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How to build strong online relationships

Published: 29 June 2022

Author: Jenny Finch

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In the recruiting world, we know we have to network. It’s a big part of what we do. Without a network you have no jobs or talent with which to fill them. And much of how we build our networks has changed over the past decade or so, particularly the last couple of years, and we’ve become accustomed to building relationships in the virtual world. Many of them even stay there. Most of us probably have professional working relationships, and even friendships, with people we have never once met in person. We communicate through chat and video and find these relationships are fun, mutually beneficial, and rewarding. 

We meet people predominantly on social media. In a professional situation the most likely platform where this is happening is LinkedIn, but it can happen on any platform. 

Sometimes, however, building relationships in the virtual world can be a struggle. It can be difficult to get past initial pleasantries, we might drop the ball after one or two communications, misread someone’s tone as dismissive or disinterested, or misfire with our own communication style. But we still have to learn to do it. 

As recruiters, our networks should be broad and include a range of different types of people, but we also need to nurture those relationships individually, rather than just treating them like a collection of names and numbers on our social media profiles. Quality matters as much as quantity. 

So, how do we build quality relationships online? It takes confidence, effort, and kindness. 

Be confident
Take an always on approach
Be helpful and ask for help yourself
Step outside the professional zone and into the personal zone
Meet face to face - on video

These tips apply in a variety of situations, whether you’re a staffing firm hiring a recruiter, a recruiter looking for a position, or a recruiter looking to fill available positions.

Be confident

As you’re in the staffing and recruiting world, you already know this. But, for anyone new or considering a career in staffing and recruiting: confidence is key to meeting people both in real life and virtually. Many people are understandably shy about approaching strangers – what if your efforts fall flat and you’re rebuffed or ignored? – but there’s no space for that in recruiting. The confidence to put yourself out there is a requirement. Almost everyone wants to grow their network and make new friends and connections.

Take an always on approach

You must always be building and nurturing relationships, not just when you need or want something. People know when you’re only contacting them because you want something and they don’t like it. Once you make a connection, stay in touch. Even those of us who already know this tend to forget it. You don’t have to have weekly online hangouts, but do send the odd message that might contain an article of interest, comment on people’s posts and engage with them on their feeds and in their messages – without asking for anything. Then, when you’re interested in a role or want an introduction to a candidate, they think of you as a friend and not an opportunist.

Be helpful and ask for help yourself

People are always asking for help of one sort or another on social media platforms. If you can be of service, be of service. It might be as simple as sharing someone’s post asking for help finding a job, answering a question, or referring them to open positions you know about in your network. People who are always looking for ways to be genuinely helpful are well liked and remain top of mind when they need something. Also, ask other people for help and advice. It might seem counterintuitive but research suggests that asking makes people like you more. Benjamin Franklin famously said, “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged." It’s called the “Ben Franklin effect” and it works.  

Be a connector yourself. Become known as someone who is always ready to connect people to others in your network. Sharing your connections, rather than hoarding them (which some people do), adds value to other people’s lives, for which they will be grateful.

Step outside the professional zone and into the personal zone

Virtual written communication can make it really difficult to talk about anything other than the topic at hand. Conversation doesn’t tend to flow naturally from subject to subject, as it does in real life. This is less the case with video, but, as a lot of online communication is typed, you might have to create opportunities to connect on another level. While platforms like LinkedIn are always, first and foremost professional, sharing something personal can help cement relationships. If you’re messaging someone about a particular topic and the opportunity arises to throw in something about your life outside of work, try doing that. It might be a mention of your children or a life event, like “Sorry It took me a while to reply. I was at my daughter’s sports game.” This opens the door for the other party to  ask how old your daughter is or whether her team won, and to mention something about their own life. That being said, don’t get too personal or cross lines. Keep it professional and appropriate.

Meet face to face - on video

Attend video meetings when invited to them, turn your camera on. Or organize them yourself. Meeting face-to-face allows people to better communicate effectively by providing nonverbal cues, like facial expressions, mitigating the aforementioned risk of miscommunication in written text. It allows you to put a real face and personality to a name, to take the conversation in different directions, and to laugh and smile (laugh emojis and LOLs don’t count). It allows us to demonstrate active listening and get a better sense of the other person. And it shows that we are generous with our time and willing to share it with the other person. We’ve all heard of Zoom fatigue by now, so you don’t want to overdo it, but meeting face to face helps build strong relationships. 

Finally, think before you send messages to new friends and connections and read them to be sure they cannot be misconstrued. Are all those CAPS necessary? Remember that a lot of communication is nonverbal and is transmitted through tone, body language, and facial expressions, and that you don’t have that in writing.  

Always be mindful of how you communicate.

At Raymond George Consultancy, we pride ourselves on the strength of our relationships. Wherever possible, we try to have face to face interviews or meetings for all of the reasons mentioned above. This is how we get an excellent sense of both the candidates and clients we represent. A distinct advantage to you if you are looking for a new role or a new hire. We do the networking for you. Get in touch to talk about how we can help you!

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