How to Make the Most of In-Person Networking Events as an Employer
Qualified candidates are out there, but they can be hard to find if you're not looking in the right places. Networking events are a great way to connect with potential hires, learn about new opportunities and get your foot in the door with candidates you're interested in.
But attending a networking event isn't enough – you have to make the most of it. To be successful, you need to be strategic about who you talk to, what you say, and how you follow up. Though it may seem like a lot of work, a little preparation can go a long way.
Remember, your primary goal is to make a good impression and build relationships. Make your company and your brand known, but don't be too aggressive. You want to come across as genuine and interested in what others have to say. If presented the right way, your company will be top of mind when they're ready to make a move.
Why In-Person Networking is Important
Networking events provide a great opportunity to build relationships with people in your industry. Attendees are typically there to learn and make connections, so they're usually open to chatting. If you play your cards right, you may even walk away with a few new leads for potential hires.
Getting your company name out there is also important. The more people are familiar with your brand, the more likely they are to think of you when they're ready to make a purchase.
Moreover, networking events tend to attract high-quality candidates. If you're looking to fill a position, these events can be a great way to find qualified individuals. You never know who you'll meet and what kinds of connections you'll make.
However, it's important to keep in mind that networking events are not a cure-all. They're just one piece of the puzzle. To be truly successful, you need to have a holistic recruiting strategy that includes other methods, such as online sourcing through industry-specific job boards and employee referrals.
Do Your Research
Before you even step foot in the door, it's important to do your homework and come prepared. Know which variety of talent and individuals you want to connect with, and have an elevator pitch ready about what your company does differently (and better) than the competition.
If you can, try to find out what other companies will be attending the event and do a little research on them ahead of time. This way, you can tailor your conversation and make a more personal connection.
Also, be sure to bring plenty of business cards. You don't want to be caught empty-handed when someone asks for your contact information.
Finally, don't forget to dress the part. First impressions matter, so you'll want to make sure you're looking your best. Depending on the event, you may want to dress formally or informally. Just use your best judgment and err on the side of caution.
Establish a Positive First Impression
First impressions are everything, so it's important to dress the part and exude confidence when meeting new people. Smile, make eye contact, and be genuine in your interactions. The talent you're looking to attract will be able to tell if you're sincere or not. You need to exude warmth, openness and approachability so that potential candidates feel comfortable talking to you.
One of the best ways to accomplish this is by starting off with a simple question. For example, you can ask them about their experience with the company they currently work for or how they found out about the event. This will help break the ice and get the conversation flowing.
Listen to Potential Candidates
One of the best ways to build relationships is by being a good listener. When you're talking to someone, really pay attention to what they're saying and ask follow-up questions. People will appreciate your interest and be more likely to want to stay updated on your company's progress.
At the same time, don't forget to sell yourself and your company. As you're listening, look for opportunities to talk about what makes your company unique and why someone should consider working there. However, be sure to do this in a way that doesn't come across as pushy.
Just because the event is over doesn't mean your work is done. In order to turn a networking connection into a lasting relationship, you need to follow up afterward with a personalized email or LinkedIn message. Thank them for their time and mention something specific that you discussed to jog their memory.
Additionally, be sure to keep them updated on your company's progress. Send them articles about your latest product launch or let them know about any open positions that might be a good fit for them. If you maintain regular communication, you'll be top of mind the next time they're ready to make a purchase or refer someone to a new job.
Utilize Your Networks
Your employees likely have their own professional networks that you can tap into to attract talent. Ask them if they know anyone who would be a good fit for the open position, and offer a referral bonus as an incentive. Everything from word-of-mouth to social media can be a powerful tool in your recruiting arsenal.
Think about it. If someone you know and trust tells you about a great company to work for, you're more likely to believe them than a random stranger. The same goes for your employees' networks. A personal recommendation can go a long way.
If your employees are required to have a degree or specialize in a certain area, check with their alma maters to see if they offer any job placement programs. Many colleges and universities have career centers that can help connect you with talented students and recent graduates.
If you're looking for qualified candidates, networking events are a great way to connect with potential hires. But it's important to remember that attending the event is just the first step – you have to make the most of it by being prepared, making a good impression, being an active listener and following up with potential candidates afterward.