To attract passive talent you need to redefine ‘passive aggressive’ and turn it into a recruitment strategy.
Imagine your ideal candidate. Smart, hard-working, dedicated, capable, innovative, creative … spend a few seconds populating your own list. Have you ever interviewed this ideal candidate, offered them the gig, only to find they had accepted a “better offer” somewhere else?
Right, now imagine if, when you interviewed this ‘gold standard’, ‘A class’ candidate, they’d told you that they weren’t interviewing with any other business. Does that sound too good to be true?
Meet the passive candidate.
There’s a lot of talk about passive candidates and how to attract them, which I’ll add to, but first let’s consider who they are and why you should attract them in the first place.
The passive candidate is a bit of a misnomer because they’re not a candidate at all, not really, not yet at least. They are employed by someone else, they’re good at what they do and are not looking for work elsewhere.
They are, by far, the majority of the workforce. Four years ago LinkedIn put this into numbers estimating that around 75% fell into this category. Personally, I’d move that percentage upwards into the eighties. Your ideal candidate could be part of this 75-80% of the workforce and, because they weren’t actively looking, you could effectively have exclusive access to them.
It’s important to tap into this market because IT recruitment IS a challenge, increasingly so.
Back in the day, IT talent worked for IT firms and when they left they joined another IT company. Then IT got REALLY good and instead of simply supporting businesses, in many cases, IT became the business. Suddenly, IT firms were losing great talent to public transport operators, food distributors, restaurant chains … everybody became an IT employer. Returning to that percentage figure, even taking LinkedIn’s estimate, that’s a lot of businesses trying to recruit from just a quarter of the workforce, the ones actively job hunting. They’re talking to every Tom, Dick and Harry from every conceivable business sector and they are increasingly considering hiring remote workers to fill the talent shortages.
Consider how you’d go about attracting candidates who are actively job hunting … you’d stick a job ad in an industry journal or post on a job board, you’d get in a recruiter who’d throw a pile of CVs your way and hope that something sticks. The phrase “fish in a barrel” springs to mind but by doing this you will be missing out on potential talent.
Your passive candidate is not being interviewed by every Tom, Dick and Harry – they weren’t even job hunting until you turned their head.
What’s stopping you engaging with such a great opportunity? For most businesses, the reason is – it’s hard. Actively engaging passive candidates is paradoxical in the extreme when you think about it. It takes great skill, experience and creativity.
So … I’ll say it again … To attract passive talent you need to redefine ‘passive aggressive’ and turn it into a recruitment strategy. Here are a few thoughts on how.
Ask your recruitment partner how they WILL use social media to attract passive candidates. Bold, italics and capital letters for the word WILL because they MUST. Passive talent may not be searching for a job … but … every lunch, every ‘comfort break’, every coffee shop queue … they are on social media! Another time they hit up social media is when things aren’t going quite so well at work .. who doesn’t? When your star candidate gets frustrated and hits up Facebook for a feel-good fix of cat videos … you need to make sure that you are on their timeline with your exciting opportunity to tempt them. This takes targeting.
The thing about social media is that it’s quite hard to get right, to leverage maximum effectivity, but it is really easy to get wrong. For instance, there was a business last year that followed IT Project Talent on social media and, once the talent followed them back, bombarded them with spam about a single vacancy they had. Not cool!
If in doubt, get a specialist recruitment partner with a proven track record of using social media to attract passive talent.
Do you have one? There is a chance that the ‘A class’ rock star candidate you’re seeking … has never heard of you. Many firms are investing as much in their ’employer brand’ as they are in their regular customer facing one.
Take this example, a bus company was looking for an IT Project Manager recently and they successfully caught the eye of a young PM who wasn’t looking but was the perfect fit. She didn’t know much about them so she searched for them on social media. This is where the wheels on the bus came off! Their Facebook page was full of slightly geeky pictures of buses and their Twitter feed was a list of apologies for delays and cancellations … and while that may have kept their passengers up to date it didn’t make them look very attractive to this young and ambitious PM.
Look at social media posts through the eyes of a potential candidate – does it need a dash of polish? You can encourage staff to tweet about successes, to post pictures to Facebook and share it with your Instagram followers.
And challenge your recruitment partner to sell what a great place to work your business is!
Database Of Talent
Another challenge for your recruitment partner … ask them how well they keep in contact with interviewed talent.
The thing about passive candidates is that they will, at some point, have been active. Many recruiters don’t maintain contact with talent in between placements but those that do invariably know things like when contracts are due to expire and how well things are going for previously interviewed candidates. Furthermore, talent that has agreed to receive updates about available work from their preferred recruitment firm are more likely to take a look at your vacancy if it were to appear on one of their communications.
Have More Than One Passive Candidate Egg In Your Basket
Earlier, I said that you could be the only business that a passive candidate is interviewing with because they weren’t looking for a new opportunity until they saw yours. Most of the time this is true but sometimes talent whose head is turned like this does look elsewhere too, it’s an opportunity to “see what else is out there”.
It’s not just another firm that might tempt your passive candidate away … it’s the other firm … their existing employer.
I have seen firms successfully attract a passive candidate and focus just on hiring that one perfect individual only to find that the company they’d be leaving made them an offer they couldn’t refuse, increased their remuneration package or promoted them, and they stayed.
You, or your specialist recruitment partner, should always have a ‘plan b’ and a ‘plan c’.
Try To Avoid Being Used
That last point is worth further thought. That 75-80% of the workforce is an ocean of talent that is perfect for your vacancy but it is also rich with ambitious and creative individuals who want the best for themselves and maybe their families. It is not unusual to reach out to a passive candidate and convince them to meet up only to find later that they saw your opportunity as a means of persuading their existing employer to give them more money. Isn’t that what we’d all do?
Here, having an experienced specialist recruitment partner will save you time, but you should at least try to ‘reality check’ passive candidate approaches. Consider factors like how far from your workplace they live – is the commute realistic? What’s their current salary? (If you’re offering less – they’re almost certainly using you as bartering tool!) What scale of projects are they used to and how do they compare with yours? How does their existing culture compare and will they fit in with yours? Ask them … “What was it about our approach that you found attractive?”
In conclusion, attracting passive candidates is hard but it could be the most rewarding hire you ever make. I described it as an ocean of talent just now, to land the right catch you need to sail carefully through some choppy waters but above all, you need to know what bait to have on the end of your line … or know someone who does!