I was at the Seattle Job Social event last month and ran into Mark Michael. Mark and I were having a great discussion until a job candidate walked over and started asking some questions.

I was about to excuse myself when I heard the candidate ask Mark what the purpose of these events were, to which he replied “…it’s an environment where candidates, recruiters, and hiring managers can meet each other and build relationships which will help everyone in this market…”.

The candidate followed with “…I’m not here to make friends; I’m just here to get a job! Once I get a job, then I’ll worry about networking…”

Mark and I looked at each other with a puzzled look.

In my business I see this kind of mistake every day. Job candidates are so focused on getting a job; they become trapped in a poor routine and fail to see all the opportunities around them.

In today’s market 85% of all positions are currently being filled through networking and personal referrals. Many of the recruiters that I know are filling positions with people they already know through their extended network.

The other day I was having coffee with a recruiter and a Microsoft hiring manager. During our conversation the hiring manager mentioned that he was looking for two financial analysts but hadn’t yet posted the positions online. The recruiter said he knew a couple of candidates that would be a perfect fit.

Without looking at their resumes the hiring manager said “bring them in for an interview.”

People do business with people they LIKE and TRUST. Managers hire candidates they LIKE and TRUST. Without a relationship, it’s extremely difficult for people to like and trust you.

In my business I attend many job fairs and another mistake I see candidates make is Elevator Pitches. Old school of thought is that you’re supposed to have a 30 – 60 second pitch about yourself ready to go so that when you meet someone, you can quickly tell them who you are, what you do, and what you’re looking for.

While I’m an advocate of personal branding, clear messaging, and great communication skills, I’m not an advocate of acting like a telemarketer.

Imagine you’re sitting at home enjoying dinner, and the phone rings. You pick up and someone on the other end goes straight into their pitch.

Do you remember the last telemarketer that called you? What was their name or product? Or did you tune them out as soon as they said “hello”.

You can recognize them every time they call. They have that “tone”; the over-practiced, robotic, “here’s what I have to sell you” tone. That’s exactly what candidates at job fairs sound like.

Instead candidates should focus on building relationships first.

Building relationships is cumbersome; pitching someone isn’t. Therefore most candidates take the path of least resistant and pitch everyone they meet.

I was at a networking event two weeks ago and met an MBA student. I asked her what she was doing at the event and she opened her valise, pulled out her resume, and handed it to me. She said she was looking for a job! That’s NOT a good approach for getting a job.

She didn’t take the time to get to know me, ask me questions, find out what I’m interested in, and what I need. Instead her conversation was all about her.

Next time when I’m having coffee with a hiring manager, am I going to remember or reference her? Not very likely.

If you want to STAND OUT, here is what you need to do at the next job fair or social event:

  1. Build Rapport (people like people who are like themselves). Recruiters meet many people on an ongoing basis. In order to STAND OUT, you must build rapport with everyone you meet. To build rapport quickly, adopt their physiology and language patterns. This requires you to be flexible as a candidate and get out of your shell; it’s about the people you’re meeting.
  2. Ask questions / Find a need. People love to talk. Asking questions allows them to express themselves. Asking questions also allows you to learn more about them and their company; their goals, interests, and needs. You’re making it ALL ABOUT THEM. You’re automatically sending a subconscious message to their brain that a) you’re different; b) you’re someone that’s interested in them instead of yourself. Last but not least, asking questions allows you to find a need that you can solve in step 3. Here are some questions you might ask:
    1. What company are you with?
    2. What companies do you recruit for?
    3. Who are you looking to meet tonight?
    4. Who is your ideal candidate?
    5. What type of positions do you normally recruit for?
  3. Create a value proposition. Recruiters are very busy. They have a very difficult job of sorting through the masses in order to find the right candidates. You need to state a reason for them to continue to converse with you and ultimately build a relationship other than “here’s my resume; get me a job.” Recruiters get paid when they place a candidate. By helping them, you’re ultimately becoming a valuable resource to them and they’ll want to remain in contact with you and through reciprocity, return the favor. Here are a couple examples of what you might say:
    1. I’m pretty connected in the Seattle market and meet technology folks on an ongoing basis. Perhaps I know a few people that might be a good fit for your openings.
    2. I know a few hiring managers at Microsoft you should meet.
  4. Request a follow up meeting. Too many times we go to these networking events, take the time to meet new people, yet we fail to take it to the next level and build a relationship. The first step in building relationships is face time. It’s in that 1-1 setting that you’ll get to know the other person, learn about them and have the chance to deeply connect with them.
    1. I would love to have coffee, learn in detail what you’re looking for so that I can be a good referral source for you.
    2. I think I might know a few people for you. Let’s talk over phone or coffee next week to discuss this.
  5. End on a good note. This is obvious but I can name numerous examples where people have left a meeting with negative impressions (i.e. talking too much, wasting their time)
    1. Thank them, and tell them that you’ll be in touch.
    2. Mention something great about the venue and that you enjoyed meeting them.
  6. Follow Up! Follow Up! and Follow Up Again! Now that you’ve asked to meet afterwards for coffee, make sure to actually follow through and take the time to set this up. If you don’t get through initially, be patient and follow up again.
    1. In the next 24-hours, send them a quick email reminding them of the conversation you had and request a time to meet in the next couple of weeks.
    2. Send them a thank you note for the time they spent with you and how great it was to meet them. Then ask for a follow-up meeting.

Once you have a meeting set, be candid of their time and make sure you provide the most value to them. The focus should be 90% serving them, and 10% about you.

When you do this, you’ve changed your mindset from self-serving to a contributor. Zig Ziglar said it best “You can have everything in life you want if you’ll just help enough other people get what they want.”

Recruiters refer candidates they like and trust. If you want to get hired quickly, this is THE way to find positions before they’re posted and make sure you get the edge in this crowded job market.

Due to the nature of their business, recruiters know many people. Are you the one they’re going to think of when a position opens up?

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37 Responses to They’re just not that into you. How to turn a recruiter into an advocate.

  1. Mark Siebert says:

    Is this the proper venue to reply for the Job Social attendance?

  2. No, you still need to register for the event. This is to let us know you’re attending so we can sync up prior to the event.


  3. Nagendra says:

    I will be attending. I have already registered…

  4. Leo Henton says:

    I heard the same perspective of misunderstanding at the February event. See you and the team May 19.

  5. Anna Russell says:

    I am going to be there on Tuesday, sounds exciting!

  6. Nicole Matisse says:

    Paul – I used some of these tips (which I procured through two of your recent seminars co-hosted by PSBJ) at a recent networking event hosted by my graduate school, Bainbridge Graduate Institute.

    I felt much more comfortable than I have at prior networking functions knowing that I simply aimed to be myself and connect with folks enthusiastically and with authenticity. I’d taken some time to research the companies that I knew would be there, and yet, even though the conversations I had with those targeted folks were good ones, the best connection of the night occurred during an interesting and highly engaging conversation about like-minded interests.

    I followed up with that individual the next afternoon and we’re having coffee later this week. Kudos to your suggestions. They really work! I look forward to seeing you next Tuesday evening.

    ~Nicole Matisse

  7. Barbara Zito says:

    Paul, I will be there as well. I am looking forward to it!

  8. Bob Gross says:

    I will be attending this one as well. I am going to rework my resume and then I will register.

    Bob Gross

  9. Anette M. Hommelgaard says:

    Paul, sounds exciting. I’ll be there !


  10. Lucy says:

    I’ll be there!

  11. Naomi Ishigaki says:

    I love talking to strangers but am chickened out on this one! However, I’m sure I’ll slap myself and go. I’ll be attending.

  12. Kara Baskett says:


    This is great information! Thank you for sharing. As a recruiter I would often speak with thousands of the students at Career Fairs/Networking Events each fall within a two month time frame. Resumes would often start to look similar, or individuals would neglect to put important information on their resume. Using your tips would have been very helpful to my candidates to be remembered by me and by my fellow recruiters.

    I will also be at the event on Tuesday evening and look forward to meeting everyone.

  13. Brian Newman says:

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for the great tips. I feel much more confident in my ability to control my career search rather than just hoping for a lucky “role of the dice” on a job board. I appreciate the honest advice.

    Unfortunately, I will be out of town on the 19th, but I certainly plan on attending the next events. Best of luck to everyone who is going.


  14. Constance Scott says:

    I will be attending.


  15. Jack Hall says:

    Hi Paul,
    Thanks for the heads-up, I’ll be there.

  16. Gregory Worl says:

    I’ll be attending. Thank you

  17. Brad Love says:

    Thanks Paul for the great tips.
    I’ve heard good things about the Seattle Job Social from a couple of people. I think I will attend and see for myself.

  18. Rosemeri says:

    I dearly loved the information you have posted. It is smart, intelligent and very well written. Once more you have proved to be REALLY GOOD in what you are doing. Thank you very much for such precious information and I’ll be attending to the event.

  19. Anne Herman says:

    Great article! I hear this kind of advice from other people I respect, too. I think it’s very smart– and it’s so much easier for me to practice. I hate elevator pitches, and I love connecting with people.

    I will be there.

    Anne Herman

  20. ac says:

    Networking tips…From the WSJ, May 14:

    Dipchand “Deep” Nishar, vice president of products at networking site LinkedIn Corp., doesn’t view online networking as something you do only when looking for a job.

    The 40-year-old spends about 15 minutes every morning reading his business contacts’ status updates and responding. To keep up his connections, he sends congratulatory notes to those who have received promotions, restaurant recommendations to those who have moved, contact suggestions to those who have changed jobs, and article links to those he thinks might be interested.

    About two to three times a month, he reads his social connections’ status and news updates and sends them similar kind or helpful notes. He also posts his own status updates weekly, sharing what he’s reading or a personal project he’s working on — sticking to topics he thinks his networks would be interested in.

    Keeping in touch in this way, Mr. Nishar says, helped him get his current job: His connections recommended him for the post before he even knew about it. “Your network is most valuable when you don’t need it,” he says.

    To get the most out of his networks, Mr. Nishar is picky about whom he lets in and ignores invitations that don’t make the cut. He restricts his LinkedIn network to professional contacts he knows well and would want to do business with. (Those he’s just met once or twice wouldn’t make the cut.)

    He limits his Facebook network to friends and social acquaintances. (Very few present or past coworkers can be found there.) All this eliminates the need to delete contacts down the road. “I try to keep my network unpolluted so I don’t have to sift through it later,” Mr. Nishar says.

    Mr. Nishar uses Facebook to stay up-to-date on the lives of those who want to share their videos and photos there — but he doesn’t include himself in that category. Seeking a greater degree of privacy, he posts his family photos and videos to Picasa and YouTube but makes them available only to those he invites to view them. With close friends, he keeps in touch by phone.

  21. Paul Suroteguh says:

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for sharing the article. I plan on attending the event.


  22. Mary Zandona says:

    Hi Paul,

    I will be at the event. Thanks for letting us know about it and encouraging our attendance.

    Mary Z

  23. Deborah says:

    I’ll be attending the event on 5/19.

  24. Shelly says:


    I’ll be attending the event. Thanks for the article.

  25. Mark Siebert says:

    RSVP on the Seattle Job Social site – check.
    Send Mike Michaels the resume he requested – check.

    – Are we all meeting there and going in as a group, or was there any intent to carpool there?

    – I am assuming from prior conversations that the schedule is 6 PM to around 9 PM. Yes?

  26. Jude says:

    I’ll be there. See you tomorrow!

  27. Mark C says:

    Assuming the invite comes through, I’ll be there.

  28. Joel Calvert says:

    Great article!!! Look forward to attending.

  29. Teresa B says:

    Thanks Paul. I’ll be at the event too. I already took you advice to heart and helped spread the word about a recruiting company to my fellow PMs…

  30. Won Chong says:

    Will be there. Thanks!

  31. Lisa says:

    Have sent my resume and RSVP to Seattle Job Social address. See you all at Twist tomorrow night!

  32. Paul,

    Great tips for being more a effective communicator. I am looking forward to attending! I will forward the invitation to my network.


  33. Daniel White says:

    “Building relationships is cumbersome; pitching someone isn’t. Therefore most candidates take the path of least resistant and pitch everyone they meet.”

    That’s not true for me. I hate job searching precisely because I always feel like such a phony whenever I have to make a “pitch.” I’m an introverted software developer, not an extroverted salesman, and I’d much rather get to know someone for real, one-on-one, than just try to sell myself. Just as I never remember the telemarketers who call me, I also never remember the recruiters that I only talk to long enough to give them my resume.

    This sounds like an ideal event. From what I can see, it looks like I won’t be expected to give pitches or hand out resumes; I’ll have three hours to spend relaxing and chatting with people (who might just happen to be or to know someone who needs a good software developer).

    The one thing I will do is have my entire stack of business cards in my pocket to give to anyone who is interested, and to have my other pocket empty and ready to fill with the business cards of others that I will want to speak with again!

  34. Luciellen Camelia says:

    I am very shy about meeting strangers and coming up with interesting things to say to start off a conversation. Because of this it is hard for people to initially see what kind of worker I am and the values that I can bring to a company. I’m going to attend all three of the seminars and the mixer with the hope that I might learn a way to get out of my shell.

    I truly hope I can!!!

  35. Carmela says:

    I empathize completely with Luciellen. I find it difficult to approach new people so I am looking forward to this event to practice my approach! If all of the people at the mixer are as friendly as those commenting above, Im sure this will be an excellent opportunity!

  36. Trish says:

    Hey Paul– Why dont you update your article and your comments?? 4 years old is a bit outdated- no matter how good the information may be… people look at the dates (2009) and immediately disregard your message because you have not maintained your website at all! Even your comments are ancient! The latest being Jan. 2012! Invest some energy into your communications– it pays off!