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What if you could build relationships with talent face to face before even needing to make a hire? If you want to be more proactive in your recruiting efforts, consider going where the talent goes: industry events. Building relationships with talent at industry events can ensure you always have a lineup of skilled pros in your back pocket.
Why Industry Events?
First, if people are being sent to industry events by their companies, they are no doubt top performers who are there to represent their employers, learn, network, and possibly even present.
Second, attending a conference can offer a solid way to assess a potential candidate's skills and cultural fit. For example, if the person gives a presentation or sits on a panel, you can evaluate their expertise and their communication skills. Meanwhile, other attendees at these break-out sessions might capture your attention with their questions and comments.
Third, talent is more accessible than usual at industry events. Everyone is looking to network, giving recruiters the prime opportunity to get to know up-and-coming industry talent.
Christian Henning, research manager, global talent acquisition at Microsoft, tells me being proactive is a key part of Microsoft's executive talent acquisition strategy. His colleagues regularly attend industry events to network with talent and cultivate relationships. They play the long game by going where the talent goes, learning more about them and their ecosystems, and building relationships with them before any hiring needs arise.
Make the Most of Industry Events
So, how do you make the most of attending industry events to scout for talent? Here are a few tips:
Try to get the attendee and presenter lists in advance of the event, or at least as soon as you arrive at the conference.
Once you have these lists, do some homework. Learn as much as you can about the people who spark your interest. Using these insights, you can develop some talking points for those with whom you would like to connect.
Scan the lists for people you may already know. Do some homework to get up to speed on what they're doing now and what they're interested in. Then, reach out to let them know you'll be at the same event. Try to schedule time with them.
Keep it casual. This is the time to build relationships. It is not an active recruiting trip. No one wants to feel stalked.
Follow up after the event. Ask questions that hit the issues the person is focused on, perhaps based on their presentation or panel discussion.
By attending the events top professionals and executives attend and doing the right prep work in advance, you put yourself in the position to connect with the best talent in the game. Think about it: How often do you have the chance to connect with dozens or even hundreds of potential candidates in person?
Given how quickly business environments change, being at these events keeps you far more up to date on who's doing what than LinkedIn ever could. Plus, these events can introduce you to up-and-coming talent that the market may not yet have discovered.
Sharon Gillenwater is the founder and editor-in-chief of Boardroom Insiders, which maintains an extensive database of in-depth executive profiles.