While the service executive recruiters provide continues to be valuable and important, increasingly these services are being used in very specialized and mission-critical situations rather than for broad scale, general, rank and file recruiting.

In a recent study, LinkedIn estimated over 85% of available positions are filled via networking. Granted, I’m sure this includes networking with recruiters and a recruiters use of LinkedIn, but the fact is that a large percentage of positions are filled without the assistance of an outside executive recruiter. There are several reasons for this, including the growth of social media, the increased use of in-house recruiters, the general tightening of SG&A/HR budgets–and the fact that networking is becoming an everyday part of most people’s professional lives.

I don’t think there is anyone I’ve talked with in the last several years who has not acknowledged the importance of networking to a position search, usually as a result of letting their network go and then finding themselves in a situation when they need it fir their next position. Most people go through that experience once and then promise themselves “I will never let that happen to me again.”

The reality is you don’t know how an opportunity for your next position will come to you. So, it is in that spirit that I offer these tips which may be helpful.

One of the first things executive recruiters do when we kick off a new search assignment is to develop a Search Strategy. Once we complete the Recruitment Profile (aka Job Description) and identify target companies, we conduct a thorough study to identify those individuals within a target company who should be approached for the position. Our networking takes advantage of relationships we have built with people who are willing to help us understand industry sector dynamics and further identify companies and provide direct recommendations of candidates with strong records of performance.

This same concept of a Search Strategy can be utilized on the candidate-side, too. An effective strategy for the next position search can help any active or passive candidate more deliberately and efficiently think about the industries, position, and even specific companies that may be able to best utilize their talent and experience. In addition to the requisite to-do list that most any candidate follows when beginning your next position search, I often recommend the following:

Take Advantage of Your Personal Network (which is bigger than you think).

Develop a list of 25-50 names (more or less) of people you know. This can include former colleagues at a company, suppliers, customers, and just plain friends and family. While I would not include any strangers, this list does not need to be limited to your “A” relationships, those you are frequently in touch with. We’ve all let relationships lapse, but there is never a bad time to try and revive an old relationship.

Develop a List of Target Companies. It makes no difference if you know someone at the company or not. This is a list of companies you feel you may want to work for. Divide the list into three baskets:

  • The first is for companies in which you know someone well.
  • The next, in which you may not know someone well, but you at least have a name.
  • And the last basket in which there are no relationships.

Then, begin your networking and approaches just as you would with your personal network.

This works because I hear success story after success story. While the current market is improving, it is still choppy. Years ago, you could sit back and wait for the opportunities to come to you when you were on a position search. In today’s market however, while some opportunities may still find you, you will increasingly need to go to the opportunity versus waiting for it to come to you. still find you, you will increasingly need to go to the opportunity versus waiting for it to come to you.