7 Steps to Engage Passive Talent

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Let’s imagine that you needed a new car. Would you waltz into the dealership without first doing your homework? Of course not. At a minimum, you’d have a good idea of what you were looking for (Gas, electric or hybrid? Compact, minivan or SUV?). How much you’re willing to pay (big budget or penny pinching?) These days, you would also conduct some research online by comparing models, and visiting one of the many consumer car information sites. When you finally visited a dealer, you would be armed with information in order to get the best car at great deal.

Carmen Hudson of Recruiting Toolbox

Carmen Hudson of Recruiting Toolbox

It makes sense to put as much effort into your sourcing efforts. If your organization needed a new software architect, for example, you would spend some time figuring out what skills, exactly, were required and you would put in the time necessary to find appropriately-matched resumes or profiles online. Next comes outreach. What information do you need before you write an introductory email and place your first phone call to the potential candidate? How do you ensure that your effort isn’t wasted, and your calls and emails get returned? The key: take the necessary time to prepare for each call and each email.

Here are seven steps you need to take before reaching out to a candidate.

1. Social media is your first stop.
Research the social media streams, blog posts, code repositories or other professional hubs to find out the candidate’s interests and passions.  You will use this information to establish rapport in your initial email and during your first and subsequent phone calls. You might even find something interesting enough, surprising or funny enough to use as an email subject line.

2. Find a personal connection with the potential candidate.
Best-case scenario, you have a common acquaintance, or once worked at the same place. Or perhaps you share an interest in photography, yoga or historical novels. Social media affords us the ability to discover these connections. The trick here is to walk the fine line between being personable, credible and relatable and being really creepy.

3. Hone and polish your pitch.
Make sure you fully understand the position requirements, and you’re 100% confident that your target is a good match. Take a shot at guessing why this person might consider making a move (More money? The ability to telecommute? The next big career move?) Your conversation should start by focusing on your target’s career, not your open job.

4. Which brings me to the topic of competitive intelligence.
Learn as much as you can about the target’s current situation. Are people happy there? Are the benefits sub par? Did the firm miss bonus pay outs this year? All of this information will help you discover the candidate’s motivators for making a move.

5. Anticipate objections.
Most passive candidates are not eager to make a change. What are you going to say when they respond to your email with, “Thanks, not interested.” Write your response email before you send the first email. How will you keep the potential candidate engaged? How will you become part of his or her network (a better position than inviting the candidate to become part of your network)? What’s your Plan B?

6. Have a multi-tiered follow-up plan.
Candidate interested? Great, get him or her in the interview process. On the fence?  Schedule coffee. Meet in person at an industry event.  Introduce him or her to a leader at your company. Candidate not interested at all? Ask him or her for a specific referral: I noticed you worked at Pied Piper, can you recommend a top data analytics person from there? Being specific will illicit an immediate, focused response.

7. Persist.
Research tells us that successful recruiters don’t stop at 1 or 2 outreach attempts. Successful recruiters know that silence doesn’t necessarily mean “No”. Send emails and leave phone messages. Make sure you provide options – when, where and how you’re willing to meet the prospect. Skype, chat, online meeting platforms, social media, texting might work, depending on the candidate’s preferences.

Conducting this level of preparation increases your chance of a favorable response from passive candidates, who are predisposed to say no at first. By putting in this much effort, you get the highest ROI for your direct sourcing efforts. After all, thoughtful passive sourcing is the best way to ensure that your organization hires top of the line luxury cars over junkyard heaps!


Carmen Hudson is currently Principal Consultant and Trainer at Recruiting Toolbox. Prior to joining Recruiting Toolbox, she was a recruiting leader at Yahoo, Starbucks, Microsoft and Amazon.com. She currently consults with companies on recruiting and sourcing strategy, employer branding and social media. She can be reached at carmen@recruitingtoolbox.com, or connect with her via LinkedIn or on Twitter at @peopleshark.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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