Actively Courting The Passive Candidate

It seems that the world is full of nothing but passive candidates these days: people who already have good jobs, who don’t surf the web looking for new opportunities. These are the people everybody wants but nobody seems to know how or where to find. I’ve been in the search business for over 20 years, and in most cases (more than 1,000 mid-level and senior hires) it came down to finding and hiring a passive candidate. Recruiting technology has certainly changed over those 20 years, but persuading passive candidates to come out and play is still pretty much the name of the game. The key element of that game involves a major change in your hiring procedures. The job, the company, the interviewers, the line manager, the recruiters and the process used to attract and hire the passive candidate must all be in harmony. You need to throw away your old beliefs and biases if you want to attract the high potential passive candidate. You have to change the candidate’s passivity into a state of actively pursuing your opportunity. Here’s Rule # 1: A passive candidate will only go after your job if it’s significantly better than the one she already has. There are three components to this: the challenge of the job itself, the quality of the company, and the leadership aspects of the hiring manager. Superior strength in at least two of these three areas is essential for you to have any chance of attracting the high quality passive candidate. Each of these factors must be considered carefully as you begin the assessing and recruiting process. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*> While they’re not really looking, most passive candidates are open to exploring a situation that’s clearly superior to what they’re doing now. What you have to do is first get their attention, and then have the candidates explore your opportunity. As long as the job itself is compelling, you can get their attention in a number of ways – with some form of an ad, by networking, or by having the person check out your web site. Take full advantage of One Degree of Separation. Networking and referrals account for most of the sources of passive candidates who emerge from the woodwork. Someone who will see or hear your ad knows the person you should hire. Include vendors, customers and especially current employees as part of your networking. In your ads, ask the reader to refer their friends and associates if they’re not interested themselves. You need this person to tell your future star about your opportunity. But they will not if your job sounds dull. A boring ad has no life on the grapevine, no matter who hears it. A clever title, a fun presentation and a compelling offer – learning, doing, becoming – will be carried via e-mail and word of mouth until it reaches the ears of some unsuspecting passive candidate who is intrigued enough to check it out. Once you’ve captured your passive candidate’s attention, now comes the hard part – interviewing, assessment and recruiting. You need to do this all at once, walking a fine line between judging the candidate properly while still presenting the job in a compelling manner. Getting people to talk about themselves is the first key to recruiting a passive candidate. People who are strong like to tell others about what they’ve accomplished. By allowing the person to openly describe major accomplishments, and listening intently, you have validated this person. Even if you know the person is qualified, you must listen to their stories. You will also understand the process the person uses to accomplish major tasks, which will be important for managing the person once hired. In addition, by listening the interviewer comes across as a thoughtful and caring leader. These are both essential components of recruiting passive candidates.

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Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


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