understand that human resources is only one piece of the hiring puzzle.

There are usually several layers of decision-making for each hire. Sometimes, there is a recruiter / headhunter involved, a hiring manager, and even executives.

Each of the above approaches in building relationships within the target company should be applied to those layers.

In short, it’s important to find as many inroads as you can to build up your credibility to the organization.

And my friend?

He made a connection with the human resources contact, which led to a referral another job opportunity.

Which proves the case that you can never know where and how your networking efforts can lead.