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Why CEOs Prefer Old-Fashioned Networking When Hiring

Want top-notch hiring advice? Sometimes the best source is at the top of your organization. I spoke with several C-level executives, and every one said their peer network is their first stop when seeking top talent. And overwhelmingly, those networks are tapped the old-fashioned way--not via LinkedIn.

"My preferred route is network first, because of speed, cost and confidence in the decision," says Mark Turner, CEO of WSFS Bank, one of the oldest continuously operating financial institutions in the nation. "I personally don't use social media, primarily because traditional networking is so much stronger, and the costs of social media in terms of increased time burden have outweighed any benefits."

But when it comes to hiring very high-level executives, Turner leaves no stone unturned. To make sure he's getting a diverse talent pool and seeing the best candidates, Turner will consider running a tandem search with help from an executive search firm. "Network referrals tend to reflect the demographics of what you already have," he says.

For Robert Zecca, cultural fit is critical. The former president and CEO of Content Data Solutions, a software systems integration company, and current interim president of Cable Technologies, a distributor of cable equipment for the telecommunications industry, says that to find a good cultural match, hiring through his network--and the networks of everyone he works with--yields the best results.

"I have three criteria which I use in hiring: they must be able to perform the job, their goals must align with the company's goals, and they must fit into our culture," he says. "By utilizing our networks, we find that the latter two requirements align and my job becomes a little easier."

"We would simultaneously work with our HR director while I--and truly, all the employees--would reach out to our networks," Zecca says. "Never underestimate the power of other people's networks, or your own."

While he's a fan of social media, Zecca says only about 50 percent of his network is on LinkedIn and, he stresses, "There is no substitute for face time."

Zecca does sometimes enlist the help of executive search firms, "if after, say, two months, our leads run dry." The ultimate goal, he says, is using "whatever resource will ultimately give us the best employee."

CIOs looking for key candidates appear to be spending more time on LinkedIn than their C-level counterparts. "When identifying candidates for key hires, I definitely start with my own professional network first and foremost," says Greg Saltzman, CIO at InVentiv Health, a global provider of clinical, commercial and consulting services to healthcare companies. "The majority of my professional network is on LinkedIn, and with my premium account I can extend my connectivity within the ­LinkedIn ­network."

"We are on a very fast-moving growth trajectory right now. Speed is of the essence in filling key leadership positions with individuals who are at the top of their game. When I hire someone I know and trust professionally, I have a solid understanding of their capabilities coming in and can tailor the position based on their individual strengths, which is critical at the current stage of InVentiv's corporate development," Saltzman says.

You can't be passive and expect to fill a key IT role within your organization. C-level executives are taking a scattershot sourcing approach, so mirror that and vary the channels you explore. Don't rest on your 500-plus-online-connections laurels.

Whether you're looking to hire talent or find your next CIO gig, get out, shake hands and deliberately engage your peer network.

Kristen Lamoreaux is president and CEO of Lamoreaux Search, which focuses on sourcing IT professionals for hiring managers. She also founded SIM Women, a networking association for female CIOs and their direct reports.

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