Innovative Recruiting: Targeting Passive Professionals

By Evan Cohen, President of EVCO Recruiting

As an HR professional, you might notice that the recruiting landscape is changing rapidly and that there is an immediate need to shift your approach when recruiting employees. In order to stay ahead of the curve and remain competitive, HR management and recruiting professional musts develop strategies to address these challenges. Two such strategies include:

1) Defining your company’s description of a “qualified-best match” candidate.

2) Developing the best strategy for targeting and recruiting the best candidate, which is typically the top performing industry professional.

A “Qualified-Best Match”

This process starts with articulating exactly who your ideal candidate is.

With a systematic approach to candidate profiling, you should be able to identify the hard and soft skills, experiences and attitudes, education and background that a candidate should posses- traits that will ultimately translate into a top performing employee.

One way to indentify your “best-match candidate profile” is by interviewing your current top performers and isolating the common traits that they all share. Once you know exactly the type of candidates you are looking for, you can begin to identify where you might find them.

The Difference Between Active and Passive Candidates

Active job seekers are motivated by any number of circumstances, are not necessarily working, and are typically find; that is, they probably have their resumes posted on a few job boards, are leaning heavily on their network of professional associates to assist them in their search, and are calling companies directly to learn about current and future opportunities of employment.

Passive candidates are typically employed and satisfied with their employer and are content in their current role. That is not to say that id the right opportunity presented itself, they would not be interested in learning more. However, they are most likely not out in the field broadcasting their desire to find a new opportunity. These professional are probably looking to move a bit slower, will have more questions, and will likely be a bit more hesitant to risk leaving a good job for a new challenge and increased risk.

Active and passive candidates are not different people with different skill sets and abilities. Candidates from one group are not necessarily any better or worse that the other, they are just at different points in their employment cycle.

Candidate interest and availability can be quite dynamic and is dependent upon a number of factors. Changes in current management, workloads or personal circumstances can accelerate the transition from passive to active candidate. In extreme cases, layoffs, natural disasters, lost contracts and other forms of sudden shifts can lead this to happen overnight.

That being said, the true measure of your best candidate has less to do with her state in seeking out a job, and more to do with how she measures up to your company’s “best-match” candidate profile.

The Search Begins: Your Strategy for targeting and recruiting the Best Candidate

Why is it important to continuously search for both types of candidates? To keep you candidate pipeline full! Successful recruiters continually source both Active and Passive candidates to ensure a wider pool from which to choose. Doing so ultimately results in reducing the time-to-fill and the cost per hire.

Active candidates typically will come to you, either by applying directly for your positions, which may be posted on a job board or corporate career site, or by placing a direct call to you office. These inbound responses are easier to manage because usually, the candidate has a working knowledge of your company and is interested in joining the team. The only “selling” that has to take place on the recruiter’s behalf occurs during the compensation negotiation. Other than that, the candidate rarely offers an objection to submitting an updated resume or scheduling phone and face to face interviews.

Passive candidates are typically more difficult to find, so sourcing a passive industry professional requires more investigating through phone calls, referrals from network partners and consistent and persistent relationship-building.

Professional recruiters are adept at being able to manage both responsibilities: maintaining a steady flow of active candidate to fill immediate needs, and establishing strong industry relationships that yield passive candidate results over time. By focusing on both types of candidates, the disruption caused by vacancies can be minimized, and sometimes avoided altogether. In addition, by making proactive attempts to network, you are creating a competitive advantage by spreading the message that you represent an employer of choice within your industry.

The challenge that HR professionals and their recruiters face is that they source and recruit both types of candidates using the same approach.

The 5 Steps to Getting the “I accept!”

To attract top performing passive industry professional, HR managers must work closely with their recruiters to develop and deliver the right message with the right frequency to keep their company and current opportunities at the top of their target candidate’s mind. That way, when the time is right and the candidate is open to exploring new opportunities, her first call is to the recruiter with whom she has an established, long term relationship.

Once you indentify you best match passive candidate, you must provide her with the information she needs to evaluate an opportunity objectively. When done correctly, you will use a series of different recruiting and information-sharing approaches and will move the candidate smoothly along a path of increasing knowledge and interest until ultimately, she decides to make the move.

The following steps will guide you in ensuring that you stay on track through the process:

Hold an information-gathering session
Use you first conversation to open a dialogue and learn about interested individuals as potential candidates. Have them tell you a little about themselves first, Don’t go too fast, even if the match seems perfect. Provide the person with a brief, high-level overview of the job, and schedule and exploratory call sometime later. Be a bit vague, and mention the importance of the job to the company’s strategic direction. This approach also gives you the option of networking with the candidate and meeting with the professionals they feel are top performers.

Shift decision-making from a short-term emphasis to a more long-term one
The basic goal of the preliminary discussions is to have the candidate consider the strategic and tactical issues associated with making the change and accepting a new opportunity. Too often, candidates lose interest and opt out early because the recruiter did not effectively communicate the short-term goals and the long-term growth opportunities. Understanding the candidate’s needs and the balancing the correct message will give a candidate enough short-term information to get her excites about future projects and goals.

Don’t rush the process
Passive candidates need time to absorb the information you provide. While you can try to speed the process along, you don’t ever want to come across as being desperate. Ask questions and listen. If you’re talking too much, you’re pushing. It’s better to find out what the candidate would need to know to move to the next step in the evaluation process. Scheduling an informal meeting, such as a lunch date, is a great way to build your relationship and understand what she is currently doing, and what underlying concerns or questions you will need to address as your recruiting process continues.

Create competition
Of course, the goal of this exercise is to move this professional from candidate status to applicant status as quickly as you both deem appropriate. Once you are sure this candidate is a top professional and you have addressed her major concerns, it is time to create a sense of urgency. A great way to do this is by informing the candidate that there are a number of professionals showing great interest in the opportunity, but you consider her to be a top candidate. Remember a great job is always better when there’s competition.

Set the table
Invite the candidate to the office to meet the team. In sports, as in recruiting, nothing is more important and beneficial than utilizing the home court advantage. When every employee the candidate will meet with works together and understand her tile in the recruiting process, the candidate will have a true understanding of the company’s culture and atmosphere and will be better equipped to make the decision to join the organization.

When recruiting passive candidates, use professional, step-wise approach to provide them with the small doses of information that keep them engaged. You will know you’re successful when the candidate starts asking you more questions, calls to see how the interview went, or asks about the other candidates.

In time, the information you provide will be enough for the candidate to realize that this is an opportunity worth pursuing, so be aware, maintain control and be ready to move the process towards closure.

So maintain you relationships, ask for referrals and always be recruiting! 



Evan Cohen, President of EVCO Recruiting, offers more than 10 years experience assisting companies with creating innovative talent management and recruiting strategies. Even Cohen earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from California State University, San Marcos, a Human Resources Professional Certification from the University of California, San Diego, and is AIRS certified.



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