When it comes down to a final decision between two highly qualified and accomplished candidates applying for the same executive position, what is the deciding factor? Is your network the tipping point?
A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed as a reference for a former business partner whom I greatly admire. The recruiter was articulate and asked excellent questions, which I knew would reveal exactly what he wanted to find out. The exchange was enjoyable and upbeat, and I was pleasantly surprised that the recruiter’s client was not looking to maintain the status quo but embark on a journey to bring their relatively young organization to the next level. I could only think my former partner would be an ideal candidate; however the recruiter mentioned that they had two candidates, both equally suitable for the position. Although both were highly qualified, they were quite different.
This got me to thinking that if I were the decision maker in this scenario, what would be the deciding factor for me; what would be the tipping point for me to decide for one candidate over the other, given that just about everything else was equal in terms of potential?
Is Your Net Working?
Today with “networking tools” and “social networks” we can build the net of trust much faster than 20 years ago when I interviewed Anne Boe for a TV pilot “Women Mean Business”. Anne, author of “Is Your Net Working”, said, and funny how I remember this; “It takes 10 years to build a productive working network”. But of course, that was in the days before ‘online’ was an integral part of our lives, including social media and professional networks like Linkedin. So, why focus on a network in the first place?
Networks evolve to further a need or shared purpose between individuals. This can include knowledge, information sharing or help to advance personal or professional/business goals. You get there faster by having a productive network.
Give and Get
Networks that work are populated by individuals who understand reciprocity; you give and you get. Only when it’s a two-way flow do networks work!
Two-Way trusted relationship
The quality of people is key to the success of the network. This does not mean that you should just search out the rich and the famous for your network but you should concentrate on those who have authority in their area of expertise or influence, and can make decisions. It’s more than just a list of decision makers, its individuals with whom you have a trusted relationship and who are willing to make decisions on your behalf; and the key is where this feeling is mutual. You would gladly do the same for the members of your network.
Networks rely on the quality of the relationships developed between the individuals that constitute the network. It takes time to establish trust and respect. How much time depends on what you put into it; networks don’t just happen.
A network is a personal thing, based on a two-way trust, so it is not something which is transferable from one person to another, and it is not something that is attached to a position/title. It is a valuable asset created by and belonging to an individual.
The Tipping Point
If two candidates are running neck and neck, I want to know about their support networks.
Does the network consist of the company president, local politico or social media guru, big names, big titles, big influencers – but when it comes down to actual engagement these “famous” people are not interested in what they can do for others…..only what others can do for them? This is not the type of network which will support and produce results for my candidate!
Has the network ceased to be productive, or even become obsolete? Some networks deteriorate over time. Is the network still relevant? I recently spoke with a high powered business consultant who had used her Facebook network of 5K successfully for four years, and then suddenly it no longer produced results….. the “why” is a subject for another post, however when interviewing your candidate make sure their network is alive and well.
Networks grow organically, and need care and feeding. Very quickly you can spot when there is no real engagement on online social and professional networks, but this is harder to detect where engagement is offline. Questions about challenges and problems solved by engaging with network members can quickly get a sense of the people in the network, their reach, and the reciprocal ingredient of “trust”.
“Oh, he’s a great networker, a real social butterfly on social networks or at a cocktail party, but there is no follow-up of substance; no evolution of the relationship to develop into something productive”. When I first joined twitter, before following someone I’d check who was following them and who did they follow! This is often quite revealing (and time consuming I might add)! Today, I gauge people by their conversation and engagement on a Twitter chat, and when the opportunity arises, we move our conversation to a longer format. Lunch is of course my personal favorite for bringing the relationship to the next level of trust!
The old cliché “it’s not what you know, but who you know” had relevance in the past, today it’s both; sharing the ‘what you know’ to build a relevant network of ‘who you know’……
A strong network can be one of your biggest assets when starting up the career ladder or when taking on a new position. I’d like to think that those who are recruiting talent today take this into consideration, especially when it might be the tipping point.