I Like the Look of You. Will You Marry My Daughter?

March 4, 2014

Getting married is a big deal, involves the development of a relationship over time, and typically happens once both sides have really gotten to know one another. The same could be said of hiring "the one," the perfect passive candidate for your role. So why do some recruiters pitch their prospects on a shotgun wedding with a total stranger?

In many ways, if you are a passive candidate and a recruiter approaches you about a role, those first few interactions mirror the dating game and how we then develop personal relationships. Being approached on LinkedIn happens to us all sooner or later and it's always nice to initially hear from a headhunter that your profile looks great for a role.

I was recently approached for a role by a headhunter and although I consider myself part of the "super passive" talent pool on LinkedIn (essentially not looking for a new role), I listened to what the headhunter had to say just in case I knew someone in my network that would fit the bill.

However, engaging passive talent does require a very different approach. If I was to draw parallels between my chat with the recruiter and getting married, the pitfalls of the call went something like this:

"Send me your measurements as I want to get you fitted up for a wedding suit."

I don’t have my measurements to hand and to be fair I've put on a little of Christmas weight so I'd have to recheck them. I've started going to the gym again and so my measurements have changed...

About 75% of the 277million members on LinkedIn are considered passive and so it's likely a large proportion of them may not have an up-to-date CV that they ready to send.

Instead, look at the candidate’s online profile and take notice of they work, what role they currently are in and spend time exploring their skills, endorsements and recommendations. This will give you a better picture about who they are professionally and at this point you can ask them more about what's on (and also what's not) on their profile that they are proud of.

"Have you worn a wedding suit before? The suit will be double breasted with shiny gold buttons and the tie needs to match the bride's bouquet. You'll also wear a top hat."

Ok... It’s a little presumptuous to be so specific about the wedding and the suit. I've worn a wedding suit but it was single breasted. The tie would be straightforward to sort out. Not sure about the gold buttons though and not worn a top hat before...

Most passive candidates are happy in their current role so in order to get them interested you need to build trust. The key is to understanding an individual's competences and capabilities as opposed to asking a list of detailed pre-qualifying questions without knowing what really interests them. Remember, good candidates want to move to a job that they aspire to do and grow in versus a job that they are doing now.

"You might guess where the wedding venue is."

All right, we’ll tell you where the venue is but won’t provide additional detail to how big it is or what’s the vibe

Sharing the company name is a start but you should do a lot better than that. Additional narrative around the company's key operating priorities, vision, people, culture, values and most importantly the opportunity to make a difference in the role, creates a more compelling story around the corporate and talent brand and why someone should listen to you.

"I'll come back to you on whether the bride is interested."

But you didn't ask if I was interested...

Every relationship requires a bit of give and take but the key to engaging with passive talent is to ensure the conversation goes two ways while being relevant and aspirational. While it could take more than one interaction to engage passive talent and the back-and-forth could last a number of months, your time will be well worth it at the end.

I wouldn't want a candidate to feel like they were being fitted for a wedding suit while they know nothing about the bride and may not want to be in a serious relationship, let alone get married.

A little romance would have been nice...

* image by Bunches and Bits {Karina}