The Novo Blog

Recruiting Passive Candidates & Building Momentum

Posted by: The Novo Group on May 9, 2011
So, you’ve finally gotten the go ahead to add someone to your team.  The role is a crucial one and the person you’d like to hire will need to be able to drive results quickly.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you could find someone who was working in a similar role that knew the ins and outs of your industry?  This is where the plot thickens.  Every hiring manager has thought it…  “If I could find someone who was working in a similar role within my competition, they’d hit the ground running!”

Chances are that person is out there; working at this very moment on projects that will have prepared them for the work you’ll want them to dig into the moment they step into your open position.  They’re not aware of your plot to recruit them; they’re probably not even thinking (at this very moment) about making a career move.  Their company, like millions of others, has been impacted by the economy and they’re happy to be in a team that has weathered the storm.  Today they are a known entity, already recognized for their accomplishments and retained when others were laid off.  They may have a lot on their plate, but who doesn’t right now?

As the economy continues to create uncertainty, passive candidates are less likely to consider taking the risk of losing the tenure they’ve maintained with their current employer.  Doesn’t that make you want them even more?  The bottom line is that candidates that have gotten results in the last two years and have prospered within today’s economic conditions are likely worth your time to pursue.  Something tells me, that I’m stating the obvious here.  So, let’s talk about the candidate mindset and how momentum can affect your ability to land a passive candidate in today’s economy.

Passive Candidate Mindset: 

The candidate mindset and subsequently their experience should remain top-of-mind as you move through all steps of your recruitment process.  They are in a stronger position in today’s economy than they had been when there were fewer “active” candidates in the job market.  Top performers will likely be open to new opportunities, but will need to be managed well to build their interest.  Consider the following when reaching out to passive candidate;

  • They are not “actively looking” and would probably not want their current employer to catch wind of any conversations with a Recruiter. So, calling into candidates should be done discretely and all attempts should be made to talk after work hours.
  • Passive candidates will want to learn a lot of details about your company; they’ll want to feel comfortable asking questions about your company’s stability, market share, team dynamics, career growth, and overall company culture. They may require multiple points of contact to “warm up” to the idea of leaving their current role. Utilizing a third party Recruiter can help to create a buffer for that candidate “discretely explore” outside opportunities. Often times, passive candidates, feel comfortable talking to an “agency” recruiter to explore the details of a company and an opportunity without feeling vulnerable.
  • As companies have downsized and top-graded, key individuals will often being doing the job of multiple people. They may harbor the lingering thought that their role today may not re-calibrate to a manageable workload in the near future. This is a key area to leverage when persuading individuals to consider new opportunities.

Build Momentum:

Most importantly, passive candidates need to feel the positive momentum of your search.  Bottom line, top talent will need to feel like they are being pursued to overcome the risks associated making a significant change in today’s marketplace.     Each day that passes from the point of initial contact to the point of offer is a day that candidate will be evaluating the risk of leaving his or her current company.  It is inevitable that extended periods of time between contacts and/or decisions will increase the perceived risk of leaving their current employer.  Don’t give them time to be nostalgic about their current employer, keep your points of communication moving forward to keep them thinking about your opportunity!  Keep in mind the following steps when considering how to build momentum for your candidates;

  • Start building your momentum at the beginning of your search! Your entire hiring team needs to be on the same page about what you want out of a candidate, on the front end, so that decisions can happen quickly on the tail end of a search. Take the time to calibrate your team on the role, the “must haves”, and the nice to haves before you begin reaching out to candidates.
  • Know your targets. You know who your competition is, but do you know the titles that would be relevant to pursue. Dig through your pile of business cards, review industry journals and/or membership lists from associations that your competitors are joining to compile a list of “target titles” among your competition. With targets in mind, develop a mindset of pipelining for those people/titles that would likely transition well into your open role and/or future opportunities. Give those target companies and titles to any Recruitment Vendors that you do business with, so that they can always be positioning your company to people that come into their network.
  • Take a staggered approach to communication. Consider the fact that multiple conversations with a candidate, stretched out over the course of a search, will keep that person always waiting to hear more. Initial conversations should be focused on their needs and desires. All follow up conversations should then focus back on tidbits learned during that first conversation.
  • Move through “formal interviews” quickly and with purpose. Passive candidates will be scheduling time off and will be on the alert for anything that would tip off their current employer about their time away from work.
  • Seal the deal decisively! If you’ve calibrated your hiring team well, decisions should come quickly when the “right” candidate is interviewed. Passive candidates will be evaluating your team’s ability to make a decision. More importantly their assessment of the risk related to leaving their existing employer will weigh heavily on how quickly your company can extend an offer.
Communicate with honesty and accuracy.  If there are any delays in process that will impact the momentum of your search, communicate honestly with your candidates as to the factors behind the delay.  The trust you will achieve with honest communication with your candidates is paramount to overcoming any delays in process.
Written by Monica Schmidt