Monday, April 21, 2008

Follow up to Building a Linkedin Network.

I was asked a few questions so here is the follow up.
1) When is it big enough? Dunno haven't found out yet, I certainly do not see any downside from have a huge network. We find tons of candidates off Linked in every day. As HTC is a research firm it has become extremely valuable to us. I can't/won't day exactly how many candidates per week we are getting from Linkedin but I can tell you it is significantly more than it was a year ago. We have completely revamped our search processes internally in the past 6 months. We have found it to be much more cost effective to first locate a canddiate or two (Manager let's say) on Linkedin and the pull the group via phone or check a candidates profile before phone screening for a specific client. I can't say it's replaced any of my other techniques but I can say it's augmented them and made them much more efficient. But Linkedin isn't perfect either. There is a lot of "bad" and "old" information on there. Linkedin may make a better financial model for a research firm as opposed to a recruiting firm or staffing department. Also ,we just don't sell the names we find off Linkedin, we actually use it as a starting point, an easier way to get additional names out of the target.

2) It take about 5 hours a week to manage. I don't actually search for candidates as I have a team of people doing that. I did not pay for Linkedin until I needed another way to add connections. In March I purchased the 1 year subscription so I can add people using inmail and referrals etc. up until then I did it all for free so the ROI was infinite. Even with the paid subscription at $400 a year it paid for itself in the first hour after I bought the subscription.

3) I joined Linkedin about 4-5 years ago and did nothing until Sept 2007. Up to that point I think I had about 100 first level contacts, so a majority of my network has been added since the beginning of the new year. At the end of Dec 2007 I had about 2000 first levels and today I have 4300. Everyone's network will be different but at 1000 I had 2.5 million total, at 2000 I had 6 million, at 3000 approx 8.5 million, and at 4300 as of this am I have about 10,390,000.

I think the rest of your post really revolves around whether you should spend the time to build it or not. Will Linkedin implode? Will you loose value in connecting your candidates to your clients to your vendors? I worried about the same thing at first and then realized it was a moot argument at this point. One can not predict what will happen in the future but I know my company has benefited tremendously from having access to the information on Linkedin and next we're going to conquer Facebook and Myspace and on and on. Should you build your network? Overwhelmingly my answer would be Yes. Why cause the risk of not building and being left behind is too great, because my network also grows and we're connected on our first levels:-) and because it's a great resource of previously unavailable information that grow exponentially every month. By not building your network do you think that will stop your clients and candidates from connecting to others the only thing you'll do is loose contact with them. I could go on and on with examples but suffice it to say in my opinion as far as social networking goes, if you're not riding the wave now you'll be sucking on foam later on down the road:-) And if you only add 25-50 new connections a week that's still a HUGE network after 1 year!

Jeff Weidner
HTC Research Corp

Friday, April 18, 2008

How to build up your Linkedin network

OK I've been getting a ton of people asking me how I built my network on Linkedin up to 4200+. I thought I would share some of my secrets on how I'm getting so many (which is relative) invites (about 100-150 per week). Though I didn't realize they were secrets.

So here's my basic routine.

I started a group on Linkedin called CPD-Candidate Pipeline Development (TM)
This is linked to the HTC Research Blog located here which doesn't have that many readers as I'm not a prolific blogger but this get's me approx 30 requests per day M-F and about 10 per day on Sat and Sunday. Every request I send an email to thanking them for joining the group and recommending that they connect by sending me an invite. Of the 170 requests per week I'm getting about a 70%-80% positive response rate and those that don't send me an invite it's usually because they are out of invites so they ask me to send one to them, which I do.

I recommend either starting a blog on a free blogging site or a web site on and adding some content focused around the group you want to start. You can't/shouldn't just start a group for the sake of starting a group to get more connections. My opinion is you have to add value, so keep that in mind.

I joined other groups. This suggestion came from Steve Burda who I think has over 10K first level connections.
I'm joined up to a lot of groups (about 300+)and I try to add something to each group I've joined. I may not read or post every month to every group but I do make an effort. I estimate I get about 10 invites a day (tough to track) from group member invites. I'm basing this on what people say in their invite requests such as "Hey Jeff saw you just joined the ____group and I'de like to connect"

I utilize the Q&A section appropriately.
Ask relevant questions not transparent ones!

A relevant question is a serious question that you really need the answer to. For example we are putting together a training DVD and I needed some legal advice so I would know the right questions to ask an attorney before spending the $250 per hour or whatever so I asked a specific question to the Legal group and of course I mentioned I was an open networker and here's my email address. Or I had a specific question about content delivery and what format people would prefer, web, dvd, cd etc or we're looking at moving our blog site from blogspot to a different service so I wanted some advice on that. All legit reasons and questions I actually needed the answers to and the people who answered were really quite helpful.

A transparent question is one that was specifically posted to promote you or your company. It's one where it is so blatantly obvious that the only reason you posted it was to advertise something. Personally, I've chosen to just ignore those types of questions and they range from; "What is the meaning of life?" or "What's your favorite season and Why?" to "Are strawberries the only fruit with seeds on the outside?" I used to hit my head against the wall every time I saw a question like this but I was getting too many lumps.:-)

Answer questions.
I find it easier to ask relavent questions rather than answering them and I've found that I get more invites when asking rather than answering.
A) you can ask a question on just about any topic and make it legit and relavent.
b) very tough to answer a question where you don't know squat and make it legit and self promoting.

Asking and answering questions also helps me build my blog site. It gets my creative writing juices going and if I find a question particulary interesting I sometimes choose to write a response to myself to see what my actual thoughts are. Sometimes I post to my bog site, sometimes I just hit delete. What the heck, it's only digital ink and paper it's not like I killed a tree or something.

I highly recommend joing the following three immediately (and sending me an invite)
Invite Me Network

NEXT talk with other Top networkers and ask them what they did. I'm all about ease and automation, I'm not about to slog through hundreds, thousand of names on Linkedin to find the ones that are open networkers, have a valid email address in their profile and are not already on my first level. Nothing, in my mind could be more tedious! I've got better things to do as I'm trying to run a Research firm in my spare time while not building a Linkedin network ;-) Seriously though I spend about 5 hours a week on Linkedin and the benefits have been enormous. So thanks Linkedin!

I have 4-5 more things I do but this post is getting long and I've got stuff to do so I'll post more later.

Jeff Weidner
HTC Research

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Data Extraction Tools; High Tech Theft or Sourcing Automation ?

An internet sourcer friend of mine and were talking and he was telling me that his employer, a large recruiting and RPO company, routinely uses a data extraction tool on some of the biggest resume job boards to pull down 10's of thousands of resumes every night. Now, I have no way of confirming this so I'll keep Company names out of the conversation but where is the line in the sand for these data extraction tools?

For those of you that aren't familiar with DE tools, imagine if you could program a piece of software to do the following;
1) Log into your favorite job board
2) perform specific searches for candidate resumes
3) Follow the link to each individual's resume
4) compare that resume/name/address/phone against other resumes you already have in your ATS
5) if it's not a duplicate then create a new candidate file and save the file

It's a way of automating the whole process.

Now imagine if you had 20 subscriptions and could pull 10,000 resumes per subscription per night. As you can imagine it wouldn't take long for you to have the entire job board database.

Now I'm certainly not advocating the use of DE Tools in this manner. It is blatantly wrong, IMO, to strip a company of it's most valued asset; that being the data it creates/supplies.

But putting that scenario aside. What if you used it on a more limited basis say on Linkedin. As anyone with a Linkedin account knows it's damn near impossible to extract Name, Address, Company name and a profile address out of Linked in. Try copying the info into MS Word and you get all the graphics, MSExcel- ugh nothing is formatted, notepad and forget about it completed unformatted mess. But the DE tool could can the search results of every page and extract only the information you needed/wanted and put it into an Excel Spreadsheet format making it easier to verify the information and manipulate the information by sorting the columns, do a global replace of a title or company name, etc.

So where is that "Line in the Sand" for Data Extraction Tools?
Are we as Internet Researchers solely responsible for their use/mis-use or are the Internet sites solely responsible for protecting their data?
How it is different from Google spidering a web site and cataloging the web pages a site, so they can sort for relevancy claiming it adds more value to their service and then sell advertising (a lot of advertising).
And you can't say "Well as long as you use it in a limited fashion." Define Limited. What you define as limited as a single research working from a Home Office may not meet a Corp Staffing Mgr's definition of Limited that has to keep 50 recruiters flush with names to call every day.

Jeff Weidner

Title HTC Research Corp