Job Search: Which LinkedIn Connections Are Most Valuable

IT director Henry Hirschel has identified three kinds of LinkedIn connections, and of the three, which one is the most helpful and responsive in a job search.

On Tuesday I received an e-mail from Henry Hirschel, an IT director I've interviewed for job search stories over the years. 

Hirschel is one of these IT professionals who loves analyzing data. When he was looking for a job in 2009, he began studying traffic to his blog, professional Website and LinkedIn profile in order to identify who's visiting his Websites and whether any of the visitors arrived in response to a resume he sent.

His traffic analysis turned out to be a useful tool that any job seeker with a professional Website and LinkedIn profile can use to gauge the effectiveness of his or her job search activities. (You can read about his traffic analysis in the article, Job Search Tips: How to Find Out If Hiring Managers Are Checking You Out.)

Hirschel's back on the hunt for a new job, as his most recent employer, NextG Networks, is moving its operationsheadquartersto Boston. Hirschel, who lives in Silicon Valleyoutside of Oakland, Calif., doesn't want to relocate. As much as I love Boston, I can't blame him.

In the process of searching for his next job, Hirschel analyzed more data (this time, about his networking contacts) and uncovered new job search insights that might help other job seekers.

First, Hirschel identified three categories of LinkedIn connections: Collectors, Selectors and Friends.

Collectors are people in your network with huge networks of their own. Their M.O. is connecting with as many people as possible. You may not know the collectors in your network very well, or even at all, but you've accepted their invitation to connect (or sent one to them) thinking that someday you might need to call on these individuals.

Selectors, according to Hirschel, are people you generally know professionally. They may be peers, business associates, direct reports, managers, college alumni or individuals you met at a conference. What distinguishes selectors is that you shared an experience with them, such as work on a project or attendance at a trade show. Hirschel writes on his blog that selectors remember you because of that shared experience.

Friends, of course, are people you know socially, informally.

Having identified these three kinds of contacts, Hirschel then sent an e-mail to 400 people in his LinkedIn network to let them know he's looking for a new job and to clue them in on the role he's seeking.

The responses he received to his e-mail indicated which of those three categories of contacts are most helpful in a job search. Notably, for Hirschel, selectors turned out to be most responsive. Of the 400 e-mails he sent, 78 people responded with words of support or specific recommendations—a 19.5 percent response rate. Hirschel writes that selectors responded with the highest percentage--80 to 85 percent by his estimate: 

[The] Selector category remembered me because of a common experience that connected past work history, personality, or a shared experience. Friends had the second highest response rate because they wanted to help in any way possible. Connections from the collector category provided very few responses to my email.

Hirschel advises fellow job seekers to determine which of their LinkedIn networking contacts falls into each category. When you're looking for people to contact, target selectors and friends to improve your odds of getting a helpful response. (To determine whether your network will help or hamper your job search, read Effective Networking: Assumptions About Your Contacts Can Hinder Your Job Search.)

He also recommends growing your network of selectors. "Whenever you have a good experience with a colleague, invite them to LinkIn with you," he writes on his blog. They will be likely to remember you in the future because of the experience you shared together. And because they remember you in a positive light, adds Hirschel, "they will be your strongest advocates if you need assistance looking for a new opportunity.

Author's Note: I updated this blog entry at 1:15 PM on Thursday, September 8, with some new information from Hirschel.

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