The Art of Networking to Hire: 5 Tips for Recruiting at MeetUps and Networking Events

When you’re a founder or startup executive every networking opportunity is a recruiting opportunity. Here’s how to make the most of them.

When it comes to building your team, the obvious first choice is to tap into your own network. But what happens when your network dries out and you don’t have any in-house recruiting/HR resources or a budget to utilize outside agencies? The truth is, building out a robust and reliable talent pipeline takes time, and while building out your team may be a top priority, if you’re a startup founder or executive, time is likely one of the things you just don’t have.
One suggestion: Start attending networking events as often as possible. Not only will they give you access to talent, they’re also great branding opportunities to get your name out in the community. Here are five steps you can take to ensure you make the most of the opportunities.

  1. Dive in. Don’t know where to start? Go to MeetUp.com and build a profile. Choose interests that align with your company and suggested MeetUps will start to flow. For example, your product ties to Drupal. Attend a Drupal MeetUp! Or your product is developed in JavaScript and you need some top-notch JS developers. Attend a JavaScript MeetUp!
  2. Don’t go to recruit, go to network. The recruiting will come naturally. The people you are targeting likely aren’t attending the event for the purpose of finding a job, anyway. With that in mind, you don’t want to come off too strong. Instead, engage in conversations around the work you both do and let the conversation flow naturally. If you are too aggressive, they will avoid you. On that note, even if you have a recruiting team or HR function, it is always best to send a peer or hiring manager to networking events. Attendees may avoid recruiters. A good way to temper your approach is to keep in mind that connections you make may result in a hire now or maybe a year or two down the line, and that’s fine (remember, you’re building a pipeline).
  3. Come prepared. First, bring business cards (obvious). Second, look through the members of the MeetUp (available on the site) or those attending the event (Eventbrite), and pick out 3-4 that seem interesting. Do your homework beforehand and then target those people to engage in conversation.
  4. Consider hosting an industry MeetUp or event. These groups are always looking for sponsors, whether hosting at your space (if possible), or simply providing some pizza and beer. Everyone attending the MeetUp will know your name and if you are able to host in your office, they will see the space! That’s great for attracting potential candidates and it comes at a minimal cost.
  5. Follow up! If you spoke with interesting people don’t forget about them the second you leave. If you got their contact information, send them an email. If you didn’t, connect with them on LinkedIn with a personalized message. Again, even if they aren’t actively looking for a new role now, staying in their network will ensure they think of you when they are ready to make a move.

Bottom Line

Networking is the best way to attract new employees when you have tight budget and time constraints. It’s something you should be doing anyway, so you may as well get some great hires from it!
Photo by: Tech Cocktail

Senior Talent Manager, Engineering

Meghan Maher is Senior Talent Manager, Engineering, actively recruiting top talent for OpenView and its Portfolio Companies. Her tech background has helped OpenView hire for nearly 20 IT and engineering positions. Meghan began her career at AVID Technical Resources, where she was a Technical Recruiter for two years.
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