But what if you could build relationships with talent face-to-face—before you need them? If you want to be more proactive, one thing to consider is going where they go—to their industry events. Building relationships with talent at their industry events can ensure you always have a lineup of skilled pros in your back pocket.
Why industry events?
First, if these executives and managers are being sent by their company, they are no doubt top performers who are there to represent the business and are there to learn and network—and possibly present.
Second, attending a conference can offer a solid way to assess their skills and cultural fit. By attending their panels or presentations you can evaluate their knowledge of their stated area of expertise and their communications skills. Even other attendees at these break-out sessions might capture your attention with an on-point question and follow up.
Third, they’re there in great numbers and they’re accessible. Everyone at industry events is looking to network, so recruiters have a prime opportunity to spend time getting to know up-and-coming industry talent.
Christian Henning, who is on Microsoft’s Global Executive Talent Acquisition Team, told me being proactive is a key part of Microsoft’s executive talent acquisition strategy. He said his colleagues regularly attend industry events to network with talent and cultivate relationships. They play the long game—going where the talent goes, learning more about them and their ecosystem, and building relationships with them before a business colleague has a need.
Make the Most of Industry Events
So, how do you make the most of attending industry events to scout for talent?
- Try to get the attendee and presenter lists in advance of the event—or as soon as you arrive at the conference.
- Once you have these lists, take the time to do some homework and learn as much as you can about those 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 with what they’re doing and what they’re interested in. Then take the opportunity to reach out in advance to let them know you’ll both be at the event and try to schedule time with them.
- Keep it casual. This is the time to do some relationship building, not to active recruiting. No one wants to feel stalked.
- Follow up after the event. Ask questions that hit on issues they’re focused on—perhaps based on their presentation or panel discussion.
By attending the events top professionals and executives attend and doing the right advance work, you put yourself squarely in talent central. 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 with who’s doing what than LinkedIn ever could, and exposes you to up-and-coming talent that the market may not yet have discovered.