Psst! Want to Know a Secret

Would you like to save yourself some time, effort and money?

Of course, you would.

Read on.

I’ve been a headhunter for a very long time. My first project was in 1991. That’s 28 years ago. So I must know some stuff. I mean, I really can’t help it.

All trades have not so much “secrets” as “know-how”. Pro-fishermen know that you never put your fingers through a net on deck, pro-cyclists understand that your shades always go over the top of your helmet straps and pro-clockmakers understand that the first thing you do is let down the power on the mainspring. These things aren’t exactly about degrees, lodges and handshakes, but they are the mark of professionals. They’re all the sort of thing that as an outsider you can choose to ignore, but that will eventually come back and bite you if you try and do these things as an amateur.

Now, you are unlikely to lose fingers or need stitches as a headhunter no matter how maladroit you are. However, while your physical body may be at little risk, your ego will take a 7th dan battering more or less daily until you’ve had a few years in. Even now the old ego still takes an unexpected boot in the crotch from time to time as my best-laid plans disintegrate in the face of cold hard reality.

I’ve been around long enough to have been an early adopter of most stuff on the internet that might be helpful to what I do. I started with Google in 2000; I was a LinkedIn user before I was a Facebook user (2003 and 2007, respectively), and I was creating hostages to fortune on Twitter by 2010.

Initially, Google was the game changer in search. Even nearly 20 years ago, there were enough company press releases, stories about companies, blogs and indexed publications to revolutionise the act of searching. You could even find phone numbers and email addresses because nobody realised that everyone could see that you’d done the Galway Half Marathon and that the organisers had helpfully shared everyone’s mobile phone number and email address.

It was LinkedIn though that had the long-lasting effect. It’s quite funny now, but in the early noughties there were old established headhunters that cleaved to a sort of Arts and Crafts version of reality in which not using LinkedIn was seen as a badge of honour. As if they were raising organic, grain fed candidates by doing things the old fashioned way (going to school with a bunch of people and keeping in touch with them via the medium of wine bars). I saw it as a bit of a threat at first. Many CEO’s assumed that now everyone was on an open source database getting people to work for their hard to get business on an industrial estate in Belgium would be something that they could likely do themselves over a quiet afternoon. Actually there’s a subset of CEO’s that still do this. One assumes that they do their own accounts and assemble most of the company product themselves).

Anyway, I digress. I told you that I was going to save you some effort and money a few paragraphs back.

Would you like to save yourself some time, effort and money?

Of course, you would.

Read on.

I’ve been a headhunter for a very long time.

My first retained project was in 1991.

That’s 28 years ago. So I must know some stuff. I mean, I really can’t help it.

All trades have not so much “secrets” as “know-how”. Pro-fishermen know that you never put your fingers through a net on deck, pro-cyclists understand that your shades always go over the top of your helmet straps and pro-clockmakers understand that the first thing you do is let down the power on the mainspring. These things aren’t exactly about degrees, lodges and handshakes, but they are the mark of professionals. They’re all the sort of thing that as an outsider you can choose to ignore, but that will eventually come back and bite you if you try and do these things as an amateur.

Now, you are unlikely to lose fingers or need stitches as a headhunter no matter how maladroit you are. However, while your physical body may be at little risk, your ego will take a 7th dan battering more or less daily until you’ve had a few years in. Even now the old ego still takes an unexpected boot in the crotch from time to time as my best-laid plans disintegrate in the face of cold hard reality.

I’ve been around long enough to have been an early adopter of most stuff on the internet that might be helpful to what I do. I started with Google in 2000; I was a LinkedIn user before I was a Facebook user (2003 and 2007, respectively), and I was creating hostages to fortune on Twitter by 2010.

Initially, Google was the game changer in search. Even nearly 20 years ago, there were enough company press releases, stories about companies, blogs and indexed publications to revolutionise the act of searching. You could even find phone numbers and email addresses because nobody realised that everyone could see that you’d done the Galway Half Marathon and that the organisers had helpfully shared everyone’s mobile phone number and email address.

It was LinkedIn though that had the long-lasting effect. It’s quite funny now, but in the early noughties there were old established headhunters that cleaved to a sort of Arts and Craft version of reality in which not using LinkedIn was seen as a badge of honour. As if they were raising organic, grain fed candidates by doing things the old fashioned way (going to school with a bunch of people and keeping in touch with them via the medium of wine bars). I saw it as a bit of a threat at first. Many CEO’s assumed that now everyone was on an open source database getting people to work for their hard to get to business on a grimy industrial estate in Belgium would be something that they could likely do themselves over a quiet afternoon. (Actually, there’s a subset of CEO’s that still do this. One assumes that they do their own accounts and assemble most of the company product themselves).

Anyway, I digress. I told you that I was going to save you some effort and money a few paragraphs back.

So the thing about LinkedIn like any tool is that you can use it as a pro or can use it as an amateur. I know how my bike works, I have a set of tools so I can fix my bike, yes? Well no. You can save on a £20 visit to the bike shop by adjusting your own mech and then you can have your chain skip off the cassette, jam your wheel and remove £200 worth of rear mech, £50 worth of drop out, crack a seat stay (£500) and destroy your favourite bib shorts (£175) and a portion of your dermal layer (priceless). 

In 15 years, I’ve developed a bunch of ways of using LinkedIn that aren’t on the manufacturer’s instructions. Lots of other search consultants have too. As with the Magic Circle, we tend not to talk about them. I’ve attended three seminars on, “how to use LinkedIn” and none of my hacks and workarounds has appeared in any of them. It may be that my hacks are rubbish, but I’m not about to compare notes with the competition.

However, today, because I like you, I’m going to give a simple one away that will actually help you. If you already know it, well done. If you don’t, mine’s a pint and feel free to share this article.

Here it is.

You know how you have a group of connections on LinkedIn? Of course you do. Now, let’s imagine that you want to appoint an external resource to do something. Perhaps you need a new member of the team, and that ad on your website just isn’t working.

Here you go then. Imagine your LinkedIn connections as being contained in one happy Venn diagram set. Now, look at the list of people who have been recommended to do whatever it is you want to do, like find your next COO. Okay, so bring them up on LinkedIn and see how many connections you have in common with them. Basically how much does their Venn diagram set overlap with yours? The more significant the overlap – that is, the more connections they have in common with you – the more likely they are to understand the issues that you have. If nothing else you can make sure that you don’t have to do IVD, Aerospace or Well Engineering 101 when you lift the phone to them. The absolute number of connections the person you’re reviewing has doesn’t matter – your connections are the constant value in this which makes it difficult for someone with vast amounts of random connections to spoof the test because they won’t overlap with yours.

There you are then. Time and money saved. Pint earned.

Ivor Campbell
Posted on: 27th May 2019 by Ivor Campbell

Into his fourth decade of search Ivor has a voice with stories to tell, observations to make and the odd picture to share. Mostly related to the day job.

Snedden Campbell Ltd
28 Vorlich Crescent, Callander
FK17 8JE

+44 [0] 1877 330 495
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