To recruit the best talent or grow your business, ask your mother’s advice.

A graphical representation of real friends versus online friends

(This post originally appeared on

Yesterday, I received a job offer through a LinkedIn email message. My first thought was that it was a scam, but I was already connected to the person so that made me wonder, until I realized I’m connected to over 500 people on LinkedIn and I’ve never met more than half of them. We make so many connections and grow our network through social media that we forget who the connections are.

But that never happens in real relationships. I don’t forget someone that I’ve had lunch with, or shared birthday cake with. I remember those people and I foster our relationships, in the real world, by calling, by chatting, and by meeting up. I trust these people, and if I were looking for a new job, or to cultivate new business, I’d talk to them about it. TALK to them about it, I said. If I tried to reach out to them through LinkedIn, they would probably be confused, perhaps even offended.

As I think back through my career, I have been recruited and found jobs almost entirely through real connections (it should be mentioned that my longest standing job came through social media, but also involved more interviews than any previous job) Friends, old coworkers and even relatives have always given me the upper hand.

So, how do I take the 500 people in my LinkedIn “not real relationship” circle and transfer them into my “trusted friends” circle? It’s pretty easy once you dust off the lessons you were taught by your parents and school teachers as a child.

In order to be a good and well-adjusted citizen, our parents taught us manners, like sit up straight and don’t swear. Remembering those manners as others throw them out of the window can get you everywhere in business.

1. Look people in the eye… or ear… when you’re talking to them.

At SkillStorm, we work with people all over the country, so meeting face to face isn’t always possible, but a one-on-one real conversation cannot be beat.

Sure, you could text or IM, send a LinkedIn message or Tweet someone (and if you don’t have a phone number, these aren’t bad ways to start) but to build a relationship, you’ll eventually have to pick up the phone.

2. Don’t waste time.

We’re all busy. We all have ten telemarketers clamoring for our attention at any given moment. Get to the reason you are calling as soon as possible, but don’t forget the reason they should listen to you. That’s what sets you apart – the relationship is a two-way street.

If it’s a bad time for the person you’re calling, ask when a better time would be. If they are cold or rude, be understanding and warm. That’s how you turn a conversation around!

3. Don’t make presumptions.

I once had a telemarketer ask me what I did for New Year's Eve. My response was I don't want to talk about my New Years and the reply was, "Oh, why?" Don’t presume you are friends before you actually are. Don’t use smiley faces in your emails, try to friend them on Facebook, or use acronyms. You shouldn’t even presume you are pronouncing a name correctly. Ask the person how best to refer to them, and ask them how they like to be contacted.

And that brings us to…

4. Listen to others.

Ask questions and don’t interrupt. Validate by asking follow up questions. Always keep in mind whether this person would be a good fit for the position you’re looking to fill.

5. Make friends.

This is why you call instead of relying on email. You are building relationships. If someone is not interested in the job, or you realize they are not a good fit after chatting, maybe there’s some other way you can help each other.

Ask them what they’re looking for specifically and let them know you will ask your coworkers and friends if they have anything like that. Then ask if they have any friends that are also looking for new positions – now you’re building a circle of friends!

6. Be polite.

Thank your new friend for spending time chatting with you. Tell them what you’ll do next and when you will follow up. And then, just like the thank you cards our mothers taught us to write, follow up with an email. In your email, provide all of the ways they can contact you – now maybe they will look to friend you on Facebook and you can consider that the equivalent of a ten year old being invited to a classmate’s birthday party.


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