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The Network recruiting era is here

August 16, 2022

The way we build and structure businesses has changed radically over the past few decades. The rise of the startup has created a whole new model for business, challenging the traditional, siloed corporate structures that have been around for a century or more.

However, while businesses have changed, the way we recruit has remained the same in many ways. Many businesses still build their hiring process around old methods — building a funnel of candidates and aiming to connect with as many people as possible — with the help of new marketing technology and digital advertising techniques. These approaches are well-established but they also have many drawbacks, like higher costs and lower efficiency.

Meanwhile, competition for talent has been on the rise. In this new business landscape, we need new recruiting strategies. One of the newest and most exciting developments is called network recruiting — a new way of organizing your recruitment efforts that draws on the network of people around you instead of traditional outbound or inbound recruiting.

In this article, we’ll show you how network recruiting came to be, how it works, and what your company can gain from it. Let’s start by quickly looking at how recruiting has changed over the last couple of decades.

The evolution of recruiting

Inbound recruiting

As the internet grew into the mainstream, it quickly became populated with a host of platforms focused on recruiting. At this stage, recruiting platforms generally took an inbound approach — building large, comprehensive job boards and listings of career opportunities that job seekers could browse through and submit their applications. Some well-known examples are LinkedIn, Indeed, and AngelList. Social media sites like Facebook can also be useful platforms here.

In many ways this was revolutionary, allowing both recruiters and applicants to harness the power of the internet like never before and bringing the job search into the digital age. However, the inbound approach has its downsides. For example, you might spend $500 to list a job for a week, then spend a month reviewing 1200 applications, only to have a mere 25 applicants move to the final stage. Inbound recruiting is time-consuming, not very efficient, and requires a lot of work and resources.

Sifting through thousands of applications from all over the country or even the world — a great deal of which are entirely unsuitable for the job — demands enormous time commitments from companies. Inbound recruiting works for talent acquisition, but it’s not exactly efficient.

Outbound recruiting

As the flaws in inbound recruiting became apparent, a new generation of platforms rose up to offer an alternative. Tools like Gem, Seekout, Findem, and more represented an alternative way of online hiring, with recruiters and companies actively reaching out to people who may not necessarily even have been looking for a new job.

Outbound recruiting tools draw on a range of technologies like email marketing and automation to bring headhunting into the digital space. It’s a more proactive, aggressive approach to online recruiting, and in many cases, it works to add initially passive candidates to a pipeline.

However, outbound recruiting also has drawbacks. Recruiters have to spend a lot of their day reaching out to potential candidates, many of whom may not be interested in the job or be unsuitable for it.

Research by Gerry Crispin and Chris Hoyt from CareerXroads found that employers spend a vastly disproportionate amount of their budget on recruiters who chase passive candidates. Meanwhile, on average, companies fill only 11% of positions with individually targeted people.

There is space for a new approach — network recruiting.

Network recruiting

Relying solely on inbound recruiting is painstakingly slow, especially for startups without an established employer brand. It can be hard to get good-quality applications when you’re competing with much bigger and more well-known companies, and if you do get a good number of applicants it takes a long time to sort through them with a smaller team.

Outbound is also tricky, as it requires a level of resources and human resources that most startups just don’t have yet. It takes time, and it’s expensive, with mixed results as we’ve seen.

Network recruiting is emerging as a better option for many startups. The idea is to meet your staffing needs largely by relying on your network, harnessing tools that allow you to tap into the community of people around you.

What is Network recruiting?

Network recruiting is built on the idea that real, human networks are a company’s most valuable resource when it comes to hiring new talent. Existing outbound and inbound approaches to recruitment are impersonal and inefficient — their success depends on connecting with a vast number of people in the hope that a handful will be a good fit.

The Swarm is the Network Relationship Management (NRM) platform turning disparate individual connections into intelligent collective networks. Our initial focus is in helping early-stage companies combine and manage the connections of their team, advisors, and investors to find top talent faster. This application of NRM to recruiting is what we call network recruiting.

A network-based approach means you don’t have to invest huge amounts of time and resources into reaching as many candidates as humanly possible. Instead, you can leverage your personal network to reach the talent that’s already in your orbit. This has many unique benefits.

The benefits of Network recruiting

- It uses referrals from people you know. A key feature of network recruiting is that it relies on recommendations from people in your network — people you know and trust such as your team, investors, and advisors. This means the candidates referred to you are often much better suited to the company. In a way, it’s taking the best of the referral process without the labor-intensive part: having to repeatedly (and awkwardly) ask your people and personal network for referrals.

- It results in high-quality leads. Using your company’s network to recruit results in higher-quality, better-qualified candidates that are more likely to convert and have better retention rates when you do hire them.It saves money. Relying on your network can be an extremely cost-effective way to connect with candidates, and can be done much cheaper than posting ads on job boards or reaching out to thousands of passive candidates.

- It’s more human. Traditional inbound and outbound recruitment strategies are impersonal, often relying on a large quantity of connections over quality. Network recruiting, on the other hand, focuses on more personal and human connections, which tend to result in more productive and long-lasting relationships with candidates.

- It’s more inclusive. If your organization is aiming to be more diverse, inclusive, and equitable, global network recruiting is a great way to get there. Unlike inbound and outbound recruiting, which tend to automatically focus on specific demographics, with network recruiting you can consciously expand your hiring into more diverse networks. In other words, network recruiting can amplify your DEI strategy. If you make the effort to hire diverse people, you will access diverse networks. (The opposite is also possible here — and the risk of hiring a homogenous workforce if you don’t seek diverse candidates initially is real.)

The importance of the right tools

Implementing Network recruiting, and accessing its benefits, requires the right tools. At The Swarm, we’ve built a platform to help startups harness the power of their networks to drive recruiting forward in a more efficient, human-centered, and inclusive way.

To find out more and stay in the loop, sign up to our waitlist. And to learn more about network recruiting in general and what it means for businesses, check out our Network Recruiting During a Downturn event where our panel of experts dove into the concept and how you can benefit from it.