The INSEAD “On Campus Recruitment” (OCR) period is approaching and I find myself asking, who of the students will be the most successful in finding their dream jobs? I recently just had my one-year anniversary at INSEAD and I have met many types of students with different thoughts on networking. There are those who come and ask for all my contacts; those who will only ask what companies will be attending OCR and those who ask, “What company will hire someone with my background?” Then there are the students who simply cannot bring themselves to click “connect” on LinkedIn without having been formerly introduced or worse yet, without meeting them in person. Usually these behaviors are corrected quite quickly and it is the students who make those corrections the fastest who are the most successful.
When employer engagement team members meet with students we are most interested in seeing and discussing their URLs, (unique recruiter list). This is a list of companies a student is interested in working for, or learning more about. It should be long enough that it offers plenty of choice, with a plan A, plan B and possibly even a plan C. It should be unique to each student, but we always see the same companies appear over and over again, the Googles and Teslas of this world. Not that this is a bad thing, as long as there is an understanding that these companies are ultra-competitive and having INSEAD on your resume does not guarantee success.
Once this URL is in place, I look for who they have met within these companies or previously engaged with these companies (former employees, partners, etc.). The trend I see is as follows: The Indian students will speak to Indian employees, the French will speak to the French and so on and so on. . . .It’s great to have a common ground but it will not always bear fruit so every student needs to dig a little deeper. Step outside your comfort zone. Another trend is speaking to recent INSEAD alumni. It is always good to do this; however; many recent alumni are not yet in a position to make hiring decisions. They are great for helping with interview preparation and finding out who to connect with, but for really understanding what problems the company is trying to solve you may want to speak with someone more senior.
There seems to be a big fear to network at the high level (CXO, Managing Director, Head of Function) in organizations, even if it is with alumni. This is the fatal error to most students’ job searches. In response, my question is always the same. Whether it is just to connect or to send an InMail or even a direct message via LinkedIn, what’s the worst that can happen? The contact may ignore your request or email but that is it. No one will bite you for showing an interest in working for his or her company.
Now imagine what is the best that can happen…The CEO knows that the Head of Sales or the CFO is looking for budget to hire a senior person in the next 3-6 months. They may be budgeting for a hefty recruiter fee as part of the recruitment. Now all of a sudden they are speaking to someone who has 6+ years experience with an MBA from INSEAD who has reached out directly. No need to go to market and advertise the job. For the student, no competition from hundreds of similar profiles and best of all, no recruiter fee equals potentially a higher budget for salary/bonus.
Surely this doesn’t actually happen though? It does, it has, and it really doesn’t take much to be successful at it. It is realizing that LinkedIn is not Facebook. You do not need to be someone’s friend to connect with them. In fact, for situations like described above you are actually doing them a favor by connecting. When you consider that only 25% of all jobs actually end up on a jobs board or at a jobs fair, what do you think you are doing to your chances of landing the top jobs by not getting into that mix early and often?
Start with the CEO and work down. Your entire URL should be populated not just with companies but with the senior people you are already connected to within these companies. Keep visible and active on LinkedIn and share appropriate content regularly. You’ll be surprised who reads it and when. Most people don’t realize that Sunday evening is when many CEOs will be most active on LinkedIn preparing for the week ahead from home. Midweek, most senior people will use it between the hours of 8-9.30am, 12-1pm and 4-5pm. These are the times when your messages and content will be most easily seen by your targets and you get to build your own personal brand on LinkedIn.
In summary, a little time invested in growing your network at the right level will pay huge dividends in your future job search. I have seen countless examples of those who were doing it the wrong way, made the correction and then started to see the rewards. They changed industries, geographies and/or functions to find their perfect job. Some even increased their salary in the process which, when entering a completely different role from your previous job is a great achievement. I guess it’s all about who you know.
Now, I know what you should be doing Sunday night. Do you?
Fergus Kennedy is a member of the Employer Engagement team in the Career Development Centre in INSEAD covering the Energy and Industrial sectors. He has worked in the talent management space in Asia for almost 8 years.