Blink Relationships

This article was originally published here

By Peter Weddle for BioSpace

Someone once said that recruiting is a “contact sport.” The statement implies that success is simply a matter of connecting with the right people. If recruiting were that easy, however, we’d all be sitting on a beach somewhere drinking pina coladas. The reality, of course, is that contacts are only the first step. It’s the relationship which follows those contacts that determines whether or not we’ll hire top talent.

Now, don’t misunderstand. I am very respectful of how hard it is to find “A” level performers. The proliferation of sources – both online and in the real world – means that there’s now no single venue which can provide a sufficient number of contacts to meet our recruiting needs.

That said, we undercut our yield (and thus our ultimate success) when we focus the majority of our time and effort on making contacts. Those connections are simply a prelude. They open the door, but they do not deliver talent – especially the best talent – to our recruiting process.


Because the best talent are almost always employed. To recruit them, therefore, we have to convince them to change devils. We have to persuade them to move from the devil they know – their current employer, boss and commute – to the devil they don’t know – a new employer, boss and commute.

You can’t do that by simply contacting someone. You have to persuade them. And, persuasion requires that we build two kinds of bonds with candidates: familiarity and trust.

• Familiarity because the best talent listened to their mother. What was the first lesson she taught you? That’s right. Don’t speak to strangers.
• Trust because the best talent are risk averse. They are already employed so they have something to lose by talking to a recruiter.

Those two bonds are the pillars of a meaningful relationship. And, as anyone who’s ever been in a relationship knows, they typically take time to develop. Which is a problem for recruiters. We don’t have time. We have openings to fill today.

So, what’s the answer? Blink relationships. The process of building familiarity and trust in the blink of an eye.

How to Blink in Recruiting

Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink focused on human decision making. He argued that – contrary to conventional wisdom – we make some of our best decisions very quickly. We cut through the blizzard of details and focus on just what we need to know to set our course.

Similarly, we can build some of our best relationships in the blink of an eye. It’s done by focusing our communications on just what the best talent wants to know. Or, to put it another way, once we make a contact, we have to message like a headhunter. Here’s what I mean.

Your email to a high caliber contact is not a corporate memo or a job posting with a cover message. It is an invitation to talk about a career advancement opportunity that you’re sending to a person who doesn’t really want to change devils. They have the attention span of a gnat and, in most cases, will see your communication as an interruption in their business day.

So, how should you structure your message?

Write informally, but professionally. Don’t compose the message as a Facebook post to your friends or as a memo to the CEO. Think of it, instead, as a communication written in business casual.

To achieve that feel, compose your messages with the three Ps. Make them:
• Personal, so the recipient can tell they were written by a human and not a machine – the foundation for familiarity.
• Pleasant, so the recipient sees you as a genuine and thoughtful person – the foundation for trust. and
• Polite, so the recipient recognizes that you respect them and value their talent.

Now, of course, the actual content of your message will be shaped by the opportunity you have to offer. However, make sure you adhere to the Golden Rule of Blink Relationships. Flattery first. Facts second.

Just as a headhunter does:

• Begin by explaining how you found them (e.g., through their LinkedIn profile, their resume on a job board, a referral from their peer)
• Then, move on quickly to tell them why you contacted them with some version of the following statement; “I believe you may be the intergalactic best prospect for an opening I am recruiting to fill.”
• Next, because they are risk averse, reassure them that your interaction will be kept strictly confidential.
• And finally, describe the opportunity for which you contacted them.

That kind of messaging can persuade even the most passive prospect to change devils. You establish familiarity by treating them as a fellow professional. You earn their trust by treating them the way you would like to be treated online. And, you show them respect by offering them a position in which they can continue to excel. In short, you build a relationship in the blink of an eye.

Thanks for reading,
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Peter Weddle is the author of over two dozen employment-related books, including the recently released blockbuster The Career Activist Republic and Work Strong, Your Personal Career Fitness System, one of the most innovative career success books in print. Both are available at

© Copyright 2011 WEDDLE’s LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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