10 Top Tips to Recruit “Passive Candidates”

Posted: January 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

Sometimes the best hires aren’t the ones actively looking for a job. Better known as “passive” candidates, these gainfully employed professionals are reasonably happy, but might be willing to consider a more attractive offer.

“Passive candidates are not really as passive as they say they are,” said Steve Guine (@IIT_Inc), National Director of Staffing at IIT. “Like active candidates, they are more than willing to listen. The big difference being, they are more selective.”

How do you find these passive candidates, approach them, get your company on their radar, and ultimately recruit them? We asked experts in the field who have successfully recruited passive candidates for their advice.

Tip 1: Start blogging

We’re not the first to advise “start a blog,” but there’s a reason you hear this repeatedly. People engage around content, and producing relevant content via a blog presents you as an authority in your field for others to follow.

“Don’t write about your company,” said Becky Carroll, Principal of the Petra Consulting Group. “Write about topics that people in your industry should be considering, even if they aren’t looking for a job right now.”

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@blogging4jobs) started Blogging4Jobs in 2007 solely to reach passive candidates, answer their job search questions, provide value, and build a reputation as someone who cares.

“[A blog] is the best method in which to build a reputation and recruit with the passive candidate in mind,” said Miller-Merrell.

If getting started seems intimidating, read “Blogging Advice for People Who Have ‘No Time to Blog.’”

Tip 2: Mine your applicant tracking system (ATS)

You already have a great database of passive candidates, said Matt Charney (@mattcharney), Senior Manager, Online and Social Media Brand for Cornerstone OnDemand. Just go back a couple of years in your ATS. Do a deep dive and cross reference what those old candidates are doing now via social networks and people search engines like pipl.

Ignoring your own ATS has been quite an epidemic in recruiting. Jennifer Hasche (@JenniferINTUIT), Lead Sourcer atIntuit, noted in a Dice interview last year that Intuit had 230 submissions for one position in their ATS, but no one had looked at them. Chances are good those candidates would have been worth considering – Sixty percent of recruiter-submitted applicants are already in a company’s ATS, said Sarah White (@imsosarah), author of the HRTechBlog.

“These candidates, even if they’re not looking, are almost always open to a conversation if they’ve previously applied,” said Charney. “Many times you’ll see that while they might not have been a right fit a couple years back, they are now as they’ve had the chance to gain the necessary skills and experience.”

Similarly, Dice has a Passive Candidates tab built into our TalentMatch search tool. When you search for tech candidates by tech skill, geographical area or any other criteria, you can isolate those coveted passives who have had their resume in the Dice database for 365+ days.

Tip 3: Flatter passive candidates by simply recruiting them

“It’s a compliment to be pursued by a recruiter,” said Sam Friedlander (@sfriedla1), Senior Manager Pharmacy Data Warehousing at Kaiser Permanente. “It’s assurance that one is valuable to the marketplace, and it’s a boost to one’s ego. The pursuit could ignite a thought in the passive candidate to consider an opportunity that might be better.”

Recruiters can take advantage of making a great first impression, but remember to be genuine and honest, not spammy.

Tip 4: Inquire about specific talents, not job seekers

After hearing lots of advice on getting referrals from people you know, we realized that successfully connecting with those referrals depends on how you approach the referral request.

“Instead of asking, ‘Who do you know that is looking?’,” said Shana Farnsworth (@ShanaRandstad), Delivery Manager for Randstad Technologies, “Ask, ‘Who do you know with the same skill set or XYZ skill set?’”

Tip 5: Approach recruiting like dating

“You have to think of recruiting long-term, and approach the conversation in a softer way,” said Paul McDonald (@BuildASignHires), Talent Acquisition Manager for BuildASign.com. “Think of it like dating. Let them know you like them and you enjoy connecting with them, and then you have to make sure you’re giving them a reason to be interested in you.”

One way to “get them to like you” that we heard from McDonald and many others is to simply be a resource of information (see: “Tip 2: Start blogging”).

“Helping or being helped are great ways to have relationships be sticky,” said Lorne Epstein (@LorneEpstein), author of “You’re Hired! Interview Skills to Get the Job.”

Tip 6: Build relationships with the best people you know

“When you meet someone and think, ‘Wow, I would hire this person,’ you need to make a note and add the individual to your pipeline,” said Kaitlin King, Communications Manager at Work Traits.

You can start that list right now by asking yourself, “Who are the best people I’ve ever worked with?”

“If they’re flipping awesome you’re going to want to hire them at some point,” said Dan Arkind, CEO of the applicant tracking system Jobscore.com.

Tip 7: Present yourself as a subject matter expert, not a recruiter

“In my experience, very few individuals who’d be considered top, truly passive talent are willing to engage or build relationships with recruiters,” said Cornerstone On Demand’s Charney whose advice for recruiting passive candidates is to not treat them as passive candidates.

Top candidates want to maintain relationships with subject matter experts, not recruiters. That’s why aforementioned advice such as blogging and attending industry events to build presence and thought leadership are strong assets.

“Once that relationship is established,” said Charney, “It’s important to not be overly aggressive in trying to transform them into an applicant.”

Tip 8: Build a candidate referral network with other recruiters

An unforeseen benefit of Miller-Merrell’s popular blog, Blogging4Jobs, is that it’s become a hub for her to build a candidate referral network with other recruiters.

She forwards candidate inquiries to recruiters she has relationships with, and they return the favor, which further establishes her candidate referral network. Miller-Merrell claims that single emails to her network result in positions filled quickly, keeping active and passive candidates, along with her network of recruiters, working in harmony.

Tip 9: Follow online social engagements with in-person meetings

Multiple people told us how important it is to meet in person, whether it’s coffee, lunch or a networking event.

Pongracz has been on both sides of the recruiting equation and the “follow up” has been the divisive factor in her decision to work with someone.

“I can’t tell you how many peeps have lost opportunities with me by not following up. And conversely – others that did, we’ve worked together since,” said Pongracz.

Tip 10: Build your employment brand with top industry talent

“Ask the people in your office who the best people they know are,” said JobScore.com’s Arkind. “You want to turn them into an advocate for your company whether they work for you not.”

The goal of this effort is to build an employment brand with the best in the industry.

“Hiring decisions are not made in a vacuum,” said Arkind. “People ask their friends about jobs. You want to make sure their friends think you’re awesome.”

Conclusion: Pursuing passive candidates is hard work that pays off..

All of this advice seems like a lot of work, and it is. But it’s key to realize that the work is cumulative. With a little effort and the right timing, the energy you put into recruiting passives today will likely pay off in the future.

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