Two Challenges You Must Tackle to Hire the Best Passive Candidates

August 25, 2014

As Malcolm Gladwell points out in his best seller, The Tipping Point , when a few little things pile up, they can make a big difference.

passive recruiting tipping pointWhen it comes to finding, recruiting, and hiring passive candidates, there are two “little” things that can substantially impact the quality of your hiring process and get you to a tipping point. One is taming your hiring manager clients. The other one is applicant control: making sure candidates don’t opt-out of your process using faulty information. This double-double whammy is challenging to master but essential for hiring passive candidates and raising your company’s overall talent level.

Here are a few rules for facing both of these challenges:

Basic Rules for Taming Hiring Managers

Over the years I’ve worked directly with at least 1,000 different hiring managers on positions ranging from staff accountants and senior engineers to functional VPs, COOs and CEOs of all stripes and sizes. From these experiences, I’ve discovered a bunch of challenges that need to be addressed before you start looking for candidates. Collectively they represent reasons why you must tame your hiring managers as part of any search assignment. Unless you do this first, you’ll be wasting a lot of time recruiting passive candidates who won’t get hired. Here’s how to start:

1. Shift the decision from skills and experiences to performance and potential.

Ask the hiring manager what the person must accomplish over the course of the first year that would indicate why the person is a top performer? I refer to this list of performance objectives as a performance-based job description. The idea behind this is that if the person can demonstrate they’ve done comparable work, they obviously have the requisite skills.

2. Make sure the hiring manager “owns” the employee value proposition (EVP).

Before you start sourcing, make sure you ask the hiring manager why would a top person with a lot of upside potential want the job. Forget the hyperbole and the employer brand. This EVP must be specific and related to the actual job.

3. Insist that the hiring manager be open to talking with candidates on an exploratory basis.

The best people are looking for career moves not lateral transfers. Passive candidates aren’t even looking. By giving these prospects a chance to talk with a hiring manager on a peer-to-peer level to see if your opening represents a possible career move, you’ll add a lot of strong candidates into the top of your funnel.

While there are bunch more taming rules, you’ll quickly discover that passive candidates are as difficult to tame as hiring managers. This is why recruiters need to learn how to control the conversation using the 6Cs of passive candidate recruiting.

Use the 6Cs of Passive Candidate Recruiting to Control the Conversation

1. Compelling:

You must be able to capture the candidate’s intrinsic motivator in your job posting, voicemail or email. This is how you get your hot prospect to pay attention to the message. For a staff engineer it might be pushing the envelope on a new technology. For an executive it might be a chance to turn around a troubled business. For a flight nurse it’s probably something related to the daily rush involved in helping save someone’s life. Here’s an example of a compelling posting for an accounting director.

2. Control:

Make sure your opening question requires the prospect to tell you about himself or herself before you tell the person about the job. The things that a candidate asks about when first contacted by a recruiter (pay, title, company, location) are not the same when deciding which offer to take (opportunity, growth, challenge). Control allows the recruiter to position the conversation at the beginning to ensure that the best prospects don’t opt out for the wrong reasons.

3. Career:

During your first call you must be able to convert your open position into a career opportunity on the fly. If the candidate describes her job in some detail first (see point 2 above), you’ll have the opportunity to determine if your current opening offers the candidate a true career move.

4. Connect:

Even if your prospect isn’t perfect, he or she is probably only one degree of separation from someone who is. Once you decide the person isn’t ideal, use LinkedIn Recruiter to search through the person’s first degree connections and ask about the best people. Then call and recruit those people.

5. Conviction:

Persistence is key. You must understand your job opening, why it offers a career opportunity, and you must not take “no” for an answer. If you’re not convinced that what you have to offer is great, your candidate won't be either.

6. Close:

You’ll never have enough money in the budget to pay the best prospects what they want. You can minimize the blow here by selling and closing on the career opportunity your position offers, not the compensation it pays. If you miss this critical “C” the others won’t matter.

If you want to hire top-notch passive talent, you’ll need to tame your hiring managers and employ the 6Cs on every assignment. They’re all critical tipping points in your hunt for the best people around. Few talent leaders and far too many recruiters fail to recognize that finding and recruiting passive candidates is a different process than finding and hiring active candidates. As Gladwell said, little things can make a big difference. Big things can, too, and moving from a high-tech, fill-as-many-jobs-as-you-can approach to a high-touch, maximize-quality-of-hire mindset is a big thing.

* image by Javier

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